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The Good Word With…Mitch Richmond

 

Q: What’s your take on the current state of the NBA?
A: I think when the lockout started, my state of mind was bleak – I didn’t know what was going to happen. I went through the 1998 lockout, and my take on it now is that hopefully we can get our players on the right schedule for next year. You don’t want guys getting injuries playing three games back to back.

When the lockout was going on, fans were upset there was no basketball. Now that you have basketball every night, people are enjoying turning on the TV and watching games. I’m excited about seeing a game every night…sometimes two, three and four.

Q: You had 14 successful NBA seasons. What was your key to longevity in the NBA, mentally and physically?
A: You have to make sure your legs are strong to take the beating, always have to be strengthening your legs. In the off-season, doing things like yoga and stretching is helpful. One thing that saved me was stretching my limbs all the time and getting proper treatment. Each summer I expanded that regimen. It’s different for today’s players because the game is not as physical as when I played. A guy like Kobe does not have the real wear and tear on his body that we had –he can probably play 20 years.

I always had that mental edge because going from Golden State to Sacramento, where we were not winning, and going to a young team that didn’t have much success, I had to be very focused. I always tried to play a game within the game. On many nights, I knew we wouldn’t come out with a win, so I tried not to look at the score and play every position hard, so I could keep my mental state right. I took my frustrations out on the opponent we were going up against.

Q: What’s going on with the “Run TMC” trio these days?
A: We still stay in contact. I think we are playing together in a celebrity game or something like that during All-Star Weekend, against Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson and some of the other Magic guys from those days. Nothing is definite yet about that though.

We are all good friends. I talked to both Tim and Mully a few days ago. When I am down in Miami, I always see Tim. And Mully, who lives in Oakland, is right down the street from me in L.A., so we see each other all the time.

Q: You were the 1989 Rookie of the Year. Who’s your favorite for this season?
A: To be honest, I don’t know too much about the candidates right now. So a truly early call for me is the rook Norris Cole, who has been playing well for Miami. He might be in the running as far as an early candidate.

Q: Your #2 jersey was retired by the Sacramento Kings, your home for seven years. You won a championship with the Lakers, and you worked as a scout for the Golden State Warriors, where you started your playing career. Where in California is home to you?
A: Right now I live in Los Angeles, but my heart is always with the Warriors, the first team to give me an opportunity. That was one of my favorite teams to play with and my favorite group of guys to play with…guys like Tim, Mully, Ralph Sampson, Jim Peterson, Manute Bol, Vincent Askew, Mario Elie. It was my first sniff of the NBA.

Sacramento grew on me. The fans embraced me from day one; it was just a difficult place to be at the time. But I love the people there, and they love their basketball. They came out every night when we were a bad team to watch, so a little piece of my heart is always with them.

And the Lakers also gave me a good opportunity…playing with Robert Horry (who’s a good friend), Shaq, Kobe, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher. It was a pleasure to go down my last year with an NBA Championship.

Q: What else is going on in your life these days?
A: Well, I was just at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas for the second year, where retailers come to show new products. I was there showing off my product line that we are coming out with, MR2, which is a series of bluetooth wireless headphones and other electronic products. Hopefully, we will launch in Los Angeles this year.

I actually got involved with this project because I met a guy from Beijing named Richard Chiang through a mutual friend. We started talking about technology and electronics, and knowing Dr. Dre has had so much success with his headphones, Richard and I decided to partner up. I flew to China, and we came up with a prototype and some designs. We have a bunch of different designs, like Rock Sleek, Rock Steady, Rock Hybrid, Rock Sports. You know, my nickname was Rock in the NBA, so it just worked. I feel really good about it.

Between this company and my kids, I am keeping busy.

ABOUT MITCH RICHMOND

An NBA Champion, six-time NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medallist, guard Mitch Richmond is a 14-year NBA veteran. Selected by the Golden State Warriors fifth overall in the 1988 NBA Draft, he played three years with the squad, where he teamed with Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway to form “Run TMC,” a high-scoring and fan favorite trio. He went on to spend seven seasons with Sacramento, three with Washington and one with Los Angeles, where he won an NBA Championship. Richmond earned a number of honors throughout his career, including Rookie of the Year and All-Star MVP. A graduate of Kansas Sate University, and a native of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., he is one of only four players to average at least 21 points in each of their first 10 NBA seasons. Follow Richmond on Twitter @mitchrichmond23.

