Guard led Kings in scoring for seven years

Updated: December 29, 2003, 11:10 AM ET
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Mitch Richmond was the pride of the Sacramento Kings when the franchise didn't have much to celebrate. Now that everything has changed, Sacramento honored the man who led the way.

The Kings retired Richmond's No. 2 jersey and raised it to the rafters of Arco Arena on Friday night, honoring the first star of the franchise's Sacramento era during halftime of the Kings' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Richmond led the Kings in scoring for seven straight seasons from 1991-92 to 1997-98, averaging 23.3 points and making six All-Star teams as a dangerous shooting guard. The NBA's 27th-leading career scorer is third in franchise history with 12,070 points, and his 993 3-pointers are the most in Kings history.

"I think you guys are the ones that made me come in every night and try to put it on the line and leave the court," Richmond said to the fans. "You were here when we were a troubling team, troubling."

The former NBA rookie of the year played three seasons with the Golden State Warriors before the Kings acquired him. He was often Sacramento's lone bright spot during some of the darkest days in the franchise's less-than-spectacular history: Richmond never played on a winning team in Sacramento, but the Kings haven't had a losing season since he left.

He was dealt to Washington for Chris Webber.

"This is a man who pretty much carried the Kings on his back while the franchise was trying to gain respect in the NBA," longtime Kings broadcaster Gary Gerould said.

But Sacramento's fans always loved Richmond, and they gave him several deafening standing ovations during the ceremony. Richmond was joined by his wife and three sons, as well as his parents and a cousin.

"There's one more thing I'm upset about, is that you guys never had cowbells when I was playing," Richmond said. "Can somebody give me a cowbell?"

The crowd laughed as the sound of a lone cowbell rang through the lower bowl.

"Thank you," Richmond said with a grin.

Even when he departed, Richmond made a contribution to the Kings. Sacramento traded him for Webber, the centerpiece of Sacramento's current renaissance that has included five straight winning seasons and two Pacific Division titles.

"This team would not be what it is today without him," said Geoff Petrie, the Kings' president of basketball operations.

Richmond's jersey joins the numbers of Oscar Robertson, Tiny Archibald, Maurice Stokes, Jack Twyman, Sam Lacey and Bob Davies in the rafters. The Kings also retired No. 6 in honor of their fans, who sold out every game in Sacramento from 1985 to 1997, as well as 190 consecutive home games through Friday.

"You meant so much to the city and the fans of Sacramento," Kings owner Gavin Maloof said. "It all started with you. I know on your jersey it says No. 2, but in our eyes, you're number one."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press