Owner booed on Chris Mullin's night
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Chris Mullin didn't think he'd see his No. 17 Golden State jersey hanging from the rafters at Oracle Arena, not after a bitter parting with the Warriors three years ago.
But Mullin has found a way to overcome a lot during his life and Hall of Fame basketball career, including a contentious halftime ceremony Monday night.
Mullin was honored at the half of Golden State's 97-93 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and while fans celebrated Mullin's career, they also took time to voice their displeasure with new co-owner Joe Lacob.
Lacob talked about "embracing history and respect" as he prepared to unveil Mullin's No. 17 hanging in the rafters at Oracle Arena, but angry fans showed little respect for the owner on Mullin's special night. A chorus of boos rained down on the new co-owner who, along with Peter Guber, took over the franchise in 2010. Last week the franchise traded star Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Mullin and fellow Warriors great Rick Barry separately interrupted Lacob -- taking the microphone to come to the owner's defense during the ceremony.
"As the greatest fans in the NBA ... sometimes change is inevitable, and it's going to work out just fine," Mullin said. "With your support and patience, and use that passion in the right direction ... this thing is going in the right way. I've got great confidence in Joe, [coach] Mark Jackson and everything will work out just fine. Just a little bit of patience."
When the boos restarted for Lacob, Barry took the opportunity to chastise the crowd.
"This is crazy. Seriously. Come on, you're doing yourself a disservice," Barry said. "All of the wonderful accolades being sent to you [the fans], for you to treat this man [Lacob] who is spending his money to do the best that he can to turn this franchise around -- and I know he's going to do it. So give him the respect he deserves."
Look, fans are upset, I guess, that we traded one of their favorites (Ellis) and that's all I can attribute that (the booing) to. What I feel bad about is it kind of ruined a night that was very special ... I feel bad for Chris, more than anything else.” -- Joe Lacob, Warriors owner
Lacob eventually finished the presentation for the former St. John's star and current ESPN analyst who went on to become a five-time All-Star after entering the NBA as a first-round pick in 1985.
After the game, Lacob expressed his feelings to the media.
"Look, fans are upset, I guess, that we traded one of their favorites (Ellis) and that's all I can attribute that to," Lacob said, as quoted by the San Jose Mercury News. "What I feel bad about is it kind of ruined a night that was very special, that the organization really tried to do the right thing for with Chris. And I feel good that we did that. I feel bad for Chris, more than anything else."
Lacob said the uncomfortable situation also got to Mullin as he spoke quietly to the owner before addressing the fans. Lacob summarized Mullin's thoughts, saying, as quoted by the Mercury News, "He (Mullin) was upset. He was upset with the situation."
Earlier in the evening, Mullin was having too much fun remembering his playing days and joking with former teammates to get caught up in a discussion about any lingering resentment he might have toward his former employers.
Wearing a dark suit with a light blue and yellow tie, Mullin smiled as he recalled spending hours in the gym after practice with Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway, each player trying to one-up the other no matter the drill.
The trio formed the famed "Run-TMC" combination that was the centerpiece for the Warriors' run-and-gun style under coach Don Nelson in the late 1980s and early '90s.
Richmond and Hardaway joined Nelson and several other former Golden State players in Oakland to take part in the ceremony honoring Mullin seven months after he was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"It was the most fun I had playing basketball in my whole life," Mullin said during a 20-minute pregame interview with reporters. "What Tim had, I didn't have. What Mitch could do, I couldn't do. Together, Nellie figured out how to mix and match that thing. I loved that style of play."
Video tributes, including ones from Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, played on the scoreboard throughout the evening. Johnson and Bird both played with Mullin on the USA's Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics.
During the game, Mullin sat courtside with his wife and four children, only a few seats away from Lacob. He received a standing ovation from the crowd, many of them holding Mullin bobbleheads, as he walked into a nearby tunnel shortly before the halftime ceremony began.
Highlights of Mullin's career with the Warriors played during the ceremony before the Hall of Famer received another standing ovation as he rose to speak at midcourt.
"This is where it all started for me as a pro," Mullin told the crowd. "I grew up right in front of you. You, the Warrior fans, were a huge part of my success. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'm proud to call the Bay Area my home."
The Brooklyn native spent countless hours practicing and playing on the Warriors' home court during his 13-year career with the team. Mullin still holds franchise records for games played (807) and steals (1,360), and is fourth on the club's career scoring list.
While he was beloved as a player, Mullin's foray into Golden State's front office didn't have the same results.
He was fired as the team's executive vice president of basketball operations following the 2008-09 season, nearly a year after the former star player seemingly lost his authority in a power struggle within the tumultuous Warriors.
Mullin, who grew up with and was a college teammate of Jackson, the current Golden State coach, has returned to Oracle Arena only a handful of times since and acknowledged being surprised when he was informed the Warriors intended to retire his jersey.
"I really didn't think about it, but now that it's here, it's two different parts of my life," Mullin said. "This is about my playing days and the things that happened throughout my playing career, and with that, it's nothing but good memories. But I never believed this would happen. I never thought about it."
Mullin is the sixth Warriors player to have his jersey number retired, joining Barry, Wilt Chamberlain, Al Attles, Tom Meschery and Nate Thurmond. Except for Chamberlain, who was represented by his sister Barbara Lewis, all attended the ceremony for Mullin.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.