Before Carmelo Anthony was scoring at will in Madison Square Garden, there was another New York Knicks forward who could fill the stat sheet. His name is Bernard King.
King was finally rewarded for his spectacular ability when he was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame last Sunday, 20 years after retiring.
King’s career and impact on the game went underappreciated for a long time. This is partly due to King tearing his ACL in 1985, in the prime of his career. Injuries resulted in King’s career statistics being diminished, but it was easy to see he was one of the best forwards of his time.
The 6-foot-7, 205-pound King was born to score. He did just that in his first game at the University of Tennessee scoring 42 points at age 17. He then brought his lightning quick release to the NBA level.
After playing for the Nets, Jazz, and Warriors, the Brooklyn-born King was traded back home to the Knicks in 1982. While with the Knicks, King put up astonishing statistics. In 1984 King became the first player since 1964 to score 50 points in back to back games. The next season, on Christmas Day, King became the tenth player to score 60 points in a game. In 1985, King led the NBA in scoring with a whopping 32.9 points per game.
In addition to his tremendous scoring ability, King was a paragon of efficiency. King shot 51.8 percent from the field in his career. King developed places on the court he called “sweet spots”. King would often practice shots from these sweet spots. His quick release and technique made him difficult to stop.
After tearing his ACL, King was forced to take two years off from basketball. At the time, an ACL injury could end an athlete’s career. However, King persevered and returned to the NBA.
After being released by the Knicks in 1987 King went on to play for the Washington Bullets. In his last full NBA season, 1991, King made his final All-Star team. In total, King made 4 All-Star teams and was selected to the All-NBA First Team twice.
King’s greatness as a player is best described by his head coach with the Knicks, Hubie Brown. “Bernard was a great team player…he was the catalyst to our offense”, Brown said. Rick Pitino, former Knicks assistant coach, also described King’s offensive prowess.
“They’d be bringing the ball up and Hubie would ask which play we should run, and I’d say, ‘Give it to B,’” Pitino joked. “He’d ask me again, and I’d say ‘Give it to B.’ That was the system we ran.”
At the beginning of his Hall of Fame speech, King had a message for the kids watching. “Anything you dream of, set a goal for, can be achieved through hard work, education, a desire to achieve, and commitment.”
Bernard King was committed to crafting his game. King’s induction into the Hall of Fame ensures that his name will be remembered among the greatest players of all time.