This weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts, former Ft. Hamilton High graduate Bernard King will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
This honor is long overdue.
When I think of ‘BK’, two things come to mind; intensity and outstanding scorer. The 6’7″ small forward by way of Fort Greene, Brooklyn played the game hard and could score on anyone. The great Larry Bird once said about King, “The best scoring machine I have ever seen.”
King played 14 seasons in the NBA and scored 19,655 points. He was a four-time all-star and led the league in scoring in 1985.
“Bernard King was unstoppable once he got the ball…a tremendous offensive force for many years in the NBA,” said Pat Williams, Senior VP, Orlando Magic.
One of my many memories of King took place on Christmas night in 1984. (Right, I know, your favorite memory of King is from his role in the movie, “Fast Break” with Gabe Kaplan.)
I was a loyal and frequent customer on 33rd and 8th. It started when I was twelve, also on Christmas night when I watched the Knicks play the 76ers. It was Julius Erving’s first time to the Garden as a Sixer. Brooklyn’s own Lloyd Free went off that night for Philly. The Knicks lost, I was miserable for days.
My childhood friend Glenn Thomas and I went to Madison Square Garden on that Tuesday night to see the Knicks take on the New Jersey Nets. We later went over to the Limelight and hung out with Rick James. The announced attendance was 10,581, MSG was half-empty but today, everyone and their little brother says they were in the house; even Spike Lee said he was up in the blue seats. I was a huge Knicks fan as a kid but when they traded my favorite player Michael Ray Richardson in 1982, I soured on them for a while. By the way, Sugar was traded for King.
When people talk about King’s Christmas present to the fans by scoring 60 points and dishing out 5 assists against the Nets, they make a major omission; the Nets won the game 120-114 behind Sugar’s 36 points.
The Knicks record coming in to the game was 12-18 while the Nets were 11-17.; not a marquee matchup by any stretch of the imagination. Probably why there was 9,000 empty seats.
King had 40 points by half-time as the Knicks led by ten. Nets head coach Stan Albeck had to make an adjustment so he tried getting the ball out of King’s hands; it worked. The Knicks small-forward managed just 20 points in the second half. That’s funny, I said ‘he just managed’. George Johnson of the Nets did the best job defensively. “George’s long arms bothered him a little bit in the second half,” the Nets coach said.
The former Tennessee Volunteer shot 19 for 30 from the field that night and 22 for 26 from the free-throw line. Jeff Turner and Kevin McKenna, the Nets small forwards assigned to guard King could probably tell us great stories.
The Nets win started a four game win streak for them where they beat the Knicks again three nights later across the river in Jersey. All King did in that game was drop 39.
A side not to that Christmas night explosion; Bernard’s younger brother Albert was a member of the Nets team but didn’t play due to an injury.
A second side note; this was the same season King got hurt in Kansas City trying to block Reggie Theus’ lay-up.
Final side not, I promise; after King was injured the Knicks lost their last 12 games of the season finishing 24-58. He missed the entire season 85-86 season which was Patrick’s Ewing rookie season. Oh yeah, New York opened the season losing their first eight.
“I’d rather have scored 10 and we had won the game,” King said after the game. “To lose a game that we had control of the whole way is very frustrating.”