The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Former Wizard Mitch Richmond elected to Basketball Hall of Fame

Former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson greets former NBA player Mitch Richmond, right, during the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2014 announcement, Monday, April 7, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Mitch Richmond’s best days as a professional basketball player were already behind him when he joined the Wizards in May 1998. After making the all-NBA third team for the second – and last – time in his career, Richmond arrived in Washington, along with Otis Thorpe, as part of a controversial trade that sent Chris Webber to Sacramento.

Fans in Washington never fully embraced Richmond because he struggled to stay healthy and the Wizards continued to wallow while Webber immediately turned the doormat Kings into a contender. In his second year in town, Richmond began to hear boos at his home arena, then known as MCI Center, and even got benched. He felt compelled to defend himself to then-Washington Post columnist Mike Wilbon by stating, “I’m not a bum.”

Richmond certainly didn’t have to make that comment because, despite his  difficulty finding his shooting form as a 30-something with the Wizards, what he had accomplished in the NBA spoke for itself. He averaged at least 21 points in each of his first 10 seasons with Golden State and Sacramento, was named 1989 rookie of the year, made the all-star team six times and won an Olympic gold medal in 1996. Michael Jordan gave Richmond the highest praise when he said he was the toughest shooting guard to defend.

And on Monday, Richmond’s success was recognized when he was elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Richmond joins former Georgetown star Alonzo Mourning, former Maryland coach Gary Williams and former NBA Commissioner David Stern among the 10 members of the 2014 class, which will be inducted on Aug. 9 in Springfield, Mass.

Richmond becomes the second former Wizard to enter the Hall of Fame, joining Jordan, who entered the Hall in 2009. In the past five induction ceremonies, the franchise has also been represented by former Bullets, Gus Johnson, Ralph Sampson and Bernard King.

Though he averaged just 17.8 points on 41.5 percent shooting and was unable to reach the playoffs in three seasons in Washington, Richmond did become the 26th player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points while wearing a Wizards uniform. Richmond received a standing ovation from the crowd on that night in February 2001 – of course, the game was played in San Antonio. He was eventually replaced by Richard Hamilton and finished his career as a backup with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning his only NBA championship in 2002.