SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - After five years of being nominated without making the cut, Bernard King was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Sunday.
For a player who made a career out of defying the odds, it was official recognition of what many already knew to be true.
"Wow, this is amazing, the Hall of Fame,'' said King, 56. "To say I'm delighted to be here would be an understatement.''
During the 1984-85 season, no one in the NBA could defend King, who averaged a league-leading 32.9 points for the Knicks. Late in the season, however, he hustled downcourt in an attempt to prevent a breakaway layup by the Kansas City Kings' Reggie Theus, came down awkwardly and tore the ACL in his right knee.
At the time, it was thought the injury would be career-ending. However, the Brooklyn native underwent reconstructive surgery and a grueling rehabilitation program and in the spring of 1987 returned to the NBA, averaging 22.9 points in six games for the Knicks.
He spent the next four seasons with the Washington Bullets, re-establishing himself as a star by averaging 20.9, 23.5, 24.6 and 27.2 points.
"I want all the kids that are watching to know that anything you dream of and set a goal for can be achieved through hard work, education, desire to achieve and commitment,'' King said.
"I fell in love with basketball the first time I made a basket. I learned the city game and I would play every day. There were times during the winter where I would clear an area of the court with my sneakers to remove the snow so I could shoot. I broke my right arm as a kid, but I wouldn't be deterred from the game.''
King, who starred for Fort Hamilton High and Tennessee, recalled his three-plus seasons with his hometown Knicks. No one seemed more at home under Madison Square Garden's bright lights.
"New York City, what an unbelievable thrill,'' he said. "To put on the same jersey as the Knicks legends I watched as a kid was indescribable.
"I treasured playing for the Knicks and the great fans of New York; some of you are here today. We were coached by one of the greatest in the game, Hubie Brown, who I learned so much from. He helped me to ascend to a new level.''
King said one of Brown's favorite sayings was "Son, you don't get two points for the way it looks.''
The phrase helped shape the career of the 6-7 small forward. The two-time first-team All-NBA selection averaged 22.5 points and shot 51.8 percent, doing most of his damage inside and with a deadly mid-range jumper.
Despite losing time to injuries, King scored 19,655 points in 14 seasons for the Nets, Jazz, Warriors, Knicks and Bullets.
"Along the way there were coaches who helped me build bridges to my dreams,'' he said. "Along the way there were exceptional human beings, people who cared about kids.
"Finally, thank you, David Stern, who has guided the NBA ship to new heights. I am glad to be part of the NBA family. To the Hall of Fame, Jerry Colangelo, and the election committee, thank you for this moment in time. I will never forget.''