SAN FRANCISCO — Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway are situated in a broadcast booth above the Chase Center court. In about an hour, they will be providing the play-by-play and color commentary for the Warriors’ game against the San Antonio Spurs. They are not a sideshow on this night; they are the show, sitting in for Bob Fitzgerald and Kelenna Abuzuike on the NBC Sports Bay Area telecast.
Mullin is the only one with broadcast experience, but you wouldn’t know it looking at them. There isn’t a trace of pregame jitters. No need to practice the broadcast cadence. After more than 30 years as teammates and friends, the three members of Run TMC know how to play off each other.
When the cameras come up and the microphones go live, there begins an audience experience akin to watching good friends watching a game.
“Alright, where’s Tim Duncan?” Richmond asks at tipoff, a reference to the Spurs Hall of Fame center from years gone by.
“Hey, is that Dennis Rodman?” Hardaway chirps when Jeremy Sochan, the Spurs’ pink-haired rookie, came into view.
Run TMC played together for only two seasons, 1989-90 and 1990-91. Their time ended suddenly and shocking on Nov. 1, 1991, hours before the season opener, when Don Nelson traded Richmond to the Sacramento Kings for Billy Owens.
And yet, Run TMC – Tim, Mitch, Chris – remains tight three decades later.
The trio meets up on Zoom, or in person when they’re all happen to be in town. They have a group text chat where they poke fun at each other, keep alive inside jokes and talk about the game they love.
And they have each others’ backs. Always.
When Mullin, despite no coaching experience, was hired as head coach at his alma mater, St. John’s, in 2015., Richmond went with him. When Hardaway’s election to the basketball Hall of Fame was being delayed, likely due to his homophobic rant in a 2007 radio interview, Mullin and Richmond worked behind the scenes on his behalf, vouched for him.
And when the call came last September informing Hardaway that he had been elected, the first people he reached out to after family were Richmond and Mullin.
“Mitch and Mully,” he shouted into the phone. “I’m in!”
“In where?” asked Richmond.
Unlike in baseball and football, the basketball Hall of Fame does not publicize its election date. Richmond really didn’t know the purpose of Hardaway’s call.
“I thought he was at my house or something,” Richmond said Monday night when Hardaway told the story during the telecast.
Run TMC were the stars of a high-scoring Warriors team that introduced the world to Nelson’s run-and-gun offense that the Steph Curry Warriors have legitimized. A trio with the perfect nickname – Run D.M.C, was the hottest act in hip-hop back then – and a legacy that shined like a bright light in the darkest times in franchise history.
The Warriors led the league in scoring one season and were second in the other, averaging 116.4 points per game. They scored 162 in the 1990-91 season opener. (Their opponent, the Denver Nuggets, scored 158, making it the highest-scoring non-overtime game in NBA history to this day.) Mullin averaged 25.7 that season, Richmond 23.9, Hardaway 22.9. No trio in NBA history has averaged 72.5 points per game.
Every game at the Oakland Coliseum-Arena was a high-flying circus, led by the three ringmasters. Their leadership extended beyond the stage.
“One of the things I remember most about that team is that guys didn’t leave after practice,” said Tom Tolbert, their small-ball center at 6-foot-7. “We’d always hang around one another. Playing one-on-one, shooting games, stuff like that. We loved to play. Those guys in particular are all Hall of Famers, but had chemistry on the court. And everyone got along so well off the court. It was as close to a collegiate atmosphere as I’ve been around in the NBA.”
Even back then, it was rare for professional athletes to spend six months of the year together every day and still want more. But this group did.
“I think the chemistry was evident right away,” Richmond said. “Anytime we got on the court, it was three guys that really loved to play. There were times that Nellie would come in after practice or before games and say, ‘We have to get off the court, we have a game tonight.’ We’d go full court one-on-one every night.”
In the years before they started families of their own, Run TMC was a makeshift family. They’d hang out at each other’s houses, go out for breakfast before practice, shop together, whatever.
“Those three are as tight as can be,” said Julie Marvel, the Warriors’ media relations manager from 1989-97. “We had a special thing with them. Notice I still say ‘we’ as you feel how connected they were, and everybody in the organization knew we had something special. It was like a family.”
Eric Housen, now a Warriors front-office executive, was a ball boy then.
“They would always go out and eat in Alameda in the morning. Come in for practice and shoot around. That built the camaraderie on the team. Because those were the guys.”
Mullin was the elder statesman with the obsessive training routine and the sweet lefty shot. Richmond, the lockdown defender with a calm presence and brute offensive force. Hardaway, the brash kid from Chicago who loved to talk trash and back it up.
“They were very empowering,” Tolbert said. “A lot of times it’s difficult when you’re playing with stars because you want to make sure they play their own game. Sometimes it excludes other players. These guys were like, ‘Hey, if you have a shot, take it. Don’t worry about us. We’ll figure out a way to get ourselves involved in the game.’”
More than anything, they made things fun.
“Once one of them started laughing, everyone started laughing, and it was over,” said Tom Abdenour, the Warriors’ head trainer during the Run TMC days.
Sometimes nothing needed to be said. Little things sparked rolling laughter, such as when Mullin, a defender up on him, would step on the guy’s foot to immobilize him.
“That stuff you would laugh about because that’s the biggest vet move,” Housen said. “The guy is trying to jump and he’s pushing down on him. Everyone else would just laugh.”
Hardaway came to Golden State with an edge that his teammates took joy in testing. Like during a preseason game his rookie year in 1989, when Nelson had the PA announcer give Hardaway a rousing introduction for his walk-out – and his Warriors teammates stayed in the tunnel, leaving Hardaway to stand by himself until tipoff.
Years have passed, turned to decades. Mullin is 59 years old. Richmond 57. Hardaway 56. But the friendship burns bright. For a couple of hours Monday night, Run TMC invited fans to watch a game with them, to sit with them and share the warmth 33 years in the making.