The Good Word is Talia Bargil's weekly Q&A featuring pro basketball's greatest and most interesting legends.
Q: You had a tremendous career, but no NBA Championship. Does that weigh on you today?
If you look back through NBA history, you will see that other than when Hakeem won the title with Houston in 1994 and Dirk with Dallas last year, no team has won an NBA Championship without at least two All-Stars in many years. I never had the opportunity to play alongside another All-Star, and this was an era where you had Moses and Doc in Philly; Boston with four Hall of Famers; the Lakers with Magic, Kareem, Worthy; Detroit had Isaiah and Joe Dumars, and of course, the Michael Jordan era. I came through a period that without two All-Stars, you wouldn’t even go deep into the playoffs.
Looking back, the only thing I wish was that Patrick Ewing and I had the opportunity to play together. If we had played together, I firmly believe we’d each have a ring.
Q: How about the Hall of Fame situation?
I did not grow up thinking about the Hall of Fame when I played or when I was growing up. My goal was to help my ball club win, play consistently, and be in the upper echelon of players in the league. Those were my objectives – to do what it took to win on a nightly basis.
Would it be an honor? Certainly. I was MVP one year, but nobody is guaranteed. Do I, in a humble way, think I am deserving? Yes I do.
Q: You haven’t been nearly as visible as some of your NBA peers since retiring in 1993. How about a snapshot of your last two decades?
After retiring, I got involved in broadcasting with various outlets on the college and pro basketball side, along with hosting a radio show in New York. When my wife and I had our first child (a daughter who’s now 14), we thought it was important to spend time making sure we raised her properly, which meant I didn’t want to be on the road. I stopped broadcasting and traveling, and we decided to move to Atlanta to bring her up in a diverse and family-oriented atmosphere. We are very pleased that we made that move a number of years ago. I know my in-laws were not as happy, but they come visit quite often!
Once my daughter started to get older, I began taking a look at the business environment – where I could best fit and what would be marketable and ultimately profitable. So about six years ago, my best friend and business partner Ricky Thompson and I launched Bernard King & Thompson Energy. We help municipalities reduce electrical utility costs, which are significant savings for them year after year, and we have been able to make our inroads into the arena of energy efficiency. I have – and continue to – study the energy business.
I was involved in real estate, but we know that market is under water at this time, so I’m out of that. I’ve also been doing some speaking engagements and appearances, and working with the MSG Network as well.
Q: Knicks fans have enjoyed seeing you in front of the camera this season. How’s the MSG broadcast experience going for you?
Well, I began working with the network last year when I was doing the pre- and post-game studio shows during the playoffs. It went well, and now I am doing TV alongside Clyde whenever they ask me. I treat this role like everything else…I spend a lot of time preparing for each game, especially when I’m next to the greatness of Clyde, so that we mesh properly. There’s a tremendous chemistry, I believe, that we have together, and it translates on the air. Feedback has been good. I hope MSG is pleased!
Q: What lessons from the court have translated to the business world?
All of the lessons I learned as an athlete in the sports world, those are transferable to other endeavors. I use them every day…the ability to set goals, plan, self-motivate, focus, be disciplined. These are all necessary attributes one has to have to be successful and work well with others. I built a great foundation from all of the lessons I learned in athletics.
I am also very analytical, so if there’s something I don’t understand, I will learn it. And that goes for everyone. We all have talents and capabilities to learn anything if we are willing to spend the necessary time to learn and understand the field we have an interest in.
Q: Talk about the camaraderie on your Knicks teams…
My time with the Knicks was a great experience for me beyond the camaraderie. Growing up in downtown Brooklyn, I had the chance to play at home. I followed the Knicks in my youth, but playing for the Knicks, wow, that was a dream for all the kids playing ball in the playground.
When I joined the team, I was overjoyed and exhilarated to put on the uniform worn by Earl Monroe, Clyde, Bill Bradley…and the history it represented. I had a great experience playing with wonderful guys like Darrell Walker, Paul Westphal, Bill Cartwright, Marvin Webster, the list goes on…
Q: With your size, long arms and scoring ability, you epitomized the small forward position of the 1980s. Talk about how the position has evolved…
A player at that position today has great athletic skills. But what you don’t see as much today is a player in the small forward position posting up on the low block…most of the play is done on the perimeter.
Like today, small forwards were versatile, including some of the greatest players in the game…Dr. J, Larry Bird, Dominique Wilkins, Alex English, Adrian Dantley, Mark Aguirre. Every night was a challenge.
Q: What is your relationship like with the Tennessee basketball program?
I have reconnected with the program. I was the first basketball player to have my uniform retired, which certainly was an honor. Since then, Ernie Grunfeld had his retired. I have to say that the greatest chemistry I’ve ever had with any player was with Ernie…it’s very rare or unheard of that you had two guys on one team each averaging 25 points a game.
For the last 25 years, I have maintained a scholarship fund at the University. Each year, a young person of merit has an opportunity to draw from that fund to help them pay for college. It’s always touching hearing from students who say they wouldn’t have been able to go to college if not for the scholarship. One student told me that because of the scholarship, her 98-year-old grandmother could see her graduate. That’s beautiful thing.
Q: Which current player reminds you of a young Bernard King?
I’d say Carmelo Anthony…because of his spin moves, basketball IQ, toughness, ability to get the shot that he wants (which is a very large part of being an effective scorer), willingness to do whatever it takes to help his team win. For whatever reason, Melo says he models his game after mine, which is an honor.
He and I did a commercial together for Nike. I received a call from Nike, and they indicated that Melo personally requested my participation in his signature commercial, which I thought was a nice thing. That was my first opportunity to interact and talk with him.
ABOUT BERNARD KING
A four-time NBA All-Star and 14-year NBA veteran, Bernard King, an explosive runner and outstanding scorer, is highly regarded as one of the greatest players in NBA history. Selected seventh overall by the New York Nets (now the New Jersey Nets) in the 1977 NBA Draft, King scored over 19,000 points, earned an MVP award and was selected to four All-NBA teams during his playing career, which included stops in New Jersey, Utah, Golden State, New York and Washington. A native of Brooklyn, he attended the University of Tennessee, where his number 53 jersey was retired by the Volunteers in 2007. To learn more about Bernard King & Thompson Energy, visit http://bktenergy.com/.