Former Vol Bernard King elected to Basketball Hall of Fame

University of Tennessee basketball player Bernard King attempts a basket in a Nov. 25, 1975, game. (KNS Archive)

2012 Knoxville News Sentinel

University of Tennessee basketball player Bernard King attempts a basket in a Nov. 25, 1975, game. (KNS Archive)

Now visitors to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame can learn what Tennessee fans knew along: Bernard King was among the best ever.

King was announced Monday as a member of the 2013 hall of fame class that will be inducted in September in Springfield, Mass.

“I’d love to say its a dream come true but you can’t dream of this,” King told reporters on Monday.

“I’d guess you can say this is the culmination of my life in basketball.’’

The announcement came in Atlanta where the men’s Final Four was being held. King, 56, lives nearby in Duluth, Ga.

He was an All-American in his three seasons at UT — and a three-time SEC player of the year — from 1974-77. Then he then enjoyed a distinguished career in the NBA during which he overcame two knee injuries and returned to All-Star form before retiring in 1993.

“He was the best I ever saw,’’ said John Ward, who not only saw, but also broadcast all 76 of King’s games at UT on the Vol Network.

“Not every great player becomes a star. Great players have great games and magical moments, but Bernard King, in his presence, in the way he played, in his attitude and in the way he communicated, was a star.’’

This was King’s sixth nomination to the hall. He joins 2000 inductee Pat Summitt as the only UT-related members.

Voted in with King in the 2013 class are players Gary Payton and Dawn Staley and coaches Rick Pitino, Guy Lewis, Jerry Tarkanian and Sylvia Hatchell. Hatchell played at Carson-Newman and earned her Masters at UT.

Pitino was an assistant coach with the New York Knicks in 1983-84 when King became the first NBA player since 1964 to score 50 points in consecutive games and then in 1985 when King led the NBA in scoring at 32.9 points per game.

King was a four-time NBA All-Star, including in 1991, six years after an ACL injury and surgery sidelined him for nearly two full seasons.

King averaged 22.5 points in an NBA career in which he scored 19,655 points for five different franchises.

“He should’ve been in the Hall a long time ago based on what he’s done,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson told the New York Post.

“It’s unfortunate all the injuries cut his career short,’’ said Hall of Fame member Charles Barkley. “There were years where Bernard King was flat out fantastic. It was an honor to play against him.’’

It was also a war to play against him.

“Bernard was a fierce competitor, first and foremost,’’ said UT teammate Bert Bertelkamp.

King is the only Vol who averaged double figures in both points and rebounds for his career. The 6-foot-7 King averaged 25.8 points, scoring 30 or more 26 times, and 13.2 rebounds.

UT coach Cuonzo Martin and athletic director Dave Hart sent congratulations to King, who in 2007 was the first UT men’s player to have his number retired.

“You can tell Tennessee fans hold a special place in their heart for him,’’ said Martin.

“We should all be proud that Bernard King is a Vol.’’

King came to UT in 1974 from Brooklyn, N.Y., as one of the program’s first black players. He teamed with fellow New Yorker Ernie Grunfeld for coach Ray Mears in what became known as “The Ernie & Bernie Show.’’

“Bernard is the best player I ever played with,’’ said Mike Jackson, who played alongside King and Grunfeld in Stokely Athletic Center.

“With all the media coverage the game gets today, I’ve seen a lot of players, but I still haven’t pin-pointed a player who had the quality of desire that he had.

“His desire to succeed trumped everything else. He was just unique.’’

That desire helped King overcome a serious knee injury at a time when surgery and rehab was not as advanced as it is now.

The seventh pick of the 1977 NBA draft following his junior year at UT, King averaged 24.2 ppg as a rookie with the New Jersey Nets.

Following his first knee injury, he was the league’s 1981 comeback player of the year.

By March 1985, King was at his peak when he suffered a torn ACL.

He returned in 1987-88 with the Washington Bullets and averaged 17.2 ppg, building toward a triumphant 1991 return to the All-Star game.

King retired after the 1992-93 season.

“To me,’’ said Bertelkamp, “college, pro ... any basketball hall of fame there is, he deserves to be in it.’’

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Comments » 38

madrigal writes:

Great to hear! Bernard had some problems when he was first in the NBA, as I recall, but he overcame them and went on to play with class and distinction. Nice that he is being recognized this way.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

About time!! Congrats,BK..You are the man!!

miketn6 writes:

Awesome!

DLuckySeven writes:

Congrats Mr. King You should have been their for awhile!!

