When asked if Kevin Durant is the best scoring forward he’s ever seen, Bob Ryan paused. He’s been around long enough to remember Wilt and Russell play and has an almost photographic memory of it all. Who made him pause? Bernard King.
A 6’7” small forward, according to Ryan, King had the quickest release on the box he’d ever seen. In his best scoring season, ’84/’85 king averaged 32.9 points while attempting 0.2 threes a game. King would shoot one three-pointer every five games and was good for 33 a game. He was one of those players who, even if you knew what he was going to do; there was not much to do other than foul him. In 1985, his coach tested that to the extreme.
“Game 5, 1985, Pistons vs. Knicks. Hubie Brown vs. Chuck Daly. Game 1 at Silverdome. Hubie Brown called Bernard King’s number, power right, 13 times in the first quarter, 13 consecutive times, and he got 22 points out of it. Any discussion of great scorers in history, we have to make an allowance for that moment, the window for Bernard King.”Bob Ryan, The BS Podcast
When he said this story on the BS podcast, Jackie MacMullan shouted, “Why don’t coaches do that more often?” I have to admit I’ve wondered the same thing at times. If you have a play that works, keep running it until the defense figures it out. 13 times in a row is a bit extreme, but try it out at least.
Back to the comparison. Kevin Durant will probably go down as the greatest scorer in NBA history when he retires when all is said and done. The ease with which KD scores is astonishing. A 7 footer is not supposed to handle the ball and move so smoothly on the court. But Bob Ryan gave us a good reminder – maybe he was never as dominant as KD, but Bernard King should always get consideration in that conversation.
Same as Durant, any shot he took seemed like a good shot. Only a few guys in history had that status; Bernard King was one of them.