Micheal Ray Richardson – A Retrospective




Quite routinely, supremely talented athletes come along in the world of sports. And some of them are also charismatic, likeable, and highly entertaining.

Unfortunately, the demons of drug or alcohol addiction can derail such promising careers. Mickey Mantle. John Daly. David Thompson. George Best. Dwight Gooden. And one-of-a-kind NBA guard Michael Ray Richardson.

“Sugar Ray” was about 30 years ahead of his time. He could play both guard spots, and he could guard three positions. There isn’t a player in today’s NBA that I can compare him to.

He was sort of an amalgam of a scoring guard that could pass & create, and he also had a passion to play defense.

Lets begin with some quotes from his NBA peers:

Magic Johnson: “Micheal Ray was a guy who played just like I played. Every time I saw him, he went right at me… and Micheal would always talk trash, too, the whole game.”

Peter Vescey, irritating columnist for the NY Post: “Isiah Thomas, to this day, tells me that the one guy he was scared of was Richardson.”

Larry Bird once referred to him as the best basketball player on the planet.

And now the numbers:

Four-time All-Star; two-time All-Defensive 1st team; led the league in steals four times; second all-time in steals per game.

His second year in the league with the New York Knicks , he became the first player to lead the NBA in both assists (10.1) and steals (3.2), both franchise records (John Stockton was the only other player to average 10 & 3 for a season).

In 1984-85 with the New Jersey Nets, he threw up a ridiculous 20 ppg – 8 ass – 3 stl stat line on 47% shooting. I think its safe to say that we wont be seeing those numbers again for quite a while.

An absurd game of 27 pts, 15 reb, & 19 dimes in 1981.

Richardson played the game with a flair for the dramatic. He always had a smile on his face, and he was a showman on par with Magic and Isiah.

But the lure of cocaine did him in. After he failed a third drug test, David Stern suspended him for life in 1986.

So where is Sugar Ray today? Coaching pro basketball in Canada. And he’s doing it well, winning back-to-back Coach of the Year honors his first two seasons.

When I think back on Richardson’s career, I remember a dynamic 6′ 5″ combo guard that was hell at both ends of the floor, with a passion for the game.

And I also recall those awful uniforms the Knicks had for a few years, with the brilliant idea of the team name UNDER the number.

Chris Rock narrated an excellent 35 minute documentary on Richardson, “Whatever Happened to Micheal Ray?”.






Stats and references courtesy of basketball-reference.com & nba.com

Photo courtesy of fpp.co.uk







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2 Responses to “Micheal Ray Richardson – A Retrospective”

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