Sunday, 28 December 2014
BERNARD KING Feature-KING OF NEW YORK
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Arise! Now tell me, what does it take to be a king in this city? The city where concrete dreams are made from playgrounds of heaven. N.Y. City. The entertainment core and neon hub of the whole waking and watching world. The city that 24/7 never gets any rest. Why? Because one king told us, "sleep is the cousin of death". That wise man went by the name Nasir and even dethroned the Carter that was watching his podium with a weapon of 'Ether' to get the crown. A crown once held in this town by the legendary likes of Rakim. But that's another game. This one?! Names like Frazier, Earl, Pee Wee and Ewing have all staked their claim. Just like the young prince Carmelo under the watchful eye of a visionary hoops, world leader in the Zen Master. Even outsiders travel from miles around to this Mecca to prove their mettle for the gold crowns jewels. They've been enshrined in other towns, but here have to prove that they can make it anywhere, because they made it here. Legends to the throne like Michael, Kobe and of course the king James. Guys who make this Garden their Eden. Still there was one Adam on the eve of his breakout was even closer to Madison Square than those laying their hat for home in the Hotel Pennsylvania for a week. In his bite of Big Apple, Manhattan fame, a man born into basketball like his borough of Brooklyn was such a King of New York like Chris Walken, Larry Fishburne or Wes Snipes, even the back of his number 30 jersey told you so. His name, Bernard.
This king was born under a star in Brooklyn, raised in the high school halls of Fort Hamilton and at 6,7 and 205 pounds this kid was a power player prototype. Bernie spent his college years in Tennessee like he was trying to cut an album, before making the draft. With the seventh pick in the first round of the 1977 NBA draft, Bernard King was selected to shake hands by a Net team that would eventually move from New Jersey back to their big city home, by way of where there new star was born, just over three decades and thirty years later. So Bernard was an original New York king before he even tried Knickerbocker orange in the Big Apple, even if this Net team relocated from N.Y.C to a new Garden State just a few months after his selection. Just a coach ride away from the bright lights in the Meadowlands. Still gleaming in the golden era of a sports association, this King would still get his time to shine in Magic and Bird's time. Rapping in a Converse commercial too and showing and proving more than his words where weapons. Because for the King, the Weapons could do, "just about anything"! The quick release of this rookie led to Net gains and records of all sorts being broke before headlines could print at a 24.2 per clip. Bridging the gap between the Julius Erving's and Drazen Petrovic's of Net legacy, Bernard was the next King in line (just like the brother of King, Albert. Who would one day make it playing for some of the same NBA teams). Why they gave him up beggars the belief of their trademark bad luck. This guy was a superstar in blue collar clothing. He helped epitomise this Springsteen town and sidekick of Gotham. Still he wouldn't be Bruce boss or Batman here. Instead a short lake of salt for some Jazz pieces in Utah and some Warrior battles across the Golden Gate Bridge for Oakland's Golden State and a 'Comeback Player Of The Year' award went down before this boy from the B.K. finally crossed the Brooklyn Bridge back to where his hoops home belonged.
New York, New York called their son and saint Bernard back for a second time, hitting his and hoops peak popularity and trademark time in the mid-eighties. This guy was posing as the one, true King in a crown and robe decades before that infamous LeBron playing card SLAM cover was on deck. Still the inspiration was set like a sword in the stone for a face and a franchise of the big league that couldn't be in more matrimony with each other. It was a marriage made in Rucker Park heaven. Both where underrated, hard-working, overlooked outsiders who earned their place in the worlds most famous arena as M.S.G's main attraction. Even if the losses went up and down like Wall Street stock their lone wolf refused to let the red riding apple become rotten, on this raging bulls punch pulling watch. Who else but a four time All-Star who once led the league with 32.2 points per game on above average to take this team and town to the promised land? Sure after the 90's and the growing nostalgia of now, those die-hard with a vengeful frustration Knick fans talk more about Ewing and 'Melo, hell even Stoudemire and Starks. But no one. NO ONE! Captured the city quite like this since the day Clyde the Glyde finally hung up his warm-ups for a mink coat. All-NBA twice over. The first since '64 to have consecutive 50 point games. One in San Antonio, the next truly at the Reunion Arena again for another point on the Texas triangle in Dallas. Then a signature, Christmas day, tree lighting up 60 a season later, joining an elite NBA club of ten. They called it 'Miracle On 33rd Street'. Those King red robes may as well have been the coat of St Nick for Bernard. This dude had more buckets than the guy who cleaned the windows of the Empire State Building. And this King scaled all the skyscrapers in this seven foot and story land higher than Kong. Now you know why he's in the hall. This guy was in his own corridor!
So who was mopping the floor the day he slipped? You can talk to the Penny Hardaway's and Antonio McDyess' all you want about knee injuries ruining superstardom and the legacy of legends. They even tried to bring it all back in New York too. But nothing can. Nothing can take away what cruel fate has and when that fickle finger turned its hand towards old Bernie and knocked, the heir to the throne would no longer see a kingdom of Knickerbocker glory in Madison Square. NBA's death in cowards clothing came like a curse to this gifted young athlete, but he refused to have his career epitaph written in stone, let alone engraved in critics ink. After colliding with the Kansas City Kings' Reggie Theus, Knick King's knee diagnosis was a torn anterior cruciate ligament. It didn't look good. He would miss a full years work, but never again return to that epic explosiveness that kept no fan, home or away in their seats...no matter how much they paid for them. One of the associations most amazing athletes with his power shorted, much like a Knick STAT stuffer of today. Still, King refused to leave his rotting apple career to the maggots, averaging 27.7 in his first six game back before the Knicks waived goodbye, telling the man who had so much going for him and them that he wouldn't make the final cut for the new season. So off to the capital it was for a career comeback exclamation. For the Washington Bullets, King shot and shot and proved he still had rounds in his gun and old wizard tricks up his sleeve as he returned to his All-Star status and proved more than the points he left on the board. Then he returned home to close out his career, by way of the New Jersey team that drafted him for his last games, before the haunting muscle memories of that knee injury put his career down for the good of all it brought us. Still in those final moments, from the island of Manhattan, on nights where the Mecca felt quiet, you could still hear chants from the Meadowlands of the Garden State for New York's one, true king. Arise.