Bernard King says he's most proud of grueling comeback
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- On the hot and unforgiving asphalt courts of Brooklyn, playgrounds that become second homes to many of its youth, Bernard King's talent grew in the shadows of the world's most famous arena.
King became synonymous with basketball to many New Yorkers, and he'll be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Sunday.
"Certainly, I am overjoyed to experience this moment," King told reporters Saturday. "It was never in my wildest dreams or imagination that growing up on the courts in Brooklyn, New York, where I learned the city game, that I would one day stand before you as a Hall of Fame inductee."
A 6-7 small forward out of the University of Tennessee, the three-time SEC Player of the Year was selected seventh overall in the 1977 NBA draft by the Nets. After moving from the Nets to Utah and Golden State, King fulfilled the dream of many Brooklyn youngsters -- playing for the hometown Knicks. "Playing at home, it just meant that I had to rise to another level," King said.
And rise he did. King became a star under the lights of Madison Square Garden. On Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 1984, he became the first player in 20 years to score 50 points in back-to-back games. He then scored 34.8 points per game in two playoff series and carried the Knicks to Game 7 of the conference semifinals before losing to Boston.
King scored 60 points against the Nets on Christmas Day 1984. He won the '84-85 NBA scoring title at 32.9 points per game. But he suffered a devastating knee injury late that season. With a torn anterior cruciate ligament, torn knee cartilage and a broken bone in his leg, King was told the future was bleak. "At that time, I was told my career was over," he said. "Obviously, I didn't believe anyone."
In the span of three years, King went from having his physical therapist gingerly lift his foot for him to playing in 69 games for the Washington Bullets in 1987-88. In 1990-91, his last full season in the league, King was voted to his fourth All-Star Game.
"My attitude was always, No. 1, I'm from Brooklyn," he said. "I grew up on the toughest basketball courts in the world in one of the toughest communities in the nation, and my thought was if I can make it all the way from there to the top of the NBA and rise to the top of my profession, I can handle this.
"I didn't dream of making it back. I set it as a goal to come back at a certain level. I slowly each day climbed that mountain. It was my own personal Mount Everest, and each day, little by little, I would climb."
Dominique Wilkins, a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2006 and an opponent King cited as one of the hardest to play against, will be King's presenter Sunday.
Although he will have many friends and former teammates in the crowd, King is most excited for his wife and daughters to be in attendance. He knows this is a wonderful experience for them to see the fruits of his labor. But having seen his recovery firsthand, it's safe to say they already understand the dedication and determination he possesses.
"My physical therapist, we worked six days a week, five hours a day," King said. "To me, that's the epitome of determination, hard work, self-motivation and discipline. And I did that every single day. I knew I was going to come back. It was not a question whether I was going to come back.
"I'm proud of that, and to me, that's what defines my career."