Brooklyn born Chris Mullin was a high school basketball phenomenon and a playground legend all around the iconic courts of New York City.
He stayed close to home for college, accepting a scholarship offer from Saint John’s University, where he led the school back to national prominence. The silky smooth lefty was the only player in history to be named Big East Player of the Year three times. Mullin capped his college career by winning the 1985 Wooden Award as the nation’s top player all while leading Saint John’s to a Final Four appearance.
Selected with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors, Mullin became one of the top scorers of the era, averaging more than 25 points per game for five consecutive seasons.
As fans of the era remember well, he was one third of the iconic Run TMC trio in Golden State, which included Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond as they formed the most prolific scoring trio in the NBA.
Mullin was a five-time NBA All-Star, an all-NBA First Team member, an All-NBA Second Team selection and a member of the legendary 1992 Dream Team, capturing the second Olympic gold medal of his legendary career.
His career was immortalized with induction to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
In this exclusive Card Back Q&A with SC Daily, we talk about the compliment of being called a gym rat, compliments from the NBA’s all time leader in assists and steals and the hard work, dedication and respect that was reciprocal throughout his career.
Tony Reid– When I research for the Card Back Q&As, I generally find interesting comments or content but with many of your card backs it was quote after quote from the legends of the game, speaking to your greatness. The back of your 1992-93 Stadium Club Beam Team card has a quote from all-time great John Stockton who he says “I really don’t think anybody else is as comfortable on the basketball court.” What are your thoughts when you hear those words from the great John Stockton?
Chris Mullin- It’s one of the greatest comments I ever heard. John Stockton is one of my favorite players of all time. I got to play with John. We went through the 1984 Olympic trials together, so we have known each other for a long, long time. He had a spectacular, incredible career. One of the greatest point guards of all time. To hear that from one of your peers that I respect and admire so much, the way it was put, it wasn’t about individual skill or shooting, it was just the presence on the court. By the way, I always felt that. I always felt more comfortable on the court than anywhere else in the world.
TR– The back of your 1993-94 Upper Deck Pro View Playground legends card states, among other things, that you are regarded as the ultimate gym rat. I know that’s a phrase that was thrown around a lot back in the day, but can you just speak to perfecting your craft in working when no one was watching?
CM-That goes back to my childhood. Growing up in Brooklyn, I lived a block away from the grade school we attended, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. My CYO coach gave me access to the gym if I would work on my game, not to go up there and screw around. It was a privilege that I had access to the gym if I did the right things. He would write some drills down for me and I would go up there and do them religiously. I fell in love with that process of working on skill and then competing in pickup. Not just one of the other but doing both. It was invaluable for me. I got positive feedback with my ability to shoot better and handle the ball better. That sounds kind of basic but it was pre-personal trainers and all of those things. It was a way to break the game down. The gym rat thing is a compliment. People may think it has a negative connotation but it’s actually a compliment to your work ethic. That’s what it comes down to. Oh, and by the way that coincides with being comfortable on the court like John Stockton said. The more time you put in the more comfortable you will be. You try to put yourself in every situation in practice so when they pop up in the game you are comfortable in those unique situations.
TR– The back of your 1992-93 Fleer Team Leaders card has a quote from Detroit Pistons Hall of Famer Joe Dumars that says, “He may be the smartest player in the league. I just love the way he plays the game. He’s never in a hurry and always in control of what he’s doing.” What a cool comment from Joe D. How did you get to the point where legends of the game saw you as being so confident and at home on the sport’s biggest stages?
CM-Again, Joe Dumars is one of the most respected players of our generation on and off the court. He’s a class act and an incredible man of integrity. He’s leader and a champion. That is the ultimate as a competitor, to have the respect of your opponents. You want the respect of your teammates and that comes over time but to gain the respect of your opponent is what it’s all about in my mind. In the day and age of sound bites and highlights and all of those things, to have someone else say it is more important than you saying it yourself. The players you mentioned, the players I played with and against, those guys are why I put the time in. It was out of respect to them. They were so good I felt that I had to do that just to compete against those great players. It was actually a reciprocal respect and admiration.