Thanks to Clarence Gaines for tweeting this link (via Grantland.com) on a story about former NBA all-star Michael Ray Richardson. ‘Sugar’ was my favorite player back in the 80’s.

That’s Larry Bird he is abusing. Midcourt at the Garden, and Bird pushes a two-handed pass above Sugar’s head; Sugar leaps, steals the ball clean, and then it is just he and Bird, and this is a mismatch to end all mismatches, so Sugar takes him off the dribble and lays it in. You watch those highlights of Richardson as a young man and it’s like someone put Magic Johnson on fast-forward: He is quick and strong and fearless in the lane, a point guard from the slums of Denver unleashed on the streets of New York at a precarious moment to be young and rich in America. He blew through half a dozen agents and (according to a 1985 Sports Illustrated profile) bought 16 cars, including a Mercedes with “Sugar” inscribed in gold on the handle of the stick. He partied at Studio 54 and Plato’s Retreat. He clashed with coaches (Hubie Brown most of all) and he demanded more money and he disappeared at inopportune times, often without adequate explanation, and amid that erratic behavior he would tantalize you with absurd lines like the 27 points, 15 rebounds, and 19 assists he put up against Cleveland in March of ’81.

Eric Clapton once said, “I hate listening to my old records, which I did stoned or drunk.”  You can bet Michael Ray feels the same way about his game back in the day.

During my teenage days in the 1980’s I grew up in Brooklyn, New York; I idolized Sugar.

I fell in love with his game. I loved the way he defended, rebounded, shared the ball and most of all, the confidence he displayed.  Of course I had no clue he was killing himself, off the court. We didn’t have TMZ, Sports by Brooks or even Deadspin. We didn’t have camera phones either.

Sugar’s downfall was white lines; no, not the ones that make up the baseline, free-throw line, or half-court lines.  He liked to party. It’s a shame because the two (hoops and drugs) don’t mix. Or how about this equation? New York City, the 80’s, ladies, a superstar…?

Sure there have been many star athletes come through New York and not ‘fuck up’, but Michael Ray couldn’t overcome the temptations.

I saved up a few dollars to purchase an authentic Knicks jersey with RICHARDSON sewn on the back from Gerry Cosby’s Sporting Good store. It ran me close to $200. When I wore it people thought I was crazy. Today, you have grown men wearing jersey’s.

My friends and I also collected sneakers and practice jersey’s from NBA players. We’d wait outside the Garden after a Knicks home game and ask the players for their shoes. Michael Ray was one of the coolest cats I ever met. He always made time to rap with us after the game.

When Richardson was traded to the Golden State Warriors in 1982 he played in 33 games; he was then traded back East to the New Jersey Nets. Along with Otis Birdsong, the duo teamed up to form a sweet backcourt. Their highlight came in 1984 when they upset the defending champions Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs. In game 5, down in Philly  Sugar had 24 points and 6 steals clinching the series.

When people mention Bernard King first thing they talk about is the former scoring machine’s superstar 60 points on Christmas night in 1984 at MSG vs the New Jersey Nets. Little do they realize the Knicks lost that game 120-114 behind Richardson’s 36 points.

I was heartbroken in 1986,  the day Sugar was thrown out of the league for good-by David Stern.

Forget autographs, who needed that when you could get Trent Tucker’s practice jersey?

Just for old times sakes, I carry a basketball card of the Sugar Man in my wallet.

There’s no telling how good Michael Ray could’ve been if drug addiction didn’t get the best of him.

-Coach Finamore


Follow me on Twitter; @CoachFinamore


Jeff Thomas of the Republican on Chris Mullin who will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.

“I always feel like any success I had was within the team unit, within the family unit and I’m accepting this great award, this great honor, on behalf of a lot of people,” Mullin said. “I graciously and humbly accept it, but I know it has to do with a lot more than just me.”

Despite being just one year older than me and despite playing against him in the 6th grade, Mullin was one of my favorite players growing up. Mullin had one of the sweetest looking jumpers I have ever seen. The great thing about him was his ability to pass the ball. He loved sharing the ball thus players enjoyed taking the court with him.

Mullin was born and raised in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn where he played his C.Y.O. ball for St. Thomas Aquinas.

Marc Berman of the New York Post with a great story on the left-hander.

He’s a true purist,” Carnesecca told The Post. “He exemplified the New York basketball player — the CYO, the club games, summer games on playgrounds. If there was a game, he was there. He’d play against anybody — the good guys, the so-so guys, and he never wore a big hat. Never had a big head. I’m honored.”

My first couple of days of my shortened freshman year in 1978 at Power Memorial I recall seeing Mullin on the train and in the hallways. He played two years at Power (Freshman and JV ball and didn’t lose a game). After his sophomore year he transferred to Xaverian and finished his career at the Bay Ridge high school where he won the State championship. More from Berman’s article.

Forget that Mullin became part of the AAU leagues with the famed Riverside Church. Mullin played everywhere — the Flatbush kid heading up to Harlem’s Rucker Park, the West 4th Street courts, 58th Street, 139th in the Mitchell House, where Tiny Archibald ran charity games and watched from the door. He played on the famed 108th Street court in Rockaway, and found games in Elmhurst and Corona.

“Every game I ever played in, the players were quicker or jumped higher — at every level,” Mullin said. “That was the good thing about playing in the city. But I was a different style of player. What I had was a need on every team. There were runners and jumpers, but you could always use the guy who can knock down an outside shot.

“That’s why I always blended in well.”

After his successful high school career Mullin went on to St. John’s where he led the Redmen to the Final Four in 1985. Mullin was a gym rat that played the right way.  Mullin spent 16 seasons in the NBA with Golden State and Indiana. But things started out rocky for him early in his career with Golden State; Mullin was an alcoholic. He realized his problem, checked himself into rehab and turned his life around.

Mullin was not only an outstanding player but he is a good guy as well.

Coach Finamore


Follow me on Twitter: @CoachFinamore