Why Warriors' Run TMC era is one of biggest what-ifs in NBA history

Why Warriors' Run TMC era is one of biggest what-ifs in NBA history

Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin -- the artists formerly known as "Run TMC" -- spent just two full seasons together as teammates with the Warriors, and yet they still hold an iconic place in the history of the franchise. Why is that?

Well, aside from the exciting style with which they played -- they led the league in scoring in their very first season together and revolutionized the NBA in many ways -- it likely has to do with how quickly it all came undone. After giving the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers a run for their money in a second-round playoff series during the 1990-91 season, Richmond was traded to the Kings the following November, and Warriors fans were left to wonder, 'What if?'

It turns out the fans aren't the only ones still pondering the possibilities of what a lengthy Run TMC might have been like. The three components do so, as well.

"That was the best time we played," Mullin told NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh. "That was the most fun we had. The one thing we regret is we didn't get enough time to maybe ... two years, man. That's a quick time to make a decision. ... Point being, think about if they had broken up Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson] after two years."

Whoa. Good point, Mully. Just like Run TMC, the Warriors reached the playoffs in the Splash Brothers' second season together. But unlike Run TMC, Curry and Thompson have stuck together since, and have gone on to lead the organization to not one, not two, but three NBA championships.

[LISTEN: The Habershow podcast with Run TMC]

In response to Mullin, Haberstroh called Run TMC, "One of the biggest what-ifs in NBA history." Mullin didn't disagree.

"That's why it's still alive, too," he explained. "It's one of those things that keeps it alive, right? It does. 

"And we'll buy into it," Mullin said with a chuckle. "We'll say we would have won four championships, no question."

That's quite a statement coming from a trio that won exactly one playoff series together, but to Mullin's point, there's no way for us to ever know.


Run TMC's Mitch Richmond empathizes with Warriors' current struggles

Run TMC's Mitch Richmond empathizes with Warriors' current struggles

Steve Kerr is in his sixth season with the Warriors. Mitch Richmond was with Golden State for half that time, but he knows what Kerr and the Dubs are going through right now.

Of the 14 seasons Richmond spent in the NBA, his team had a winning record only three times: his rookie season, his final season with the Warriors and the final season of his career.

Richmond went out on top, winning his only championship as a member of the 2001-02 Lakers. But on the whole, his teams lost far more games throughout his career than they won. Never, though, did they win fewer than 18 games.

After losing to the Jazz on Friday night, the Warriors occupy last place in the league standings with a record of 3-14. At this rate, they're on pace to win just over 14 games.

"Very difficult," Richmond said referring to what Golden State is going through in this down season. "I know probably each and every guy feels like they're better than what they're doing right now, how they're playing. I think right now, the Warriors have had so much success in the last 5-6 years that every team they play against now just really wants to get 'em back. They don't care who's out there on the court. They want to really take it to 'em."

Although the Warriors currently are going through a tough time, Richmond's playing experience has assured him that they won't be without a large contingent of support, no matter what their record is.

"They're consistent," Richmond said of Warriors fans, "and they're going to continue to keep cheering for the team. I think the Warriors and the Kings are probably the best arenas to play in due to the fans. They come out and cheer their team, and during the Warriors' run, they never sat down. So, maybe they're sitting down a little bit, they might not be cheering as much, but they will be there to support the team."

While Richmond was with Golden State, he and the Warriors gave their fans plenty to cheer about. Although it lasted only three seasons, the 'Run TMC' era that he, Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin starred in throughout remains one of the most fondly remembered times in franchise history. Run TMC only made the playoffs twice and never got past the second round. It came to an abrupt end when Richmond was traded to Sacramento following the 1990-91 season, which remains a sore spot for him.

"It's a little bitter and sweet," Richmond described his Run TMC memories, "because we had a great time and a fun time playing. I think any team or organization tries to build a team like we had there, where everyone got along, everyone loved playing. There were times when they had to push us out of the gym because we would continue to play after practice. So, any time you have something special like that and it breaks up, it's heartbreak. 

"I loved Run TMC. I had some of the best times playing with those guys, but then I look back and I'm like, 'God dang it, man.' We could have made a lot of noise. We were on our way to being pretty good and we only needed a couple more pieces, and then to see that break up, that was pretty difficult."

Before joining NBC Sports California as a Kings analyst this season, Richmond spent the last four years on Mullin's coaching staff at St. John's University. The longtime friends have maintained a close relationship ever since their playing days, and now that Mullin is a Warriors analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, there will be more opportunities to work together.

[RELATED: Richmond comes full circle with Kings as NBC Sports analyst]

For instance, Dec. 11 will mark the first of four Warriors game broadcasts this season in which Run TMC will be included in pregame and postgame coverage.

Naturally, one would expect those three memorable seasons Run TMC spent together to be a main topic of discussion. However, it's possible Mullin and Hardaway have learned their lesson by now.

"It used to come up a lot," Richmond said, "but they know that kind of upset me a lot, so they kind of keep it down."

That said, if there's any group that can make this Warriors' season more fun, it's those guys.