Bernard King last played in an NBA game on April 25, 1993. Over twenty years later, he is finally taking his rightful place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
When you take a look at King’s career, it’s easy to see why it took so long for him to be recognized. King enjoyed the majority of his success in the eighties, when there was an abundance of talent at the small forward position. A few of the names King mentioned in his induction speech may ring a bell: Mark Aguirre, Larry Bird, Alex English, and the man who presented him into the Hall, “The Human Highlight Film” Dominique Wilkins. This, coupled with the fact King played on mostly mediocre to average teams in his prime, contributed to him being overlooked.
Drafted 7th overall by the New York (later New Jersey, now Brooklyn) Nets out of Tennessee in 1977, King dazzled crowds with his silky smooth jumper and was named to the 1978 All-Rookie Team after averaging 24.2 PPG. King followed this with another successful campaign, but for all his success on the court, he had been waging a battle with alcohol dependency since college. The Nets shipped their young star to the Utah Jazz in 1979, where things hit rock bottom. King was arrested on New Year’s Day 1980 after allegedly sexually assaulting a woman. It was after that day that King vowed to change.
Though he is best remembered as a New York Knick, his glory days in the Big Apple may not have happened without his two year stint in Oakland. After the disaster that was the 1979-80 season, the Jazz traded King to the Golden State Warriors for center Wayne Cooper and a second round pick. It was with the Warriors under fellow Hall of Famer Al Attles that he re-emerged as an offensive force, winning 1981 Comeback Player of the Year honors, and earning his first All-Star berth. King spent one more season with the Warriors before being traded to the Knicks for Micheal Ray Richardson.
Unfortunately for King, a pair of knee injuries, including a torn ACL, robbed him of his explosiveness and prevented him from becoming as great as he could have been. Despite these setbacks, he still influenced future superstars such as current Knick Carmelo Anthony, who named King as his favorite player growing up.
Although his time in the Bay was brief, it was just the break Bernard King needed to jumpstart his career, and ultimately played a part in his future successes. Congratulations Bernard King, on a well-deserved, and long overdue honor.