The Real Deal About NBA Players

One question I continue to receive since embarking on the NBA PR world more than a decade ago is…what are NBA players really like? And, undoubtedly (well at least 8 times of out of 10), that question is followed up with more loaded questions, like, they must be stupid and/or they’ve got to be divas, or some variation of the two. I suppose the latter are more statements than questions, but I feel the need to “answer” nonetheless.

I find myself sharing the same anecdotes about players done good and rattling off the names of guys who are simultaneously running businesses, completing college courses and shelling out their own cash for community service projects. The stigma that all NBA players are morons and live beyond their means has become personal to me. Sure, there are plenty of stories about players who lose their millions and find themselves in hot water. It’s very real and a serious problem, and there’s no denying that. But why should the proverbial bad apples (too harsh?) ruin it for the rest?

This rant may sound naïve – most likely absurd – to some, especially to reporters whose player experiences can be less than pleasant. This particularly happens when attempting a post-game interview with a half-naked player who just lost in a buzzer beater and is about to board a plane to Sacramento. I’d be giving ‘tude too. In the media’s defense, this is their job, and Lord knows I’ve been on the mic-in-player’s-face side of things many times.

What was the question again? Oh yes, what are NBA players really like?

From my own experiences, which include working with current and retired players in a number of facets, my answer is quite simply that they are “normal” (for the most part).

Many are proud Dads who pride themselves on “family first.” D-Wade shows off iPhone pics of his two boys whenever he gets a chance (I don’t blame him, those kids are damn cute), and Melo made sure to personally take his little girl trick-or-treating amid the madness of New York City’s Upper West Side, even if it meant bringing along a bodyguard and trying to go incognito in dark sunglasses and a black ski hat. Jerry Stackhouse speaks about his wife of 11 years Ramirra and their kids as highly as any family man can, and Raja Bell often brings his parents along for NBA-related events. Far more interesting than that is how much Raja and his Mom look alike. It’s uncanny, really, and a very close second to Ray Allen and his equally famous mother, Flo.

A good majority (read: majority) of players are just nice dudes. Of course, like in any situation, some are more personable than others. Guys like Baron Davis, Tyson Chandler and James Jones make a concerted effort to remember folks’ names and are big on pleasantries. I’m not giving a medal to these guys for saying please and thank you, they are just a few that stick out as particularly respectful. And there are the ones who always ask how others are doing – Keyon Dooling inquires about my Mom every time I see him, and I’m pretty sure they’ve never met.

I have had some of my more interesting conversations with NBA players. Yes, it’s true. Talk to Samuel Dalembert about his upbringing in Haiti and the work he has done post-earthquake – I’m talking Brangelina style – and I dare you not to be fascinated. Luc Mbah a Moute also has an incredible story about growing up in West Africa’s Cameroon and his journey to the U.S. and eventually the NBA. On a lighter note, Matt Bonner can talk a blue streak about the best roast beef in New Hampshire. The Bonner part really has nothing to do with anything, but it’s a fun little tidbit, now isn’t it? P.S.: That’s a rhetorical question.

There are hundreds (a rough estimate based on no scientific facts) of players actively involved with their own non-profit organizations and/or supportive of others. Paul Pierce, through his Foundation’s Truth on Health campaign, has quite an operation in place that is working to combat childhood obesity. And Dwight Howard’s Foundation has more events and programming than the Kardashian’s. These are just two examples of many. And education is certainly up there on the priority list too. This past summer, nearly 50 players took college courses around the country. Royal Ivey and Maurice Evans even graduated! Check this out: http://www.nbpa.org/nbpa-news/pomp-and-circumstance

I could easily get into the negative (and often more popular) stories about players going broke or accruing baby mamas. Maybe that would get me more Twitter followers or, better yet, a book deal! But for what? It’s about time to shed light on the “good guys” – the players dedicating their time and money to charity, the players serving as positive role models to young people and, especially, the players who are just normal, nice, family guys.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t see halos on any NBA players, and I am not attempting to paint that picture. The point is that for years the unfortunate behaviors of some have tainted the image of the greater sum. And I’m here to share the “glass half-full” approach, which isn’t what usually makes the headlines.

Does that answer your question?