With the stellar play of Carmelo Anthony (King's carbon copy) to his recent Hall of Fame nod, Bernard King has been the topic of discussion lately. During the '80s, King was an unstoppable scorer that made his name playing for his hometown New York Knicks. Bernard is involved with the Knicks 2013 Playoffs Borough Tour presented by Chase. Throughout the opening round of the playoffs, the Knicks will conduct events all over the city, including appearances at Chase Branches with Knicks alumni, social media scavenger hunt contests for the opportunity to win playoff tickets, viewing parties for all games at local restaurants and bars, and Knicks Street Teams will be on-hand at commuter locations and basketball landmarks to distribute Knicks playoff items.
For every Knicks home game at Madison Square Garden there will be a "fan fest" outside where fans can meet Knicks alumni, participate in shooting contests and receive a Knicks-themed playoff haircut. We can find more info on Knicksnow.com. He also did post-game work for MSG Networks after Game 1, and will be doing the same after Game 3 in Boston. We chopped it up with the legend and talked about Carmelo Anthony, Isiah Thomas, and much more.
Tell us about the 2013 Playoffs Borough Tour presented by Chase which you're involved with.
Well I think it's really wonderful what the Knicks are doing. With respect to the community of all five boroughs. And the reason that's being done is to celebrate the NBA Playoffs, and so the Knicks are partnering with Chase to bring the excitement of the playoffs to Knicks fans in all five boroughs. I, along with former players like Larry Johnson, Anthony Bonner, John Starks and our Hall of Fame greats like Earl Monroe.
All of us are assisting in this effort. The Knicks had a local recreational center, and the Knicks and Chase refurbished the entire facility for the young kids. You should've seen the spirited smiles on these young kids. They had the opportunity to play on a court that was fully refurbished and I was present along with other Knicks cheerleaders and supporters. We just had a wonderful time. That was truly special.
We also were distributing Knicks tickets for the playoffs, in front of Madison Square Garden during Fan Fest. So it was really just a wonderful time, New York is a basketball town and so the fans are really excited about the Knicks being in the playoffs and how well they've done this year.
You do a lot of Knicks post-game work. Who's cooler, Al, Wally, Alan or Bill Pidto?
Well I won't participate in that debate. [Laughs]
Does Clyde try to give you some style tips?
Well we both have our individual style and Clyde obviously is known as a style master from all of his days playing for the New York Knicks. And obviously it's sartorial splendor as a broadcaster and the fans love it and Clyde enjoys it. It's wonderful to see.
You finally got into the Hall of Fame, how does it feel? Where were you when you first found out?
I was at home and I received a call from the President of the Hall of Fame. Obviously it's a tremendous honor for my family and I, and it's really, I think more than anything, a testament to not only my career but the guys and coaches that I played with on every level. Whether it was in little league, junior high school, high school with Ken Kern, college with Ray Mears, or Hubie Brown in New York, Kevin Loughery in New Jersey, Al Attles from Golden State, Wes Unseld in Washington. All of these coaches really helped me arrive at this point and guys like Darrell Walker, former teammates Rory Sparrow, Moses Malone, and on and on to World B. Free.
It's a testament to what we did as players together and obviously it's a team sport; that's the most important aspect of basketball. You have to have the chemistry and guy's working together to achieve on any level within the game. Then within that game there's individual achievement as well and I was fortunate to be able to play at a very high level consistently throughout my career.
When I came into the NBA I was not able to shoot a jump shot, I was a post player. I wasn't able to put the ball on the floor and I developed my game each year. I came back with a new move and I played at the highest level of the game throughout my career. I'm really excited about going into the Hall of Fame, it's the pinnacle of basketball.
Did you grow up a Knicks fan?
Oh, absolutely. I grew up in Brooklyn, and every young kid throughout the city who played basketball always dreamed of playing for the Knicks. And what we would do as kids, we would take one player that we wanted to emulate. So there would be one guy who was trying to play like Walt Frazier and another kid attempting to play like Willis Reed and while we were playing we used to say "hey Willis, nice moves," although that was not his name.
I love to rebound, I was a tremendous scorer but my delight was rebounding. My high school coach tells me I averaged 28 rebounds in high school. In college I led the NCAA in rebounding and scoring. So I was always a rebounder and that was really what motivated me most. When I came into the NBA it was, "you have to be able to rebound but you have to score some points for us."
So who were you growing up?
I was Dave DeBusschere. He was a great great rebounder.
A lot of people compare Carmelo to you. Do you yourself see the similarities?
He's intimated to me and shared publicly that I'm his basketball idol. That's a wonderful honor coming from a great, great player like Carmelo Anthony. I appreciate it kindly, very much, but we actually did a commercial together with Nike at one point with Jim Boeheim from Syracuse at his request. When he had a sneaker launch this season, he asked if I would come up and fly up from Atlanta and be a part of that wonderful moment for him and I did that as well.
