It’s a bit of a dead art form these days. The pure scoring wing. The small forwards of today are often categorized as 3-&-D guys, think Jae Crowder, OG Anunoby, and Mikal Bridges just to name a few. Even the superstars out on the wing are variations of that same perimeter scoring/defensive-minded combo, Paul George, Jayson Tatum, Kawhi, or even Kevin Durant.
But take a look back at the mid-80s and you’ll see a much different breed of small forward populating the NBA. An all-offense type whose job it was to do three things, get buckets, get buckets, and get buckets.
These guys were scattered throughout the league at this time. Never quite able to win it all, they usually served as punching bags for the Larry Birds, Magic Johnsons, and Moses Malone’s of the era. To name names, we’ve got guys like Alex English, Adrian Dantley, Kiki Vandeweghe, Mark Aguirre, and of course Bernard King.
A player who’s often forgotten by the wider NBA community, King spent four seasons with the Knicks in which he averaged a strong 27 points a game on 54% shooting and led a criminally bad supporting cast to two second round playoff series.
When thinking about the great players in Knicks history, King’s shared position on the court, powerful scoring ability, and wider approach to the game can’t help but be remind us of another score-first small forward who wore the blue and orange. Another guy who was born in New York, developed a reputation as a mid-range assassin, and led the Knicks to playoff victories. The kids might know him as the backup PF on the Portland Trail Blazers, but we in New York know him as Carmelo Anthony.
Melo and King each have starkly different basketball stories, but their profiles on paper and the way they play the game are eerily reminiscent of one another. Let’s compare the two, explore who was the better player, who was the better Knick, and who will go down as the starting SF on New York’s all-time squad.