KNOXVILLE -- It’s an honor reserved for the sport’s most paramount performers, and after a somewhat puzzling postponement, University of Tennessee legend Bernard King has finally assumed his rightful place among the game’s royalty.
It was announced Monday in Atlanta that King – a basketball titan and arguably the most dominant player in the storied history of the Southeastern Conference – is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.
This is the sixth year that he has been nominated for the Hall.
The official enshrinement takes place Sunday, Sept. 8 in Springfield, Mass. Tickets to the 2013 Enshrinement and Induction Celebration are available by calling the Hall of Fame at 413-231-5540.
Joining King in the Hall's Class of 2013 as selected by the North American Screening Committee are player Gary Payton and coaches Guy Lewis, Rick Pitino and Jerry Tarkanian. From the Women's Screening Committee: player Dawn Staley and coach Sylvia Hatchell.
Finalists need 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
On Feb. 15, the Hall announced five “Direct Elects” who are the initial members of the Class of 2013. They included Roger Brown, voted in from the American Basketball Association (ABA) Committee, Edwin B. Henderson from the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Oscar Schmidt from the International Committee, Richard Guerin from the Veterans Committee and Russ Granik from the Contributor Direct Election Committee.
King currently resides in Duluth, Ga.
BIG ORANGE ROYALTY
Born Dec. 4, 1956, in Brooklyn, N.Y., King enrolled at the University of Tennessee in 1974 after planting the seeds of his basketball legend in the hard-knock housing projects of his Fort Greene neighborhood, on the unforgiving courts of New York City and during a prep career at Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton High School.
Though King ultimately chose UT as his college destination for the chance to play for head coach Ray Mears, it was Vols’ assistant coach Stu Aberdeen – a New Yorker himself – who did the recruiting legwork that eventually brought King more than 600 miles from home to the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and the Southern-charmed city of Knoxville, Tenn.
One year earlier, Mears and Aberdeen had landed coveted prospect Ernie Grunfeld from Forest Hills, N.Y. With Mears calling the plays in his trademark orange blazer, Grunfeld and King – along with a versatile and talented supporting cast – transformed Tennessee’s Stokely Athletics Center into one of college basketball’s most fervent hardwood hotspots and home of the famous “Ernie & Bernie Show” (as immortalized on the Feb. 9, 1976, cover of Sports Illustrated).
Despite spending just three seasons on Rocky Top (1974-77), King rewrote the Tennessee record books and still factors prominently among the Vols’ all-time statistical standouts.
At 6-7, 205 pounds, he was a three-time first-team All-American, earning consensus All-American acclaim as a junior in 1976-77. He also was a three-time SEC Player of the Year.
In 76 career games played, King logged a school-record 62 double-doubles and remains the only Vol to average a double-double during his career (25.8 points and 13.2 rebounds).
He finished his career with 1,962 points scored – second only to teammate Grunfeld, who totaled 2,249 in four seasons. King currently ranks seventh on UT’s all-time scoring chart, more than 500 points ahead of the next-closest three-year letterman (Ron Widby, 1,432 points from 1964-67).
King still holds the school records for single-season scoring average (26.4 ppg in 1974-75), freshman scoring average (26.4 ppg in 1974-75), sophomore scoring average (25.2 ppg in 1975-76), junior scoring average (25.8 ppg in 1976-77), most points in a Tennessee debut (42 vs. UW-Milwaukee on Nov. 30, 1974), 30-point games (26), 40-point games (5) and freshman rebounding average (12.3 in 1974-75).
His career .590 field-goal percentage has been bested only by fellow All-American and NBA standout Dale Ellis (.595 from 1979-83).
With King leading the way, Tennessee captured the 1977 SEC Championship with a 16-2 record in league play and a 22-6 mark overall.
The Volunteers posted a 61-20 record during King’s career.
After UT lost at Kentucky 88-82 in King’s first meeting with the Wildcats on Jan. 13, 1975, he famously vowed never to lose to Kentucky again. He made good on that pledge, and in six career clashes against the Wildcats, King and his teammates went 5-1.
King’s illustrious and unparalleled Tennessee career netted him countless honors and awards, including three first-team All-SEC recognitions, being named UT’s SEC Legend in 2008 and earning a spot on Tennessee’s All-Century Team in 2009.
King is a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame.
The New Jersey Nets selected King with the seventh overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft. He was named to the 1978 All-Rookie Team after averaging 24.2 points for the Nets under head coach Kevin Loughery.
King played two years in New Jersey but then appeared in just 19 games as a member of the Utah Jazz in 1979-80.
He bounced back to average more than 20 points in consecutive seasons with the Golden State Warriors in 1980-81 and 1981-82. After his first year with the Warriors, during which he shot .588 from the field and averaged 21.9 points per game, he won the NBA’s 1981 Comeback Player of the Year Award.
King’s basketball career then brought him home to the East Coast, where he joined his hometown Knickerbockers starting with the 1982-83 season.
He led the NBA in scoring in 1984-85, averaging 32.9 points per game for the Knicks and head coach Hubie Brown.
