Bernard King was an absolute scoring machine for the Knicks in the 1980s, and 35 years ago this week he etched his name into franchise folklore by scoring 50 points on consecutive nights en route to victories over the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks.
The first of King’s back to back scoring barrages came on January 31, 1984, just a couple of days after he’d posted 18 points in 22 minutes during the All-Star game in Denver. According to King, playing in the All-Star game — as opposed to having a few days off to rest — actually helped him come out firing against the Spurs in San Antonio.
’’It benefited me because I ran and played at full speed,’’ King said, according to the post game recap from the New York Times. ‘’I had my shooting touch down. And once I got into my rhythm, the other parts of my game just got into the flow.’’
The Knicks needed the Kingly performance in order to outlast the Spurs; although the ‘Bockers were up by four after a first quarter in which King poured in 16 points by himself, the Spurs did not let them build on the lead, and with 5:27 remaining in the game the Knicks were actually losing by five. Late in the final period, King helped put the game away by scoring six straight points as part of an 8-0 run that concluded with a King slam dunk that put the Knicks up 117-110 with four seconds left.
King was mighty impressive, but so was George Gervin, who led the Spurs with 41 points. Fortunately for the Knicks, Gervin’s scoring storm stopped abruptly after the third quarter, and the Ice Man didn’t score a single point in the final period.
The final score was 117-113 Knicks, and King finished with 50 points on 20-30 shooting while adding 8 rebounds and 2 assists in 44 minutes of action. The only other Knick to score more than 11 points was Bill Cartwright, who had 21 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. The victory put the Knicks seven games above .500, at 25-18.
With the monster performance, King became only the third Knick to have ever scored at least 50 points. He had previously scored 50 in a loss while he was a member of the Golden State Warriors in 1981. Today, seven total Knicks have scored 50 or more, and King is among five that did it more than once.
The day after leading the Knicks to victory over the Spurs, on February 1, 1984, King donned his crown yet again, scoring 50 points for the second straight night in a win over the Mavericks in Dallas. This time around, the victory came a bit easier, partially because Mavericks All-Star Mark Aguirre played much of the contest in foul trouble and wound up fouling out with almost seven minutes to go in the game, per the New York Times recap.
Still, prior to Aguirre’s exit, King’s shooting touch was needed to weather the storm. The Mavs were up eight at the half, but King came out gunning in the third quarter, hitting all eight of his shots and helping the Knicks outscore the Mavericks to the tune of 29-19 in the period.
King reached the 50 mark on a jumper from 22 feet, as part of a 10-0 Knicks run late in the fourth quarter, and when all was said and done the Knicks had completed the victory, 105-98. His final statline was as follows: 50 points on 20-28 shooting and 7 rebounds.
Check out how silky smooth King in getting to 50 two straight nights with this highlight compilation that includes both games:
King’s achievement made him the first player to put up 50 or more points on back to back nights since Wilt Chamberlain posted 52 points in two consecutive nights during the 1963-64 season. He became only the fourth player in the NBA who, to that point, had scored 50 or more in two straight games, with Elgin Baylor and Rick Barry having done so in addition to King and Chamberlain. The efforts of King and Chamberlain stood out because their consecutive 50 spots came on back to back nights, while Baylor and Barry had at least one day of rest in between games.
King was such an explosive scorer that in 1985 his ACL actually exploded, although he was able to return for five very productive seasons once he had recovered. He then required another surgery in 1991 and came back for one final season, though by that point he had declined and was no longer playing at a superstar level. His Knicks career lasted from 1982 through 1987, and he also played on the Warriors, Utah Jazz, New Jersey Nets, Washington Bullets.
While he wasn’t discussed that often during the Patrick Ewing reign, there was a rebirth of King praise once Carmelo Anthony came to town, as many who had seen both play said they had similar abilities on the offensive end. In 206 games with the Knicks, King averaged 26.5 points per game, including a league leading 32.9 points during the 1984-85 season. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
The Knicks didn’t have much playoff success with King as their centerpiece, but his offensive exploits, including the time he scored 50 on back to back nights, ensured he’ll be forever remembered as a King of New York basketball.