Chris Mullin is an alcoholic 24 hours a day, so the last thing he does before he sleeps is to get out the little black book. The gold lettering on the cover—TWENTY-FOUR HOURS A DAY—is faded, and the pages are yellowed and thumbed, but Mullin digs into the book as if he had gotten it today, gift wrapped, in the mail. Outside his house the fog off San Francisco Bay is so thick and gray that he could get lost in his own front yard, but inside, Mullin knows exactly where he is. It's past midnight, which makes it Wednesday, Feb. 12. Four years with this tiny book. He should have it memorized by now.
"Feb. 12—A.A. Thought for the Day: As we look back on all those troubles we used to have when we were drinking, the hospitals, the jails, we wonder how we could have wanted that kind of a life. As we look back on it now, we see our drinking life as it really was and we're glad we're out of it. So after a few months in A.A., we find that we can honestly say that we want something else more than drinking...and we wouldn't go back to the old drunken way of living for anything in the world. Do I want to keep sober a lot more than I want to get drunk?"
Chris Mullin is an alcoholic, and so he wakes up every day and says: "Not gonna drink today." His wife, Liz, has heard it so many times that to her it is as routine as the thermostat clicking on. But Mullin likes to hear it. Today. Not thinking about next week or next month or next off-season. When people ask him what he's going to do when he retires, it makes him wince. When he gets to stewing about the future—never having a drink again for as long as he lives—he starts obsessing. When he starts obsessing he panics, and when he panics he has to call the number next to the telephone, and that's as close as he ever wants to get to his hangover days. But that doesn't happen much. "I woke up cool this morning," Mullin says. "I'll be cool tonight. And hopefully I'll be cool when I wake up tomorrow."
He tumbles out of bed and gives Kuma, the World's Luckiest Dog, an extensive and therapeutic neck rub. "Rubs that dog more than he rubs me," says Liz. "I have to beg." Next he opens a can of Kal Kan and covers it with some Campbell's mushroom soup and nukes it for 60 seconds. Kuma insists on hot meals. Mullin is devoted to Kuma—maybe because Kuma never once asked for tickets, for an autograph or for Mullin to speak at his Rotary Club. Mullin jumps in the shower, and naturally Kuma jumps in with him. Through the glass Liz looks menacingly at the World's Luckiest Dog.
Mullin may be the whitest person on earth, but he looks positively new-sneaker white next to Kuma's tan fur and black snout. Manute Bol calls Mullin Chalk, some people call him Casper, but you can call him the Man the Sun Forgot. Still, what Mullin's blinding body lacks in color it makes up for in tone—6% fat, 6'7", 215 pounds, 28 years old, flushes in spots, can look ugly but hums. On the muggiest day of summer, the pale figure will get up at 6:30 a.m., run five miles, jump on the stair climber for an hour at the killer setting, jump on the stationary bike for another hour, jump in the pool, jump on some lunch, lift weights for an hour and a half, shower, go to the gym for 400 jump shots in 30 minutes, then knock down about 200 free throws and call it a day.
Not bad for a body that used to remind one of an old mattress—white and lumpy. Mullin played a little lumpy then too. The College Player of the Year and the NBA's seventh draft pick in 1985, Mullin was never much more than a catch-and-shooter his first three seasons with the Golden State Warriors, an overmatched No. 2 guard whom quicker guards would use like a turnstile. He was a pure jumper-buster with few moves to speak of, none to the hole that would get him by anybody this side of Chuck Nevitt.
"I'd heard he was so good," says Don Nelson, then the Warriors' general manager and now also their coach. "But he wasn't. He was an alcoholic and overweight, and I wasn't pleased with him on defense." There were rumors that Mullin would be traded to the New York Knicks.
Ask Nelson if he would trade Mullin now.