Former St. John’s and NBA standout, Chris Mullin, may be giving the Basketball Honors Committee a hard decision to make come Hall of Fame voting time.
Out of all the finalists for the class of 2008, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and Pat Riley are thought to be this year’s Hall locks, but the Red Storm’s meticulous, sharp-shooting southpaw’s career résumé should speak for itself when attempting to garner the minimum 18 votes required for Hall enshrinement.
Mullin has yet to leave the world of professional basketball. He is currently the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Golden State Warriors and has plenty on his mind besides his second year on the Hall of Fame ballot.”It hasn’t fazed me much,” admitted Mullin. “I won’t focus on it because it might not happen, and there is hardly a moment I can be free from putting my energy into the Warriors’ affairs.”
It is only fitting to divulge into the vast and diverse career that was Chris Mullin’s during this time when he will be considered to join the elite fraternity of immortalized basketball stars. And is there any more expert and qualified perspective than that of storied St. John’s head coach, Lou Carnesecca?
“I tell kids coming up, ‘Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t play this game, that you’re too slow, too fat, too skinny, too small or can’t jump,'” Carnesecca said. “That’s what I told [Mullin] after many people aimed these remarks at him. I believe he proved everyone wrong.”
Mullin didn’t think twice when asked of the defining moment in his basketball career. “[Coach Carnesecca] was there from the beginning and shaped my life on and off the court,” Mullin said. “Everything I accomplish, I have to look back and think of him.”
Mullin and Carnesecca certainly enjoyed some good days together. The Red Storm was a nationally recognized powerhouse in the fiercely competitive Big East throughout Mullin’s four years at St. John’s. Mullin’s successful collegiate career culminated when losing to Georgetown in the 1985 Final Four, but not before becoming the only Big East player in history to claim three Big East Conference Player of the Year Awards. The awards kept rolling in for Mullin at the end of college as he received the 1985 John Wooden Award for best college basketball player.
St. John’s fans might be most familiar with Mullin’s school record 2,440 career points. Adding to his growing fame was his selection to the 1984 Olympic amateur team (before professionals were allowed to compete), which dominated the games and took home a gold medal for the United States. This wouldn’t be Mullin’s last gold medal.
Mullin was extremely appealing to NBA scouts as a pure jump shooter with good vision, and showing proficiency from the free-throw line as well as long range shots. His versatile style gained him early comparisons to NBA-great Larry Bird. He was drafted seventh overall in the first round by Golden State, where he eventually made his mark on the franchise and the entire league. Mullin remembers the transition to the NBA.
“It was difficult, it’s a whole other game,” explained Mullin. “You have to re-learn a lot of things and be respectful of everyone who came before you.”
Mullin immediately showed his renowned resiliency at the beginning of his rookie season. He missed all of his first training camp and the team’s first six games before reaching a contractual agreement with Golden State. He left no room for first-game jitters as he played 24 minutes and sunk the game winning shot with 15 seconds left.
Mullin would describe that shot as his ‘Welcome to the Big Leagues’ moment, and he was far from done.
The five-time All-Star joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to average 25 points or more per game over the span of five years for the Warriors’ franchise, whose history spans three locations and 62 years.
Again showing his knack for resiliency, he continued to put up respectable numbers on a team that was not winning and that was often at each other’s throats.
“There were times when my teammates would freeze me, not give me the ball,” said Mullin on his team’s many problems in the late 1980s. “It was just like a family – a dysfunctional family.”
During this time, Mullin’s talent and potential may have been held back by a personal problem that haunted the small forward since college: binge drinking. Under the guidance of coach George Karl, he underwent rehab and returned to the league in a renewed and rededicated fashion, posting a career-best 26.5 points per game the following year while leading the Warriors to the playoffs.
Already winning one Olympic gold medal in his career, he was given the opportunity to compete with the original “Dream Team” in the 1992 Olympics. Suddenly the golden boy from Brooklyn, N.Y. was sharing the court with the likes of Michael Jordon, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. They, of course, won the gold medal with ease.
Following his stint in rehab, Mullin had an insatiable appetite for the gym and working out. While this displayed his competitive and diligent demeanor, it may have also caused some pain late in his career.
“I lived in the gym, and that may be why the injuries began to take over my life in 1992,” said Mullin. His injury-shortened season marked the beginning of the end for Golden State in the 1990s. Eventually, he was traded to the title-contending Indiana Pacers.
In the twilight of his playing days, Mullin never lost his sweet jump shot and overall shooting ability. He led the league twice in free-throw shooting percentage, and annually graced the top of the three-point shooting leader boards. He retired from playing basketball after re-signing with Golden State for another injury-shortened year in 2001.
“I came back here [to Golden State] to play and help these young guys,” said Mullin. Apparently he was good at helping the younger guys, because that is currently what he is being paid for as V.P. of Basketball Operations.
“I had a passion for the game,” said Mullin on why he transitioned to the business area of the sport. “I couldn’t let my basketball life end when I couldn’t physically play anymore.”
Even if Chris Mullin’s name is not announced as a Hall of Fame inductee during the 2008 Division I Final Four in San Antonio, the impact he had on St. John’s, on Golden State, on the NBA, and on the entire sport of basketball will never be forgotten.