All-Time Nets All-Stars, Point Guard Edition: Micheal Ray Richardson and what was

All-Time Nets All-Stars, Point Guard Edition: Micheal Ray Richardson and what was
Micheal Ray Richardson
Micheal Ray Richardson (AP)

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1984-1985 Stats: 82 GP, 38.1 MPG, 20.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 8.2 APG, 3.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 46.9 FG%, 25.2 3P%, 76.7 FT%
1984-1985 Advanced: 51.3 TS%, 47.9 eFG%, 19.8 PER, 109 ORtg, 105 DRtg, 8.7 WS
All-Star Team? Yes
Team: 42-40, Lost in first round to Detroit Pistons (3-0)

“If there’s a better player on this planet, I want to see him.” – Chuck Daly

Daly, who said that as the coach of the Detroit Pistons, uttered those words in 1984 not about Michael Jordan or Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, but of New Jersey Nets guard Micheal Ray Richardson, after “Sugar” led the Nets to a 110-108 victory over Daly’s Pistons on December 29th. It was New Jersey’s fourth straight win, and Richardson keyed it with a 33-point performance on 15-25 shooting, hitting the only three three-pointers in the entire game.

It was just one of many sublime performances by the embattled 29-year-old point guard that season. Two games before that Detroit performance, Richardson put up 36 points, five assists, and six blocks in a Christmas Day victory over the New York Knicks, but was overshadowed by Bernard King’s then-Madison Square Garden record of 60 points in a game.

Two games after that Detroit performance, he put up what’s believed to be the first triple-double in NBA Nets history, recording 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists in a 105-98 victory.

This career year came just two seasons after Richardson reportedly wanted out of basketball. His is a cautionary tale of potential gone awry, rather than sustained greatness realized. Richardson dealt with personal issues leading to a cocaine addiction throughout his career, entering rehab clinics and hospitals hoping to control his addiction.

Even though Richardson’s most known for what he might have been, in the 1984-85 season, he was only what he was. He led the team in assists in 61 of 82 games, only scoring below double figures four times, and recorded at least 28 double-doubles. Not only is he the sole player in Nets history to average 20 points, eight assists, and five rebounds per game for a full season, he did so while leading the league with 243 steals, the tenth-most in NBA history.

It didn’t last. After the 1985-86 season, Richardson was finally derailed by his demons, banned from the league by David Stern for repeatedly failing league drug tests. He played his last game for the Nets on February 24th, 1986, and though he was technically re-instated in 1988, he would never play in the NBA again.

But for one season, Micheal Ray Richardson wasn’t just about what might have been. He was a sharpshooter with a knack for circus shots, a keen passer, and one of the league’s most tenacious defenders. He was the best player on a solid-if-unspectacular Nets team. For the ignominious reasons the NBA remembers him, it’s easy to forget how great he really was.

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