I was too young and too naïve to appreciate Mitch Richmond in his time. I watched basketball, and rooted for the Kings, but I was far from a die-hard. I loved playing basketball, though. One of my closest friends at Ridgepoint Elementary, Danny, wore two basketball jerseys religiously. His Mitch Richmond Kings jersey, and a Jason Kidd Mavericks jersey. In hindsight, both were great jerseys, but we still had a good time making fun of him for constantly supporting the two. He even crooked his feet when shooting his free throws, in homage to Mitch. It's sad, but that's one of my clearest memories of Mitch Richmond's time as a King.
The only other thing I remember vividly was Richmond being selected to the Dream Team II. At that point, the Olympics and the Dream Team seemed like something so far removed from Sacramento. I was simply amazed that Sacramento could be in such a conversation. Somewhere packed away in my basement I still have newspaper clippings from the Bee commemorating Richmond's selection.
The Kings weren't good, and I didn't understand basketball well enough to appreciate that Richmond could be an amazing player on a godawful team. I thought he was the typical player who looked better because he got to score for a bad team. I was a stereotypical casual fan. I also thought Tyus Edney was the best point guard in the NBA. I wasn't great at evaluating NBA talent when I was in 5th grade. Some would argue that not much has changed.
Now, as a slightly more savvy NBA fan, I watch highlights of The Rock on Youtube, and I marvel. I always knew he could score, but different things stand out to me now. Richmond's defense would make Basketball Twitter drool and fawn. And Richmond was so much more athletic than he looked. Ugly athleticism is the only thing I can think of to describe it. He could make acrobatic plays, power through traffic for a dunk, or contort his body to create a sliver of space to release a shot, but even his most impressive displays of athleticism fail to look particularly athletic.
I'm thrilled that Richmond is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. He belongs in the Hall, so that others like me can learn about his game and can appreciate it with the gift of hindsight. I only wish I had been able to appreciate it more as it was happening.