OAKLAND — As a boy on a Brooklyn neighborhood basketball court, Chris Mullin never gave much thought to anything other than the inflated rubber ball in his hand.
But as two rundown hoops were torn down Thursday at Oakland’s Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center as part of groundbreaking ceremony with dozens of children on hand, the retired longtime Warrior and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer couldn’t help but to be reminded of his past.
“Never dreamed of that,” Mullin said of the center’s new basketball courts being named after him, in honor of the Warriors retiring his No. 17 jersey on March 19. “At all.”
The Warriors and Mullin, in partnership with the Good Tidings Foundation and PG&A, are refurbishing the two courts, which will be finished in about a month despite the city’s financial woes.
“We have not had a capital improvement budget in a long time,” said Audrey Jones-Taylor, Oakland’s director of parks and recreation. “The only way that we’re able to make things happen in this city is being creative and bringing in partners.”
The Oakland courts are only the latest to be named after local basketball greats. Two others in the city are named after Al Attles and Nate Thurmond.
“I’ve got a great understanding of the history of basketball,” Mullin said. “To be even with some of those people ... they’re people I looked up to, not only as basketball men, but as great men in the community.”
Despite spending nearly his entire adult life in the Bay Area, his Brooklyn accent still lingers, as do the memories of a child Mullin stumbling down Flatbush Avenue to the local courts, ball in hand, which is where his Hall of Fame career tipped off.
“Its somewhat overwhelming,” he said. “But when you see these kids here, it’s very similar to the way I grew up.”