HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS WEST – The Warriors will retire uniform No. 17 tonight at halftime at Oracle Arena to honor Chris Mullin, a tribute both richly deserved and years overdue. That much is obvious.
Look at the list of guests who will be on the court with him, though. Not so obvious. Many family members, sure. The Warriors who previously had their numbers retired, or someone on their behalf: Al Attles, Rick Barry, Tom Meschery, Nate Thurmond and Barbara Lewis representing her brother Wilt Chamberlain. Several former teammates, including Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Sarunas Marciulionis and Rod Higgins. All predictable party guests.
But then there is Tom Abdenour, the former Golden State trainer.
And Mark Grabow, the former director of athletic development.
And Eric Housen, the former equipment manager and current director of team services.
On his big night, the guest list says more about Mullin than any speech. He was the small forward who couldn’t take anyone off the dribble yet played in five All-Star games, the New York City product without the mega-street hype who won two Olympic gold medals and the human being who overcame alcoholism early in his career to become a Hall of Famer all because he was the ultimate gym rat who would not be outworked. The greatness of Mullin is that he refused to give up, and now he will make sure others who were there with him late at night, away from the spotlight, will get credit.
“It’s an incredible honor to be recognized by the organization,” Mullin said. “I spent 13 years playing and growing as a player and a person, and it’s a place I lived. I developed a really unique relationship with the fan base there. It’s another opportunity for me to say ‘Thank you’ to all of my teammates, administrators and front-office people that stuck with me and helped me carve out a nice career in the NBA.”
Even Don Nelson. Lengthy articles could be written on the Mullin-Nelson relationship, how Nellie the coach stood close by his young player in the fight against personal demons, how Nelson put Mully in the Hall of Fame path by teaming him with Hardaway and Richmond to form the high-scoring Run TMC, and then later how Mullin as head of basketball operations felt Nelson undermined him in a power grab that ultimately resulted in both being fired.
But Nelson will be there, as will another former Warriors coach, Garry St. Jean.
“Nellie and I, we’ll always be linked together,” Mullin said. “We had some really, really good times together. Definitely as coach and player, for sure. That was the most fun I ever had playing basketball in my life.
“There’s been so many different people throughout the years. My family, of course. Coaches and friends along the way. And Nellie is one of those guys that was in my corner all the time. As far as things that I dealt with off the court, it wasn’t me. It wasn’t any one person. It’s a power greater than the human force that does that. But it doesn’t diminish the people that help you along the way.”
In spite of how the relationship changed in later years, was having Nelson as part of the jersey retirement a tough choice?
“No, not at all,” Mullin said. “He was an integral part of my career. Tim and Mitch will be there and a lot of guys from those years, and Nellie was the orchestrator on the court for all of that.”