King is regarded among the most esteemed Knicks of all-time. The crafty small forward who wore No. 30 in the Big Apple averaged 26.5 points during his Knicks career and holds the franchise’s single-game scoring record of 60 points on Christmas Day 1984 against the Nets, the organization that drafted him.
On Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 1984, King scored exactly 50 points in back-to-back road games (on back-to-back nights) against the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks. He became the first NBA player to post 50-point outings on consecutive nights since Wilt Chamberlain in 1964.
“He was unbelievable,” Mavericks forward Mark Aguirre said after King’s dismantling of Dallas. “Unstoppable. To score 50 back-to-back on the road, that’s a roll. He is on a roll. Rolling. Rolling. Rolling.”
After that second 50-point outburst, reporters asked King about his on-court demeanor.
“I know I’ve got this evil look,” King said. “But in college it was worse.”
Less than a week before his 50-50 combo – a feat that has since been matched by only Michael Jordan, Antawn Jamison, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant – King totaled 18 points in 22 minutes of action while leading the East squad to victory in the 1984 NBA All-Star Game.
King and then-Knicks assistant coach Rick Pitino – who joins King in the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 – flew together from that All-Star Game in Denver straight to San Antonio, where they met the rest of the Knicks’ team and King’s 50-50 tale began.
During a 1984 NBA Playoff series against the Detroit Pistons, King averaged an incredible 42.6 points while leading the Knicks to a five-game triumph.
King was selected as an NBA All-Star in 1982, 1984, 1985 and 1991. He earned first-team All-NBA distinction in 1984 and 1985, landed on the All-NBA second team in 1982 and a third-teamer in 1991.
King finished his NBA career with the team that drafted him out of Tennessee, appearing in 32 games for the Nets in 1992-93.
In total, King played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Nets, Knicks, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors and Washington Bullets. He totaled 19,655 points in 874 games played, giving him a career NBA scoring average of 22.5 points (currently ranks 25th all-time).
At the time of his retirement, King ranked 16th on the NBA’s all-time points list, and he now ranks 45th.
2006 Hall of Fame inductee Dominique Wilkins once famously admitted that King was the only opposing player he truly feared.
“I never feared anybody whenever I played them,” Wilkins said. “Nobody. He’s the only guy that scared the hell out of me. He’s a machine. Here’s a guy… he could put 40 in the book and there’s nothing you can do about it. And he did it consistently.”
Even today’s elite NBA stars, such as New York Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony, look up to King and respect the way he played the game.
“I became a student of Bernard King, watching his game tapes,” Anthony said. “I look at his moves in the post and how he valued every dribble. How he didn’t dribble more than once or twice to get to where he wanted to go.”
In Utah, King’s coach was Frank Layden. Al Attles coached King during his two seasons with Golden State. Loughery, who coached King as a rookie with the Nets, also was his head coach in Washington.
To view a complete recap of King’s professional basketball career, visit: http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/k/kingbe01.html
I SHALL NOT BE DENIED
That was the inscription on a sign that King hung in the New Jersey gym where he trained while rehabbing from what was, at that time, considered a devastating and often career-jeopardizing knee injury in the mid-1980s.
Unbeknownst to many, King was one of the first basketball players to suffer a torn anterior cruciate ligament and return to the professional game at an All-Star level.
As the New York Knicks’ 28-year-old team captain, during the prime of his professional playing career, King tore his right ACL during a game on March 23, 1985. He missed the entire 1985-86 campaign.
Doctors attempted to repair the injury by replacing the ACL with a ligament from the lateral side of King’s knee, taking the bone and blood supply with it.
King’s comeback was delayed after a setback in October of 1986. While jogging near his home in Franklin Lakes, N.J., he inadvertently stepped in a hole and sprained his right ankle and knee. The jogging injury was categorized as a “grade two sprain,” – he had essentially suffered a partial tear of the same knee ligament he’d previously torn.
He refused to be denied, however, and he returned to play in six games late that season.
In 1987-88, King returned to the league with the Washington Bullets, starting 38 of the 69 games in which he appeared. He averaged 17.2 points that year, and his scoring average steadily climbed in each of the next three seasons.
Six years after suffering the ACL injury, he earned his fourth career All-Star invitation, representing the Bullets in 1991. He would not be denied.
In 64 games that year, his scoring average of 28.4 points per game ranked third in the NBA behind only Michael Jordan (31.5 ppg) and Karl Malone (29.0 ppg).
He also returned to Madison Square Garden that season and rekindled some of the magic from the prime of his stardom, scoring 49 points against the Knicks in “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
“Someone had to scale Everest for the first time,” King said. “And I thought, ‘Why not me?’”
LEGENDS IN THE RAFTERS
King became the first Tennessee men’s basketball player to have his number retired, as the school hung his No. 53 from the rafters in Thompson-Boling Arena during a halftime ceremony during the Vols’ 89-85 victory over 20th-ranked Kentucky on Feb. 13, 2007.
The win that day gave King a hand in his sixth career triumph over the Wildcats (he was 5-1 against UK as a player).
