Regular Season: 874 games, 22.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.3 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 51.8% FG, 73.0% FT
Playoffs: 28 games, 24.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.2 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 55.9% FG, 72.9% FT
Accolades: 2x All-NBA 1st Team (1984-85), All-NBA 2nd Team (1982), All-NBA 3rd Team (1991), All-Rookie 1st Team 1978), 4x All-Star (1982, 1984-85, 1991)
King’s basketball journey began on the courts of Brooklyn, New York where he became one of the greatest playground legends the city ever saw. Moving south to the University of Tennessee for college ball, King instantly made an impact averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds his freshman year (1974-75). Over the next three seasons, the small forward would team with Ernie Grunfeld in the “Bernie and Ernie Show”. King’s time would be marked by on court showmanship, but also off court issues. During his time in Knoxville, King was arrested for marijuana possession, drunk driving and reckless driving.
That offseason (1979), the Nets swung Bernard in a trade to the Jazz for Rich Kelley. It was a disastrous trade for all parties. The Nets managed 34 wins and Kelley would be gone by mid-season. The Jazz despite King, Adrian Dantley and Pete Maravich on the roster stumbled to 24 wins. Maravich would miss all but 17 games with injury, Dantley blossomed into a 28ppg scorer, and King would be convicted of sexual abuse and suspended by the team appearing in only 19 games with 9ppg to show for it.
Golden State sent King to his hometown New York Knicks in exchange for Michael Ray Richardson. He was also reunited with college teammate Ernie Grunfeld who was now a bench player for the Knicks. The team also brought in a new coach, Hubie Brown, to replace the legendary Red Holzman. The Knickerbockers responded by winning 11 more games than the previous season finishing with 44 victories. Awaiting them in the first round were the New Jersey Nets. The Knicks quickly dismissed them in 2 games before falling to the Fo-Fo-Fo Sixers in a 2nd round sweep. Despite the unceremonious exit, this was New York’s first 2nd round appearance since 1978 and the next season (1983-84) was filled with optimism.
Squaring off with the Detroit Pistons in the first round, King scored more points than any other player in history in a 5-game series with 213. That’s an average of 42.6ppg. And he did it shooting 60% from the field. And with dislocated middle fingers on each hand. And a case of the flu for half the series. The insane stats continue. In Game 2, he reeled off 23 straight points in just 5:30 in the first quarter. In the deciding Game 5 played in Joe Louis Arena at a sweltering 120 degrees, King and Isiah Thomas put on one of the greatest duels in history. King eventually led the Knicks out of Motown with a decisive 44 points in the OT win including a thunderous putback dunk in the extra period.
In Round 2, the Knicks brawled with the Boston Celtics but wound up losing in 7 games. The home team won every game of the series. King’s scoring average for that series was “only” 29ppg and included a 44 point effort in Game 6 to keep New York alive. For the postseason as a whole, King averaged 35/6/3 on 57% shooting. The next season, the King express kept a-rollin’, but the Knicks as a team struggled with the loss of Bill Cartwright for the season. On Christmas Day, 1984, King decimated the Nets for 60 points as he single-handedly tried to keep the Knicks afloat. Averaging a ridiculous 33ppg on the season, King’s career would be nearly ruined in a March game in Kansas City.
The Washington Bullets, in the midst of a malaise that would last until the mid-00s, were in need of help as always and eagerly pounced on the free agent King. Teaming with SG Jeff Malone (20ppg) and the venerable Moses Malone (20 and 11), King and the Bullets scraped together 38 wins, which was good enough to get a first round date with the Detroit Pistons. Amazingly the Bullets could have won the series against a Pistons team that lost in Game 7 to the Lakers for the title. Washington lost 3-2, but one of those losses came by just a single point. Unlike his last postseason date with the Pistons, King was not spectacular. He only averaged 14 points as the firm of Malone & Malone handled the heavy lifting.
Just think about that. Who else has evr averaged that much at that age. Wilt at 34 years? 21 points. Jerry West, 23. Elgin Baylor, 25. Kareem, 24. Shaq, 17. Hakeem, 23. Iverson 14. The only one I could find who came close was Michael Jordan and he barely topped King by scoring 28.7.
Resiliency, tenacity, dedication. That's Bernard King.
(The following video is just awesome as it shows what Bernie's rehab meant to him and what his return to MSG meant. The Knicks left him for dead and he dropped 49 on them.)