Mullin was selected seventh overall in the 1985 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors. He went on to appear in 5 All-Star games and later starred on the 1992 Dream Team.
Mullin played most of his NBA career for the Golden State Warriors, averaging career high 26.5 ppg in 1988-89 season.
He played in a total of 986 NBA games (822 started), averaging 18.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg and 3.5 apg in 32.6 mpg.
On his memories when the Golden State Warriors drafted him…
Obviously a lot has changed since then. The ’85 draft was the first lottery and also back then for the most part, guys were still staying in school for three or four years. The process itself wasn’t as involved. I didn’t do all of these workouts and trips and combines and everything. The scouts, coaches and GMS have already watched you for four years. They pretty much have a good read on us playing, what you can do and can’t do. That whole process was totally different.
As far as myself, I was born and raised in New York and went to school in New York. My mindset was different. I was not really comfortable where I was. I would have been fine playing in New York or on the East Coast. The lottery balls went the way that they went. So I was picked by Golden State. I had no idea where it was and initially I didn’t care to tell you the truth. But for every player no matter what level, you have to figure out what your game is and what you’re going to base your game on. How are you going to fit in, not only to succeed individually being a solid NBA player, but and figure out how your skills fit into the team concept. So it’s a process all players go through, some quicker than others.
On the biggest adjustment he had to make in the NBA…
The biggest thing is the amount of games. That’s something every player has to go through. Now teams play 35-40 games and it’s way different than playing 82. Physically, the travel and all of those things you can’t simulate or prepare for. You have to go through it and take the ups and downs with that. The other adjustment depends on where guys are drafted and what teammates they’re going to have. Are they going to welcome him and help them adjust?
It’s a little bit better now with players being more apt to take young guys and help them with their transition. I’m not sure it was always like that. I think many years ago, it was the young guy coming in and being looked at as someone taking someone’s job. There is a lot more, I wouldn’t say it antagonism, but I felt like it was more competitive. The veterans were making sure the transition wasn’t easy for a rookie.
You have to take everyone individually. I was coming from a comfortable place. I would’ve stayed at St. John’s for another four years if I could’ve. I was in a great situation and I was playing 20 minutes from home. I loved my college coach. We were winning. We were playing at Madison Square Garden in front of sellout crowds. When I came to Oakland, the first game I played there was 4,000 people at the game. I thought it was a downgrade. Then there’s a reason the team was in the lottery. The team was not a winning team and that creates a lot of tension and frustration.
Back then, there was not the pay scale that the draft has now. So I actually held out with a contract dispute. So I didn’t show up until mid November. I’m sure that was not welcomed. I came in as one of the highest paid players on day one. There were a lot of things I didn’t think about. My agent was doing everything, and then I just showed up and played. But I did walk into some different conditions that I wasn’t prepared for.
On his going through rehab to address his drinking problem…
It was just another adjustment. When I addressed that situation, that’s really when my career took off. Consequently, Nellie [former Warrors coach Don Nelson] also made a bunch of roster moves. So they all kind of coincided. Deep down, no one knew it would work the way it did. Deep down, they were preparing for me not to make it. I wasn’t quite sure I would either. So I thought, ‘You do what you can and put all your effort into not only being the best player you can be, but also have the discipline in being prepared and being a good person.’
I made the adjustments there. Nellie made adjustments within the roster. Then it became a different organization and franchise. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by not only Nellie, but some great owners. They guided me through the early part of my career. I’m forever grateful to them.
You have to be able to do deal with success with humility and deal with failure from a learning experience instead of letting it get you down. Don’t blame anyone else. Use it as a learning tool. If you can use success and be grateful with it and humble with it, when the failures come, use it as a motivational tool or learning tool. As a young kid, a lot of these guys are top picks and coming from successful careers. When things don’t go their way right away, it’s very important to be able to not overjudge or blame and feel like this is what your career is going to be. This is the start of something great. Everyone has a different path.
Some guys get off to quick starts. Then they fizzle out. Guys get off slow and then they get it and blow up. Each and every person has their own story. To a degree, you can create your own story with your work ethic and dedication and things like that.
On how to guess what the future NBA draft pick might become…
I think it varies on each and every draft. I haven’t really researched seventh picks. So I couldn’t show you that. But each situation depends on talent, I’d say the biggest thing for these young players and hardest thing for GM’s is that you can test a guy’s size, wingspan, his body fat and his vertical jump. But how do you measure the guy that’s going to really work on a daily basis throughout his career? If you have the skillset and the will, you will succeed. But having that match up at the right time is difficult. Sometimes you have the guys with skill, and maybe the will is not what it should be. Who knows what the reasons are. It could be so many different things.
But when they match up together, and you have the skill and the will and you have a good situation where guys are motivated, welcomed and a part of the team, I think you can be the fifth pick, seventh or 26th pick, and still succeed. Things will change. Teammates will change. Coaches will change. I think the consistent guy who with all the variables around him maintains his work ethic and love of the game will likely succeed.
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