Carmelo is a tremendous talent, he tells me he used to watch my tapes as a young person. I've seen some likeness in some of the things he does offensively on the court, obviously. Angel, I as a player I didn't have three-point range, so we can't compare in that way. But when he raises the ball over his head, he makes that move left or right? That's something I did every night and that's part of where I see it. He's just a great player. There's not many players in the league that have 'Melo's versatility. He can drive right, he can drive left, he can shoot the standstill jump shot, he can put the ball on the floor, pull up and shoot the jump shot, then really cement it with the three-point shot. He has low post skills and he's tremendous in the open floor. You can't name five players on one hand at the forward position that can do the things that he does.
That's true. Were you rooting for him to break both of your Knicks records (score 50 points in consecutive games and three straight games scoring 40+)?
Oh, absolutely. I was at the game in Atlanta. 'Melo had just gotten 50 the night before and so now he's playing the next night in Atlanta and I was present for that game. After the ball game I went to the locker room and said "hello," to all the guys, which is something I've done in the past and I told 'Melo: "I'm glad you guys won the game but I was hoping you would've gotten 51 so you would've broken my record." [Laughs]
Can you tell us about the playoff game against the Pistons when you had the dislocated fingers.
Going into that series the Detroit Pistons were favored to win. They had homecourt advantage and they had a player in Isiah Thomas that was an All-Star. We had a tremendous team, the foundation of our ball club, Angel, was defense. That's what we hung our hat on every night and that's partly why we were so successful.
We played a great series against those guys. Unfortunately, we lost one at home. We won the first game due to Darrell Walker and his efforts stealing the ball and containing Isaiah Thomas. So we won that game, lost the second, came home and won the third and lost the fourth. Then we're back in Joe Louis Arena for the deciding fifth game and at that point I'm averaging over 42 PPG in the previous four games.
Then in Game 5, Isiah catches fire during the last quarter. It was simply amazing. You never stand around and watch your opponent do something that's simply incredible. I never have. I looked at the film later and couldn't believe what I saw. I believe the numbers were something like 16 points in a matter of two minutes and some odd number of seconds.
I'm playing with dislocated fingers. Middle finger and ring finger taped together, on each hand, and I'm playing with the flu. We're playing in Joe Louis Arena, there was no air conditioning. We're in the huddle and Hubie's diagramming the play and the play is not for me.
I didn't understand that. I'm averaging 42 PPG, I'm an all-pro player, how could the ball not be put in my hands? That's what I'm thinking to myself. I never ever once in my life as an athlete on any level questioned the coach, whether it was city league, junior high school, high school, college, pro, I've never questioned the coach. It's my responsibility to play and let the coach, coach. But under those circumstances, the season's on the line, the game's on the line, I want the ball.
Even with a fever and two bad fingers?
I'm averaging over 42 points a game with two dislocated fingers, okay? I already had 40, so I want the ball. We play as a team but when there's a shot to be made, when the game's on the line, I want the shot. So I interrupted coach, I just simply said "coach," (remember this was the heat of the moment) I said "coach, do I have the right to take the ball myself?" He didn't answer, and I repeated "coach," just a little louder, "do I have the right to take the ball myself?" Because I didn't believe in breaking plays, if a coach designs a play you don't go out and break it. So, he said "yeah, fine." That's it.
So, we inbound the ball and someone starts to post up and I waved him out. So he goes out and now I'm left a single defender in Earl Cureton. I'll never forget what he said. This is the heat of the moment, their season's on the line, our season's on the line, both franchises want to win the game, there's millions of dollars involved, the fans want to win the game and Earl Cureton's defending me, you know what he says?
"Come on and bring it." That's like something you might here on the playground. "Come on and bring it." But at that moment, that's what he yelled at me "come on and bring it." I just simply spun to my left, took a power dribble, and pulled up to my "sweet spot" and made the shot.
How far do you see the Knicks going in the playoffs this year?
This is a tremendous team. They have a superstar in 'Melo that can take over a game, win a game all by himself. But the foundation of winning in the playoffs is predicated on defense. This club plays that very effectively, you saw it the other day against the Celtics. How they were able to shut down the Celtics in the fourth quarter, hold them to eight points, a total of 25 in the second half, Garnett gets two points in the second half, and Jeff Green was held to six in the second half. They've played great defense and consequently they're able to force steals. They had fifteen on Saturday.
I think this team is built for tremendous success in the playoffs. Mike Woodson has done a tremendous job with this ball club. I think when you look at all of the things that he's contended with as a coach this year in terms of injuries. He's been plugging holes all year.
This club can go awfully far but you know you have to take it one game at a time. You hear that from a lot of people but as an athlete you're one injury away sometimes from losing the next game.