FWBVol writes:

Great honor for Bernard and well deserved. However while King's 1,962 points were second behind Grunfeld at the time King left, he's now seventh in career scoring for the Vols. Alan Houston leads the way followed by Grunfeld, Tony White, Chris Lofton, Reggie Johnson and Dale Ellis. It should be noted that the six guys ahead of Bernard all played four years and King left after three.

King still holds the school record for points per game with 25.8 for his career.

brokendownoldvol writes:

Best basketball player I ever seen out of the SEC. I think one of the top 15 players ever in the world.

gbrown2 writes:

This is great news... Congrats!!! This is not only a huge win for Bernard King the man... It's a huge win for The University of Tennessee, Knoxville... Go Vols.....

John_10065 writes:

LONG overdue.

lm5449#205749 writes:

Well deserved.

BxVol writes:

If you had the good fortune to have seen Bernard play then you would know how great he was.Congratulations Bernard "King of the Volunteers".

SevenT writes:

Nothing smelled quite as awful as the Ernie and Bernie Show. I laugh out loud every time I hear the story about the Kentucky Fan that flicked a lit ciggarett on Bernard.

dlobh writes:

in response to SevenT:

Nothing smelled quite as awful as the Ernie and Bernie Show. I laugh out loud every time I hear the story about the Kentucky Fan that flicked a lit ciggarett on Bernard.

. . . and, after being ticked off by the ignorant Cat fan and vowing to never lose to them again, Bernard laughed out loud as he proceeded to beat Kentucky the next 5 times the Vols played them.

TeamXer writes:

in response to SevenT:

Nothing smelled quite as awful as the Ernie and Bernie Show. I laugh out loud every time I hear the story about the Kentucky Fan that flicked a lit ciggarett on Bernard.

Always classy and erudite, you.

Nothing but love for one of the greatest Vols ever. I'm glad the HoF has finally given him his due.

johnlg00 writes:

If not for his knee injuries, he may well have been one of the top five NBA players of all time. Once he developed his mid-range jumper, he was all but unstoppable, too quick for anybody bigger and too explosive for anybody smaller. Unfortunately, I lived out of the K'ville area when Bernard was there, and coverage of basketball on TV was the merest fraction of what it is now, so I didn't SEE as much of him as I longed to do. Luckily, I had John Ward to tell me about him. I'll never forget all the times I heard him say, "Whatta move by Bernard KIIINNNGGG of the Volunteers!"

chattabluetick writes:

WAY OVERDUE! Has been deserving for many years. I got to see him play many games at Stokely and he was awesome. He was a great player in the NBA when he wasn't battling those terrible knee injuries. Congrats Bernard! At some point you should be joined by Dale Ellis

volnsc writes:

Kudos Bernie! We are very proud of you.

dvols writes:

one of the best ever to play in the SEC!!!

nice things happening on the HILL!

murrayvol writes:

in response to SevenT:

Nothing smelled quite as awful as the Ernie and Bernie Show. I laugh out loud every time I hear the story about the Kentucky Fan that flicked a lit ciggarett on Bernard.

What's the word I'm looking for....pathetic? No, that's not even close.

SummittsCourt writes:

Great news and congratulations!

CarrieM writes:

in response to SevenT:

Nothing smelled quite as awful as the Ernie and Bernie Show. I laugh out loud every time I hear the story about the Kentucky Fan that flicked a lit ciggarett on Bernard.

Only an absolute moron would find that incident amusing.

mtnbikrtn writes:

I used to go to dinner, and then take the girl,
To see Tiny play against Earl The Pearl,
And Wilt, Big O, and Jerry West,
To play Basketball at it's very best,
Basketball has always been my thing,
I like Magic, Bird, and Bernard King...

tnvol4ever writes:

in response to johnlg00:

If not for his knee injuries, he may well have been one of the top five NBA players of all time. Once he developed his mid-range jumper, he was all but unstoppable, too quick for anybody bigger and too explosive for anybody smaller. Unfortunately, I lived out of the K'ville area when Bernard was there, and coverage of basketball on TV was the merest fraction of what it is now, so I didn't SEE as much of him as I longed to do. Luckily, I had John Ward to tell me about him. I'll never forget all the times I heard him say, "Whatta move by Bernard KIIINNNGGG of the Volunteers!"

Listening to John call those games and imitating Ernie and Bernie on the indoor nerf basketball goal as a young teen was special. King was a scoring machine.

John_10065 writes:

in response to SevenT:

Nothing smelled quite as awful as the Ernie and Bernie Show. I laugh out loud every time I hear the story about the Kentucky Fan that flicked a lit ciggarett on Bernard.

