By Brian Taylor
It had been a while since I profiled a former Bullet, so I had to come back with this one.
One of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, Bernard King is often forgotten when the typical list of NBA greats is brought up. The Brooklynite wasn’t even considered the best player in his family, as his brother Albert King was thought to be the area’s best high school baller, (he later played in the “L” and had a nice career).
What most old-head basketball fans remember is him teaming up with (now Wizards’ GM) Ernie Grunfeld at the University of Tennessee. In Knoxville, Bernard had the usual off-court growing pains coupled with a 26ppg average in his junior year. In 1977, the NBA came calling and Bernard was picked up by the New Jersey Nets.
In Jersey, Bernard became a star, averaging 21ppg and garnering All-Rookie honors, with the R.O.Y. award going to the Suns’ Walter Davis. Bernard continued to have problems off the court however, and the Nets dealt him to Utah (who you know wasn’t having any shenanigans) who then shipped him for a brief stay with the Warriors. After his brief stint in the Bay Area, King was sent to the biggest basketball stage of all, Madison Square Garden and the Knicks.
It was in New York that Bernard got his life right, and went bonkers. For the 1984 season, King was kicking ass and taking names, averaging an insane 33 points per game. Most feel the reason he didn’t get the props he deserved was because he was balling in an era where most other teams had sick small forwards (Alex English, ‘Nique, Mark Aguirre, Bird).
Bernard was most noted for his 1984 reign of terror, in which he lit up the Spurs, in San Antonio for a Kennedy (50 pts) and “did” Dallas to the same tune of a half-dollar the next night, becoming the first player since Wilt to get 50 and 50 on back to back nights. To end the year, he gave his old team, the Nets, a 60 point present on Christmas Day.
All that came crashing to an end when in 1985 at the Kansas City Kings,(yes they played there), Bernard train-wrecked his knee and had to have it rebuilt. He was never the same in NY, so he was released, but got snapped up by the Bullets in 1987.
In D.C., Bernard thrived, and was the wily veteran on a young team the featured Jeff and Moses Malone. In 1991, Bernard battled all the way back from his injury, enough so to make the All-Star game and proving critics wrong. He did it by totally changing his game and adapting to a different body almost. Bernard was famous for drawing fouls in the low post, practically inventing the “shoulder-into-the-defender” move. In 1992, the Bullets unceremoniously cut King, citing the youth movement they had going (we all know how that went, with the Gugliotta/Ellison tandem that never happened), and it came to a head when Gugliotta actually chased Bernard out of Bullets’ practice.
In 93’, King landed a gig with his original team, the Nets before sitting out for good after the season. If you want to know who Carmelo gets his smooth scoring style from take a look at Bernard in his Knick days.