Former Knick Bernard King delivers high praise for Carmelo Anthony

Former Knick Bernard King is presented a jersey Former Knick Bernard King is presented a jersey by John Doleva, president and CEO of the Hall of Fame, left, during the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class announcement. (April 8, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

Bernard King, recently minted Basketball Hall of Famer, was talking yesterday about the differences between his game and Carmelo Anthony's when he abruptly ditched the particulars and got right to the point:

"I think he's a much better all-around player than I ever was with the Knicks, without a doubt."

That is high praise, and better yet for the Knicks, it could be true, a discussion that will be shaped in part by what Melo and his mates do over the next several weeks.

But so far, so good, after 36- and 34-point games in victories over the Celtics that doubled the Knicks' postseason victory total of the previous 12 years.

For King, watching all this unfold in his role as an MSG studio analyst has been great fun. As a bonus, the frequent comparisons between him and Melo have introduced King to a generation that doesn't remember his playing prime.

Come to think of it, Anthony himself is too young to have seen King at his best; he was born two weeks after King's scoring carried the Knicks through a seven-game second-round series with the eventual champion Celtics in 1984.

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But since he arrived here in 2011 Anthony consistently has credited King with being an influence.

King called that "a tremendous honor" and said the results are evident. "I can see some of the moves he caught on those tapes," King said, laughing.

That includes the way each player likes to hold the ball over his head before making his initial move.

"When you raise the ball over your head the defense thinks they know what you may do," King said, "but if you have versatility to your offensive game they have no idea what you're going to do."

Anthony certainly has that.

"How many other players are gifted enough to give you the three-point shot, put the ball on the floor and give you the midrange shot, post up, drive to the left, drive to the right, run in transition and complete the play and then pass off the dribble to a teammate who's open for the shot?" King asked.

Umm . . . LeBron?

There is no ignoring the similarities between King and Anthony, Brooklyn natives who went on to play for their hometown team, NBA scoring champions and, so far, ringless.

King said being judged by championships -- or lack thereof -- is "part of the package" of being a superstar, even if that is not an entirely fair criterion because it does not take supporting casts into account.

Then King asked a question: What if he and Larry Bird had switched teams in 1984? Might King have won it all alongside Bird's future Hall of Fame friends?

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We'll never know, but he would have had a better shot than he did playing with Bill Cartwright, Rory Sparrow, Ray Williams, Darrell Walker, Louis Orr, Trent Tucker and Truck Robinson.

Anthony's eventual legacy is a discussion for another day. For now he is scoring and winning, while winning over New York.

"A lot of athletes have come to New York as superstars and unfortunately have wilted under the spotlight, then they go away and become superstars again," King said. "Melo has done a great job of not only welcoming the pressure but exceeding expectations, in my opinion."

King said he and Anthony have bonded off the court through "long, extended conversations" he said he would keep private. "I enjoy him as a person," King said.

Perhaps 30 years from now Anthony will return the favor to some other young forward watching him now.

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Said King: "If you're going to emulate anyone at the forward position, he's a great guy to emulate."

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