The New York Knicks are a .500 team on the verge of an NBA playoff birth. This time last year, that statement would have generated laughter. Now, under the guidance of coach Tom Thibodeau, the dream of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 looks like an imminent reality.
Outside of the new head coach, the man most responsible for the Knicks resurgence is 6’8″ power forward Julius Randle. Besides being a powerfully built force capable of banging bodies inside the paint, Randle has the ball-handling skills to create his own shot. This season, the rest of the league took notice of the former Kentucky Wildcat’s game and named him a first-time All-Star. While New Yorkers are pleased that their favorite team is relevant again, they must also ask themselves a question: “Why is our best player wearing the number worn by one of our legends?”
Julius Randle is wearing the number once worn by Bernard King
There is a famous photo of a New York Knick wearing a crown and a cape as accessories to his uniform. The player is holding a basketball and standing outside of Madison Square Garden. On the front of his uniform is a bold orange and blue number 30. That player is Bernard King.
Younger readers may not know who Bernard King is but anyone who followed the NBA during the 1980s won’t soon forget him. He was a 6’7″ small forward who could create his own shot off the dribble, hit an open jump shot, or finish above the rim. Simply put, King was one of the most prolific scorers of his era.
Images of Julius Randle wearing number 30 while leading the Knicks to victory generate flashbacks of King’s heyday, long before Randle was born.
Bernard King accomplished greatness as a New York Knick
King wasn’t just a prolific scorer, he was the kind of player who turned his team into a winner. During the 1984 playoffs, King turned in one of the greatest postseason performances in NBA history. Scoring 44 points while battling the flu, King led the Knicks to an overtime win on the road against the Detroit Pistons to win the fifth and deciding game of the series. The back and forth battle with future Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas would become the marquee performance of King’s career.
While a member of the New York Knicks, King was a two-time All-Star, two-time first-team All-NBA, and led the league in scoring in 1985. Julius Randle is a heck of a player, but it’s hard to understand why King’s old number is on Randle’s chest instead of hanging from the rafters.
King’s Legacy suffered due to injury
In a 1985 road game against the Kansas City Kings, Bernard King suffered an injury that would cost him the remainder of the season. Diagnosed as a torn anterior cruciate ligament. the injury caused him to miss the entire 1986 season and allowed him to appear in just six in 1987. At the end of that season, King was released. His epic run in New York had come to an unfortunate end.
One has to wonder, if injuries had not derailed Bernard King would he have gone on to become one of the most revered Knicks ever? Names like Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Patrick Ewing have become synonymous with New York basketball. It’s unfortunate that King’s chance to join them was cut short.
The Knicks can become a winning franchise again
The stellar play of Julius Randle has helped make the New York Knicks relevant again. If the playoffs were to start today, the team would have the sixth seed. While the team wouldn’t be favored to make it to the second round, just getting to the playoffs would be a huge step in the right direction.
So far this season, Julius Randle is averaging 23.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. Those are monster numbers worthy of an All-NBA Team selection. With that type of productivity, Randle may be able to lure a big-name free agent to Broadway. This would help the team compete in an increasingly tough Eastern Conference.
If Randle is able to sustain this level of production over the span of a few seasons, the Knicks will be a perennial playoff team. That would make him a hero in the Big Apple. Randle is making number 30 in orange and blue look good. The problem is, so did someone else before him.
King’s number should be retired
Julius Randle has worn number 30 at every stop of his pro career. Athletes are superstitious by nature and he’s most likely grown accustomed to the number. However, Bernard King is a Knicks legend who deserves to have his number retired. It’s time for Randle’s number to change.
The New York Knicks’ return to relevance has been good for the NBA. Although they haven’t made the playoffs in eight seasons, they remain the most valuable team in the league. They have a loyal fanbase and everything the team does is news. The Knicks have a 26-year-old star in Julius Randle who is only going to get better with time. However, being a great franchise isn’t just about winning in the present; it’s also important to acknowledge the greats of the past. There are a lot of great players who’s numbers are hanging from the rafters in Madison Square Garden. It’s time for Bernard King to join them.
Embed from Getty Images