OAKLAND (AP) — Chris Mullin didn’t think he’d see his No. 17 Golden State jersey hanging from the rafters at Oracle Arena, not after a bitter parting with the Warriors three years ago.
But, Mullin has found a way to overcome a lot during his life and Hall of Fame basketball career.
Mullin was honored as part of a halftime ceremony during Monday night’s game between Golden State and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The former St. John’s star who went on to become a five-time All-Star after entering the NBA as a first-round pick in 1985 was having too much fun remembering his playing days and joking with former teammates than to get caught up in a discussion about any lingering resentment he may have toward his former employers.
Wearing a dark-colored suit with a light blue and yellow tie, Mullin smiled as he recalled spending hours in the gym after practice with Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway, each player trying to one-up the other no matter what the drill was.
The trio formed the famed “Run-TMC” combination which was the centerpiece for the Warriors’ run-and-gun style under coach Don Nelson in the late 1980s and early ‘90s.
Richmond and Hardaway joined Nelson and several other former Golden State players in Oakland to take part in the ceremony honoring Mullin seven months after he was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“It was the most fun I had playing basketball in my whole life,” Mullin said during a 20-minute pregame interview with reporters. “What Tim had, I didn’t have. What Mitch could do, I couldn’t do. Together, Nellie figured out how to mix and match that thing. I loved that style of play.”
Video tributes, including ones from Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, played on the scoreboard throughout the evening. Johnson and Bird both played with Mullin on the USA’s Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics.
During the game Mullin, sat courtside with his wife and four children, only a few seats away from current Warriors owner Joe Lacob. He received a standing ovation from the crowd, many of them holding Mullin bobbleheads, as he walked into a nearby tunnel shortly before the halftime ceremony began.
Highlights of Mullin’s career with the Warriors played during the ceremony before the Hall of Famer received another standing ovation as he rose to speak at midcourt.
“This is where it all started for me as a pro,” Mullin told the crowd. “I grew up right in front of you. You, the Warrior fans, were a huge part of my success. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m proud to call the Bay Area my home.”
The ceremony was interrupted by the crowd booing when Lacob rose to spoke.
Mullin walked to Lacob and put his arm around the Warriors owner before addressing the crowd. When the booing continued, Rick Barry — whose jersey also hangs from the rafters in Oakland — took a microphone and admonished the crowd.
It was a minor blip on an otherwise special night for Mullin.
The Brooklyn native spent countless hours practicing and playing on the Warriors’ home court during his 13-year career with the team. Mullin still holds franchise records for games played (807) and steals (1,360), and is fourth on the club’s career scoring list.
While he was beloved as a player, Mullin’s foray into Golden State’s front office didn’t have the same results.
He was fired as the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations following the 2008-09 season, nearly a year after the former star player seemingly lost his authority in a power struggle within the tumultuous Warriors.
Mullin, who grew up with and was a college teammate of current Golden State coach Mark Jackson, has only returned to Oracle Arena a handful of times since, and acknowledged being surprised when he was informed the Warriors intended to retire his jersey.
“I really didn’t think about it, but now that it’s here, it’s two different parts of my life,” Mullin said. “This is about my playing days and the things that happened throughout my playing career, and with that it’s nothing but good memories. But I never believed this would happen. I never thought about it.”
Mullin is the sixth Warriors player to have his jersey number retired, joining Barry, Wilt Chamberlain, Al Attles, Tom Meschery and Nate Thurmond. Except for Chamberlain, who was represented by his sister Barbara Lewis, all attended the ceremony for Mullin.