LANDOVER -- Bernard King was almost gleeful as he looked forward to tomorrow's game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden after being named to the National Basketball Association Eastern Conference All-Star team yesterday.
King was one of the reserves selected by East coaches to participate in the All-Star Game in Charlotte, N.C., Feb. 10.
"The Knicks obviously didn't think I would be a competitive player, let alone an All-Star again," said King, whose basketball career was in jeopardy after he suffered a serious knee injury March 23, 1985.
"For six years, I dreamed of this moment, of all the hard work and effort of returning from an injury that no one ever came back from before to perform at this level. From Day 1 following my surgery, I told my doctor [Norman Scott] and my therapist [Dana Sweitzer], I don't just want to play again. I want to be an All-Star."
Sentiment never entered into his selection. King, at 34, is averaging 30 points and challenging for the NBA scoring title.
Yesterday, he thanked the Bullets for having faith by signing him as a free agent in 1987 after he missed almost two full seasons rehabilitating his shattered knee.
He gave special thanks to Bullets coach Wes Unseld and his teammate and close friend, point guard Darrell Walker, who also played two seasons with him in New York. "Darrell has helped to make me an All-Star the last three times," he said. "He's the guy who puts the ball in my hands."
After Bullets owner Abe Pollin informed him yesterday of his selection, King called his father, Thomas, in Brooklyn, N.Y. "I told him this proves what hard work can do when a man believes in something and keeps working toward that goal," King said.
Seemingly overwhelmed by the moment and fighting back tears, King said: "When I think back to the many hours I spent in my basement on a daily basis, this becomes a very emotional occasion for me. To the doctors who told me I'd never play again, and all the naysayers who said I'd never reach this level, this is the culmination of my goal and drive. It took six years to get here, but it was well worth it.
"For a great many players, being named an All-Star is one thing. But it means something totally different to me. I'm proud of myself after putting in two years of work, five days, seven days a week, to become an All-Star again."
Calling himself a "more complete player" than when he was the backbone of the Knicks' offense in the early 1980s, King said he has benefited from the Bullets' passing game, improving his shooting, ball-handling and passing skills.
"Wes Unseld has stretched me physically as well as intellectually," he said."
Although there is speculation that he may become an All-Star starter in place of a forward voted by the fans -- East starters Larry Bird and Charles Barkley are injured -- King said it was not a consideration.
"It's really not important to me. Just being part of a group of the game's best players is really what it's about. It shows I've been recognized by my peers for my accomplishments and contributions to my team."