NY Knicks: Who was the better small forward? Bernard King or Carmelo Anthony

2 of 5
NY Knicks
Bernard King, NY Knicks. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame) /

NY Knicks: Who was the more decorated player?

Rarely does someone had a more decorated amateur career than Carmelo Anthony.

Before he even stepped on the NBA floor Melo was the #1 recruit in his high school graduating class, a McDonald’s All-American, an NCAA College Basketball Final Four Most Outstanding Player of the Year, and a March Madness tournament champ with The University of Syracuse.

He was picked 3rd by the Denver Nuggets in the 2003 NBA Draft and went on to make the all-rookie team.  From there he remained one of the league’s premier scorers, making 10 all-star teams and 6 All-NBA teams for his career.

It was with the Denver Nuggets that Melo became a star, but it was with New York that he had his peak years. Joining the Knicks in 2011, Melo made the all-star list every year he spent in the Big Apple. From 2011 to 2017 Anthony averaged 25 points and 7 rebounds a game while being the fulcrum of one of the top contending teams in the East.

He never won a title, he never made a Finals, but for over a decade Carmelo Anthony was considered to be one of the 10 best basketball players in the world. A scoring machine who was always just on the cusp of winning big.  Only it never happened. Still, Melo has had one of the more picturesque basketball careers of anyone to play the game. The word ‘complete’ comes to mind.

If Carmelo Anthony’s career serves as a model for what a star scorer should be, Bernard King’s is a little more complicated.

A streetball legend growing up in Brooklyn, King was a top recruit at the University of Tennessee where he spent three years. In college, King carried on from the blacktop to the hardwood, averaging 26 points and 13 rebounds shooting a staggering 59% from the field over his collegiate career. These lofty stats and team success alongside his fellow NBA prospect Ernie Grunfeld catapulted King to be drafted 7th by the New Jersey Nets in 1977.

It was during those early years in the NBA that Bernard King’s career took a dark turn.  Battling alcohol and drug abuse problems for his first few seasons and bouncing around between the Nets, Jazz, and Warriors, King eventually hit rock bottom in 1980 and checked himself into rehab.

After that, the transformation was startling. King made his first all-star team in 1981 and in 1982, signed a five-year 4.3 million dollar contract with the Knicks. It’s in New York that King played his prime years, making multiple all-star teams and carrying an abysmal supporting cast past far superior teams in the playoffs.

So who was the more decorated player? Let’s preface by saying that we’re only looking at these guy’s time with the Knicks…

Carmelo Anthony

  • 7 seasons with the Knicks (2010-17)
  • 7x all-star
  • 3x All-NBA (two 2nd teams, one 3rd)
  • 2012-13 scoring champion (28.7 PPG)

Bernard King

  • 4 seasons with the Knicks (1982-87)
  • 2x all-star
  • 3x All-NBA (two 1st teams, one second)
  • 1984-85 scoring champion (32.9 PPG)

They have remarkably similar resumes, but here’s the difference when comparing their awards history:

Bernard King’s peak was higher than Melo’s.  He averaged more points per game in his strongest season and those two 1st team All-NBA selections are really telling.  They are a certificate that says “this man was one of the five best basketball players in the world this year”.

King was selected to the first team in 1984 and 85, beating out Adrian Dantley, Dr. J, Alex English, James Worthy, Kevin McHale, Dominique Wilkins, Ralph Sampson, Charles Barkley and all the other great forwards of the 80s.  At his peak, Bernard King was the best forward in the world after Larry Bird, and that’s saying a lot.

Carmelo Anthony never reached those same heights, but his body of work is also bigger and more complete.  Just look at the quantity for Anthony compared to King.  It’s true that Melo never shone as bright, but he shone for longer.  That has to be taken into account.

When we’re comparing the accolades, 7 all-star teams in as many years says something about Carmelo’s contributions to the Knicks and the league during that time.  We gotta give him the nod in this category.

Winner:  Carmelo Anthony