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Richmond Puts the Name Mitch in the Hall of Fame

08/07/2014 09:27 am ET | Updated Oct 07, 2014
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On Saturday, Mitch Richmond will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the highest individual honor a basketball player can achieve.

It will also be a banner moment for Mitches everywhere. Richmond will be the first Mitch inducted into any of the four major American sports Halls of Fame.

"That's awesome," Richmond said. "I would never have thought of that, but when you brought that up, it intrigued me. I'm the first in the Hall... that's pretty good."

Mitchell James Richmond was named after his dad, also Mitchell. His dad's dad was a Mitchell too.

Richmond has worn the name as a badge of honor. His Kansas State teammates nicknamed him "Mitch the Bitch" and he took it is a compliment.

When it came time for Mitch and his wife Juli to name their eldest son, the Richmonds ended the chain.

"I did think about it," Richmond said, "but then I thought it was a little too much pressure."

Well, they didn't totally end it. Juli's maiden name is Phillips, so they named their son Phillip Mitchell Richmond.

The name Mitch has had its moments in history. Albom, Hedberg and Miller all distinguished themselves in their fields.

Not to mention Old School's Mitch-A-Palooza, the snake in Road Trip and a main character on Modern Family.

But perhaps the crowning glory-- before Richmond came along-- was David Hasselhoff's 221-episode run as Mitch Buchannon on Baywatch.

"That's funny," Richmond said, going through the list of pop culture references. "I didn't even know and I watched that show!"

There have been athletes too -- Berger, Kupchak, Williams and others.

In fact, Richmond said the first Mitches he met besides his father were fellow NBA players, Butler and Wiggins.

But not a single one ever summited the mountain Richmond has now reached.

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Mitch is just one of those names. Common enough that it doesn't seem odd to hear it, but rare enough that you don't realize how few you know.

"It's always interesting when I run into people and they say their name is Mitch," Richmond said.

Mitchell was the 159th most popular baby name for American boys born in the 1965 like Richmond. The name surged into to the top 100 in 1988, coincidentally the year Richmond broke into the NBA, and hung in the double digits throughout most of his career. But the decline since has been steep, as Mitchell dropped all the way to 458th in 2013.

The Halls are peppered with names both common and obscure. You can count two Cecil's, three Forrest's and even five guys named Guy. They honored 59 different John's, but there was nary a Mitch in sight until now.

There's Bert and Ernie (Blyleven and Banks), plus Oscar and Grover (Robertson and Cleveland Alexander).

They've got Tom and Jerry (Landry and West), Bill and Ted (Russell and Hendricks), even Lewis and Clark (that would be Wilson and Griffith, though you probably know Lewis as "Hack").

It seems every name from Adolph and Arvydas to Zachariah and Zigmund had its day on stage before Mitch.

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The wait has been tough on Mitches everywhere, but especially for Richmond and his family, who had been hoping for this moment since he retired in 2002. Richmond had been named a finalist for the Class of 2013, but fell short last year.

But unfortunately for Richmond, during a summer that was supposed to be so special, not all the news has been good.

The Hall of Famer's father passed away in June, just a few months after the announcement of Richmond's induction.

"It was special," Richmond said, about sharing the good news with his dad. "He was always so proud of me."

Richmond described his father as a pretty healthy 69-year-old, before his health took a turn for the worst.

"He was going to be coming to the ceremony, but he got sick," Richmond said. "It was a sudden thing. He got sick and in the next two months he was gone."

Richmond said he isn't sure if his family's lineage of Mitches goes any generations beyond his grandfather. But the Mitch he was so close to will be on his mind throughout the weekend, when the Hall of Fame finally calls his name.

His name Mitch-- the one thing that separates him from every other inductee, and forever links him to one of his biggest fans.