The UK fans who aren't the stereotypical jerks that you epitomize who are worse winners than they are losers actually respect the Ernie and Bernie era.

I talk to them on a daily basis and believe me when I say they are as disgusted of fans like yourself as we are sick of hearing from them.

borovol1956 writes:

I was sitting under the backboard taking pictures at a game at Kentucky when I watched him make the most amazing shot I've ever seen. When the ball left his hands his body was practically parallel to the floor. That image has never left my mind.

mloaks#222092 writes:

bravo

formervol1950s writes:

OUTSTANDING !!

MemphoVol writes:

John Ward on the radio toward the end of Bernard King's first game at Tennessee, "King from 20 feet - ladies and gentlemen, GET YOUR TICKETS." I'll never forget it. I think King had like 30 pts in his first game.

trl_x writes:

Actually it was 42. A true freshman in his very first game scored 42 points.

I remember listening to that game in my mom's kitchen as she was cooking. John Ward's play-by-play with King playing was electrifying.

golfman1975 writes:

It's about time!
.

UKblue02 writes:

The man could play the game, well deserved honor, long overdue getting it.

kyvol98 writes:

in response to trl_x:

Actually it was 42. A true freshman in his very first game scored 42 points.

I remember listening to that game in my mom's kitchen as she was cooking. John Ward's play-by-play with King playing was electrifying.

The story about the game in Memorial Coliseum was told to me by John Ward himself, as I was fortunate enough to sit at the table during a UT function with him. He went on and on about how great a player King was, and he saw some of the best! Also for any REAL UK fans, he also talked about one of his best friends, Cawood Ledford. Could you imagine getting to listen to those two talk basketball! On topic, Congratulations to the best that ever wore the BIG ORANGE!

murrayvol writes:

in response to CarrieM:

Only an absolute moron would find that incident amusing.

The prosecution rests.

JSmith525 writes:

I laugh out loud every time I think of those 5 wins in a row that E & B laid on the Kittens. I also laugh out loud when I think back to Feb 16, 2013. UT 88 - Kitty's 58. WTG Mr. King, it's good to be a Vol..

BillVol writes:

Kurtis Blow couldn't have said it better, mtn!

Vols4Ever writes:

in response to SevenT:

Nothing smelled quite as awful as the Ernie and Bernie Show. I laugh out loud every time I hear the story about the Kentucky Fan that flicked a lit ciggarett on Bernard.

88 - 58

I stated I would always reply to any of your posts with that simple, factual, statement. However, never again shall you be worth any acknowledgement, because you are truly worthless in every facet.

After the despicable act @ Kentucky, Bernard never lost another game against the Cheating 'Cats.

He was by far the most talented player ever to wear the Orange. No one, in college, in the NBA and after 2 horrific injuries, could stop the quickness of his instantaneous shot from the hip into the basket. No one. A thing of beauty and an act of physical dominance never seen before, then or since.

Forever I will wonder and be grateful for how Stu got him to leave Brooklyn to come and deliver the E and B show in Knoxville.

Bark_at_the_Moon writes:

The best offensive player I ever saw in Orange (quick as cat, virtually unstoppable, and I especially loved the shots he made while falling to the floor). I think he had 43 points and 19 rebounds in his very first game as a true Freshmen (that's sick!). I couldn't believe the guy was this good coming out of Highschool. Loved how King declared that Kentucky would never beat Tennessee as long as he was playing for Tennessee in a Lexington locker room after a very close loss and after a cigarette butt was thrown at King. They played 5 more times while King was at TN and the Vols won all of them. The only player I would possibly rank ahead of him in the SEC would be LSU's Pistol Pete who averaged 43 points per game and may have been the best ball handler and passer I have ever seen. I realize they played different positions - both were heads above anyone else that ever played in the SEC in my view. Sorry Charles Barkley and Shaq. Oh, and Larry Bird once called King the best offensive player he ever played against in the NBA - before King's knee injury.

Bark_at_the_Moon writes:

It was 42 against Milwaukee WI. King's Freshmen year. I was at the game. Just forgot the total points.

Vols4Ever writes:

in response to Bark_at_the_Moon:

It was 42 against Milwaukee WI. King's Freshmen year. I was at the game. Just forgot the total points.

Bernard might have incurred some transitional issues coming from Brooklyn to Knoxville, especially in operating motor vehicles in conjunction with VOL linebackers.

But those of us who know, who witnessed an athlete possessed to display dominance wearing the Orange, realize we were blessed to see greatness. Ask his teammates, Kentucky and NBA greats. At his best, no one ever has been better.

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