The New York Knicks drafted him with the fourth pick overall in the 1978 NBA Draft, and he was billed as “the next Walt Frazier.” Two picks later, the Boston Celtics drafted Larry Bird. In his second year, Richardson became the third player in NBA history (1. Slick Watts – 1976, 2. Don Buse – 1977) to lead the league in both assists (10.1) and steals (3.2), setting Knicks franchise records in both categories.
At the beginning of the 1982-83 season, he was sent to the Golden State Warriors as compensation for the New York Knicks signing Bernard King as a free agent. After playing only 33 games for the Warriors, Richardson was traded to the New Jersey Nets. He would be named an all-star as a Net, playing on the Eastern Conference all-star team that allegedly froze out Michael Jordan. In the 1984 playoffs, Richardson led the Nets to a shocking upset of the defending champion Philadelphia 76ers. In the fifth and deciding game, he scored 24 points and had six steals. While the Knicks showed mild improvement after trading Richardson, that improvement was short-lived, ending when King was felled by a devastating knee injury midway through the 1984-85 season.
In 1986, NBA commissioner David Stern banned Richardson for life after Richardson violated the league’s drug policy three times. Richardson’s right to play in the NBA was restored in 1988, but he failed two cocaine tests in 1991, though he disputed the results.
He bitterly complained that the suspensions he received from the NBA were unfair given the fact that Chris Mullin was never disciplined by the league for his well-documented alcohol problem, implying that this “double standard” existed because Richardson is African-American while Mullin is white, and became a frequently cited example of destructive lifestyles in the NBA. He was the subject of the 2000 film Whatever Happened to Micheal Ray?, a look at his troubled life. It was narrated by Chris Rock.
Richardson went on to play a few seasons in the Continental Basketball Association and United States Basketball League as well as 14 seasons in Europe. There, he signed with Virtus Bologna, a prominent European team, in 1988 and remained 3 seasons. With the Virtus Bologna he won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1990. In Italy, he stayed 2 seasons (1992–1993 and following) in Baker Livorno and 1 (1998–1999) in Montana Forlì. He also won the French championship with Olympique Antibes in 1995.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday …salutes Michael Ray Richardson.
|1978–1982||New York Knicks|
|1982||Golden State Warriors|
|1982–1986||New Jersey Nets|
|1986–1987||Long Island Knights (AAU)|
|1987–1988||Albany Patroons (CBA)|
|1988–1991||Knorr Bologna (Italy)|
|1991–1992||KK Split (Croatia)|
|1992–1994||Baker Livorno (Italy)|
|1994–1997||Olympique Antibes (France)|
|1997–1998||Cholet Basket (France)|
|1998–1999||C. Montana Forlì (Italy)|
|1999–2000||Basket Livorno (Italy)|
|2001||Olympique Antibes (France)|
|2002||AC Golfe-Juan-Vallauris (France)|
|2004–2007||Albany Patroons (CBA)|
|2007–2011||Oklahoma / Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry (CBA / PBL)|
|2011–2014||London Lightning (NBL Canada)|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||8,253 (14.8 ppg)|
|Assists||3,899 (7.0 apg)|
|Steals||1,463 (2.6 spg)|