King’s No. 53 banner has since been joined by Grunfeld’s No. 22 and current all-time leading scorer Allan Houston’s No. 20.
On Feb. 28, the Tennessee athletic department announced revised criteria for retirement as well as announcing that all future retirement honors would apply to “jerseys” – with the number still available for use.
The numbers of King, Grunfeld and Houston, however, will remain out of circulation.
That day’s announcement also included the fact that Dale Ellis would have his No. 14 jersey retired at a home game during the 2013-14 season.
Many New York Knicks fan have clamored for years to see the franchise retire the No. 30 he wore during his days of domination in Madison Square Garden. However, King played just 206 games as a Knick – missing significant time with a knee injury during the prime of his career – and has yet to receive the honor.
He was among seven Knicks greats honored during a “Legend’s Night” ceremony at Madison Square Garden on March 23, 2009.
With the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame now a reality for King, basketball fans everywhere who appreciate his enormous, historic and memorable contributions to the game can now turn their focus to lobbying for King to take his place next to No. 12 Dick Barnett, No. 24 Bill Bradley, No. 22 Dave DeBusschere, No. 33 Patrick Ewing, No. 10 Walt Frazier, No. 15 Dick McGuire, No. 15 Earl Monroe and No. 19 Willis Reed in the Madison Square Garden rafters.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks forward
“He deserves it. It’s about time. He deserved it a long time ago.”
Bert Bertelkamp, UT teammate
“Bernard was a fierce competitor, first and foremost. There have been many great players in the SEC, but in my opinion, Bernard was the greatest when you look what he did in his three years – statistically and also the wins he was a part of over some really good teams like Kentucky and Alabama during that era. He was also an unbelievable NBA player who overcame severe knee injuries before athletes were coming back from them with any sort of success. To me, college, pro… any basketball hall of fame there is, he deserves to be in it.”
Ian Eagle, New York native and longtime basketball broadcaster
“Bernard was one of the most feared and explosive scorers that I’ve ever seen on a basketball court. When he got that look in his eye, there was nobody that could stop him. King had a copyright on the quick-release baseline jumper, a lethal move that led him to the top of the NBA scoring charts in the 1980s. After his playing career, I had the chance to co-host a radio show with him in New York, and quickly learned his hoops knowledge matched his skills as a player. From playground legend, to collegiate All-American, to NBA All-Star, to Hall of Famer, what a journey it’s been for Brooklyn’s own Bernard King.”
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic forward and New York native
“Bernard King is one of the best players – and people – to play the game. I’ll never forget the first time I met him and how impressed I was. He was incredibly smart and well put-together. He made me want to better myself not only in basketball, but in life.”
Dave Hart, UT Vice Chancellor & Director of Athletics
"Bernard King's induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is applauded by all Vol fans and alumni across the nation. Bernard's name is synonymous with Tennessee Basketball. This is a very fitting tribute to his contributions to the game Dr. Naismith invented."
Mike Jackson, UT teammate and co-captain of the 1977 SEC Championship team
“Bernard is the best player I ever played with. With all the media coverage the game gets today, I’ve seen a lot of players, but I still haven’t pin-pointed a player who had the quality of desire that he had. Aside from his physical abilities, he was so focused. His desire to succeed trumped everything else. He was just unique. Now he’s reaching the pinnacle, and it’s long overdue. He’s like a brother, and nobody I’ve seen compares to him.
Gus Manning, longtime UT athletics staffer
“The first time I ever saw Bernard, he was a just freshman, and the team was scrimmaging in Stokely (Athletics Center). During intermission, one of the officials came up to my office and said, ‘Gus, you have got to come see this.’ He was fabulous. He was the finest basketball player that’s ever played at Tennessee, and one of the best that’s ever played in the Southeastern Conference. I think a lot of Bernard. We’ve never had anyone like that, before or since.”
Cuonzo Martin, UT head coach
“This is a great honor for Bernard King, who is – in my opinion – one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. It’s also a tremendous honor for the University of Tennessee. Ever since I’ve been at Tennessee, people have come up to me and told me stories about Bernard King. You can tell Tennessee fans hold a special place in their heart for him. So this announcement is something Vol Nation should celebrate and take pride in. We should all be proud that Bernard King is a Vol.”
John Ward, former radio “Voice of the Vols”
“He was the best I ever saw. Period. Not every great player becomes a star. Great players have great games and magical moments, but Bernard King – in his presence, in the way he played, in his attitude and in the way he communicated – was a star. If the world in which we live were 94-feet-long, he would be the best.”
ARTICLES ABOUT KING’S LEGENDARY CAREER
The Incandescent King (New York Times, 1984)
It was a 50-50 Proposition (Sports Illustrated, 1984)
Bernard King Reminisces (Knoxville News Sentinel, 2011)
Scars From Knee Surgery Fade, but There’s Pain in Every Step (New York Times, 2012)
ABOUT THE NAISMITH MEMORIAL BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME
Located in Springfield, Mass., the Birthplace of Basketball, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame promotes and preserves the game of basketball at every level – professional, collegiate, men and women.
The official website for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is: www.HoopHall.com