Every basketball fan knows Julius Erving was both an ABA and NBA superstar. In the ABA, "Dr. J" was the face of the New York Nets, but after the merger of the two leagues in 1976, the Philadelphia 76ers signed Erving for $3 million. So, when Bernard King was drafted by the New Jersey Nets, formerly New York, in 1977, he realized he had big shoes to fill.
Dr. J was a tough act to follow
After Erving left, the Nets struggled mightily. New Jersey finished the 1976-77 season as the worst team in the league. Given the terrible situation, they had high hopes that their 7th overall pick could lead them back to winning. That guy happened to be King.
Apart from officially becoming an NBA player, the former University of Tennessee standout had no idea what was waiting for him in New Jersey. King didn't fail to deliver, though, averaging an impressive 24.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in his rookie season with the Nets.
However, it soon became clear to him that fans, the front office, and everybody in the city was banking on him to replace "Dr. J" himself, who was undoubtedly the biggest name in the game at the time.
"I had the bad luck to arrive in a league in full development and especially to arrive in a team that wanted me to replace Julius Erving himself," King said via Medium.
Carving his own path
Of course, King didn't become the next Julius Erving of the Nets. After two seasons, he left New Jersey for Utah and was shipped to Golden State in 1980. Two years later, the Brooklyn native found his way home and joined the New York Knicks, where he became a household name in the NBA.
It was with the Knicks that King established himself as one of the greatest scorers of all time. And though he never resembled Erving's playing style, King made a name for himself and came up with his unique approach to scoring.
"I had an analytical approach to the game," King once explained. "I had nine spots on the left, nine spots on the right. Four spots from the front of the rim to the top of the key constituting 22 spots and that's where I wanted to get my shots every single night. So when I see the court, I don't see the baseline, I don't see the foul line. I don't see the top of the key; that's what you may see. But what I see is a grid, and that was my grid. My game was built within that grid pattern, and that's how I scored my points."
All told, King and Erving may be two different beasts, but one thing they had in common was the ability to score in bunches on any given night.