"Amina," he said, "Dadum's record is going to be broken tonight."
Kobe Bryant had 34 points at the time and was on his way to doing exactly what King expected, breaking his 24-year-old Garden record with a 61-point performance. King's record of 60, which he scored against the Nets, stood since Christmas Day 1984. The record survived the career of one of the greatest players the NBA - and the Garden - has ever seen in Michael Jordan.
The former Knicks legend admitted there were moments he was "cheering for him to miss, to be honest about it," but also said he was caught up in the amazing performance by one of the game's greats.
"Kobe put on an incredible performance and as a basketball fan I enjoyed it," King said in a telephone interview with Newsday yesterday. "And if you're going to have your record broken, why not have it broken by a player like Kobe Bryant?"
Players on the Knicks and Lakers talked about the difference in Bryant that night on the Garden floor. King, who was a fierce competitor and one of the NBA's most prolific scorers during his playing career, said he saw it, too, from his TV.
"I wore a game face every night, so I know when a guy has that look in his eye, it's over," said King, who lives full-time in Atlanta and does some studio work for NBAtv while running his company, Bernard King and Thompson Energy Solutions. "And when it's someone of his caliber? Forget it ... I could tell because of that look in his eyes, the way he was moving on the floor, my record was toast."
What he most recalls from his 60-point game on Christmas Day is he missed five free throws, King said with a laugh. Let the record show he was 20-for-25 from the line, which is an outstanding percentage.
"Kobe was 20-for-20 in that game, right?" King said. "I was 20-for-25. Had I not missed five free throws . . . we wouldn't even be talking today."