Bernard King: The NBA's Underappreciated Legend

Mike B.Correspondent IJuly 18, 2009

It's been 16 years since Bernard King retired from the NBA, and he still hasn't been elected into the Basketball Hall Of Fame.

During his 14-year playing career, King scored over 19,000 points, won an MVP award, was voted to four All-Star games, and was selected to four All-NBA teams.

He played for the New Jersey Nets, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Washington Bullets.

The great Bernard King was one of the most unstoppable scorers in the mid-1980's, with his super-quick release, and was also known as an extremely tough competitor.

After a stellar collegiate career at the University of Tennessee, King was selected seventh overall by the New York Nets in the 1977 NBA Draft, right before the team moved across the Hudson River to New Jersey.

He was an instant hit as a rookie, averaging 24.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, but was edged out by Phoenix's Walter Davis for Rookie of the Year honors.

Following a successful sophomore campaign, he was traded to the Utah Jazz due to his off the court problems.

He only managed to appear in 19 games for the Jazz in 1979-80 before receiving treatment for substance abuse. After the season, he was shipped to Golden State where he won the NBA's first ever Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1980-81.

Lasting just one more season in the the bay area, King was on the move once again. The Warriors dealt him to his hometown New York Knicks before the 1981-82 campaign in exchange for the troubled Micheal Ray Richardson and a future draft choice.

In King's second season with the Knicks, 1983-84, he earned the nickname "The Texas Massacre" for his back to back 50-point games versus San Antonio and then Dallas, a feat which had not been accomplished in 20 years.

And in the first round of the playoffs, King led the Knicks past the Detroit Pistons 3-2. In Game 5 of the series, he put on one of the most memorable performances in history by scoring 44 points.    

In 1984-85, he poured in a career-high 60 points against the Nets on Christmas and led the league in scoring with 32.9 points per game, but toward the end of the season, he tore his ACL, which forced him to miss the entire 1985-86 season, Patrick Ewing's rookie year.

After King returned the following season and appeared in only six ball games, the Knicks decided to release him.

Could you imagine a healthy King and a young Ewing together? Talk about a dynamic duo. 

But King's career was not over yet. He returned to the league in 1987-88 as a member of the Washington Bullets and averaged 17.2 points per game in his first season with the team.

After two consecutive seasons in which he averaged at least 20 points per game, he earned his fourth and final trip to the All-Star Game in 1990-1991, averaging a whopping 28.4 points per game, which was third in the league behind Michael Jordan and Karl Malone.

Not bad for a 34-year old, huh?

However, the injury bug would bite once again and King was forced to miss the entire 1991-92 season.

And of course, just like always, the hard-working King proved his doubters wrong and made yet another comeback in 1992-93, this time with the Nets.

Unfortunately, King only played in 32 games that season before announcing his retirement from the league.

There were no more comebacks left up his sleeve, he was finally done.

And although he never won a championship and also suffered his share of devastating injuries, he undoubtedly deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.

One day soon, the voters will get it right.

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