Sunday afternoon at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass., Tennessee basketball legend Bernard King became the first UT men’s player to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
After honing his game on the playground courts in his Fort Greene neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., King starred at Tennessee for three years (1975-77) before embarking on a stellar 14-year NBA career.
“To say I’m delighted to be here would be an understatement,” King said during his induction speech Sunday. “I simply want all the kids who are watching to know that anything you dream of and set a goal for can be achieved through hard work, dedication, the desire to achieve and commitment.”
King selected 2006 Hall of Fame inductee Dominique Wilkins – a fellow SEC legend who starred at Georgia – as his presenter for the Enshrinement Ceremony.
Also inducted Sunday as part of the “Class of 2013” were players Gary Payton and dawn Staley and coaches Guy Lewis, Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian and Sylvia Hatchell.
Five “direct elects” also were inducted Sunday: player Roger Brown (ABA Committee), contributor Dr. E.B. Henderson (Early African-American Pioneers of the Game Committee), player Oscar Schmidt (International Committee), player Richard Guerin (Veterans Committee) and contributor Russ Granik (Contributor Direct Election Committee).
During his nearly 11-minute induction speech, King spoke about his childhood, his family, his time in the NBA, and of course, his unforgettable collegiate playing days at Tennessee.
“At Tennessee I teamed with a great player in Ernie Grunfeld and a great coach in Ray Mears,” King said. “I was fortunate to team with Ernie Grunfeld. We had the best chemistry of any players I ever played with, on any level.”
Despite spending just three seasons on Rocky Top, King rewrote the Tennessee record books and still factors prominently among the Vols' all-time statistical standouts.
At 6-7, 205 pounds, he was a three-time first-team All-American, earning consensus All-American acclaim as a junior in 1976-77. He also was a three-time SEC Player of the Year.
In 76 career games played, King logged a school-record 62 double-doubles and remains the only Vol to average a double-double during his career (25.8 points and 13.2 rebounds) with at least 20.0 points per game.
He finished his career with 1,962 points scored - second only to teammate Grunfeld, who totaled 2,249 in four seasons. King currently ranks seventh on UT's all-time scoring chart, more than 500 points ahead of the next-closest three-year letterman (Ron Widby, 1,432 points from 1964-67).
King still holds the school records for single-season scoring average (26.4 ppg in 1974-75), freshman scoring average (26.4 ppg in 1974-75), sophomore scoring average (25.2 ppg in 1975-76), junior scoring average (25.8 ppg in 1976-77), most points in a Tennessee debut (42 vs. UW-Milwaukee on Nov. 30, 1974), 30-point games (26), 40-point games (5) and freshman rebounding average (12.3 in 1974-75).
His career .590 field-goal percentage has been bested only by fellow All-American and NBA standout Dale Ellis (.595 from 1979-83).
With King leading the way, Tennessee captured the 1977 SEC Championship with a 16-2 record in league play and a 22-6 mark overall.
The Volunteers posted a 61-20 record during King's career.
After UT lost at Kentucky 88-82 in King's first meeting with the Wildcats on Jan. 13, 1975, he famously vowed never to lose to Kentucky again. He made good on that pledge, and in six career clashes against the Wildcats, King and his teammates went 5-1.
King's illustrious and unparalleled Tennessee career netted him countless honors and awards, including three first-team All-SEC recognitions, being named UT's SEC Legend in 2008 and earning a spot on Tennessee's All-Century Team in 2009.
King also is a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame.
His No. 53 was retired by Tennessee in 2007. He was the first-ever UT men’s basketball player to receive such an honor.