Washington Bullets Live Game Memories: Bernard King vs Michael Jordan | Truth About It.net

Washington Bullets Live Game Memories: Bernard King vs Michael Jordan

By
Updated: September 15, 2008
Nate Jones over at the fittingly named blog, Jones On The NBA, has started NBA Stadium Blog Day where NBA bloggers have united to share their favorite memories of stadium experiences. I’ve been to hundreds of Wizards/Bullets games, and could probably reminisce about memorable games I’ve attended all day….and considering the franchise history, there would many more unfavorable recollections than good. However, at this point, what’s done is done and all of them, pleasant and ugly, are fond in their own way.

It didn’t take long to recall my best memory, the first Bullets game I’d ever attended. The scene was the home opener at the Capital Centre in early November 1990, the second game of the year for both the Washington Bullets and the Chicago Bulls. I was just a 10-year old kid, ready to witness Michael Jordan live for the first time. Little did I know at the onset of that night, a guy named Bernard King would be the star of the show.

The Bulls were fresh off losing to the Detroit Pistons in seven games in the 1990 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, their 6th straight pre-NBA Finals playoff exit in the Michael Jordan era. The Bullets, well, they were fresh off a 31-51 season. My memory of a game which took place around 18 years ago is understandably fuzzy, so you must forgive me if I turned to some newspaper/internet archives for help. All I knew was that the way Bernard King was raining jumpers, ultimately to the tune of 44 points, he just had to be in the zone….and that was before I even knew the definition of ‘being in the zone.’

The Bulls ran the likes of Horace Grant, Scottie Pippen, and even Michael Jordan at King….not that Bernard even had time to distinguish who was guarding him on the 30 shots he took, making 14. King was even quoted in the papers as saying, “When you’re shooting mostly jump shots, you really don’t have time to think about how they’re going to play you defensively. You’re just looking for an opening.”

Seemingly the only one that could get in the way of the 34-year old King was Bullets coach, Wes Unseld. “The only time he missed was when I came over and diagrammed one [play],” said Unseld.

Despite a scoring battle between two stars, King and his 44 points over Jordan’s 28, it was still an ugly, foul-plagued game. Seventy-five fouls were called between the two teams, an explanation of why King scored 16 of his points from the free-throw line on 21 attempts. Air Jordan was only able to gain six points on nine trips to the charity stripe.

Bulls coach Phil Jackson called it, “one of the ugliest games I’ve either participated in or watched,” and continued denoting the history made upon his ears, “The number of foul shots, fouls and bad calls that were made in the game . . . I don’t think I’ve ever heard hometown fans boo an official for a call he didn’t make on the visiting team……That’s the first time in history I’ve heard that.”

Despite all the politicized complaints from Jackson, his superstar for the ages in the making, Michael Jordan, still had a chance at the end. Down 103-102 with 18 seconds left and the ball, the outcome was in Jordan’s hands. He drove towards the hoop, to the shrills of the sold-out Cap Centre, only to get denied by Harvey Grant’s block, and see the victory, and ball, secured by the game’s hero, Bernard King.

The Bulls would go on to win the first of six NBA championships, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in the ’91 NBA Finals. The Bullets would only secure 30 wins on the ’90-91 season on the way to countless years of mediocrity. But that night, I left Landover, Maryland a full-fledged fan of Bernard King and my hometown Washington Bullets.

Note: Bullets Forever has the Bullets/Wizards game memory thread going on, including one from Hoops Avenue.

[Update] Suggested Reading:

Sources Used/Quoted:

  • Box Score – Basketball-Reference.com
  • “Bullets Rise to Occasion As King’s 44 Nail Bulls,” The Washington Post (Nov. 4, 1990) by David Aldridge.
  • “Bulls’ record stays `perfect’ // As in perfectly awful start: 0-2,” The Chicago Sun-Times (Nov. 4, 1990) by Dave Hoekstra.


  • Old Man Stubborn

    As a long time Bullets fan, there are tons of memories to be ashamed of, but thinking back on ol’ “Boonard Kang” brings back the good ol days of the early 1990s when the basketball in D.C. was bad, crack cocaine was on the rise, and “bitches” were setting up our mayor.

    I HEART D.C.!!!!!

  • Old Man Stubborn

    As a long time Bullets fan, there are tons of memories to be ashamed of, but thinking back on ol’ “Boonard Kang” brings back the good ol days of the early 1990s when the basketball in D.C. was bad, crack cocaine was on the rise, and “bitches” were setting up our mayor.

    I HEART D.C.!!!!!

  • stetsports.com

    My favorite memory was Kwame going for 30 and 19 against the Sacramento Kings in 2004. That was the moment I thought dude finally turned the corner.

    And then…

  • suzanne weidie

    Ok, so obviously the ol’ “crossing your fingers and hoping that it’ll go away” method has failed once again…..are we surprised? The method hasn’t worked for STDs, goitres, and Bristol Palin’s positive pregnancy tests, why would it work for knee injures? (ok, so those comparisons may be a stretch)

    i laughed out loud (LOL) at this comment….your mother!

  • Cory

    I too have a fondness for Bernard King. I was a Bullets ball boy for 2 seasons, 89-90 and 90-91. I was 12 years old at the time and got the job because my dad ran the shot clock for the Bullets. He ran the shot clock from about ’85 to the end of the ’09-’10 Wizards season. He had a good run, including being one of only two NBA shot clock keepers to be directly quoted in SI’s “History of the shot clock” article- the other guy was from the Hawks. My two years as a ball boy though, were highlighted by having the opportunity to appear on the cover of KidSports magazine with Bernard King in 1990. The cover story was a feature on Bernard King and his late career renaissance with the Bullets. The cover photo was B. King kneeling on one knee holding a basketball with me and 3 of the other ball boys standing around him giving the thumbs up. The photo was taken at center court of the Cap Center during a pre-pre-game warmup (before doors were opened for ticket-holders there was always a short warmup). I remember him being a reserved guy with a serious, consummate-pro attitude. He had real charisma too. He didn’t say much but he was always polite- never arrogant like some players (not on the Bullets of course- they were all cool, including Jeff Malone and Harvey Grant). When the issue of KidSports finally came out I received about a dozen copies and of course got B. King to sign one to me. My grandfather built a special frame for the mag that had a spot for the Bernard King Starting Lineup figure in front. The frame and the mags are in a box at my mom’s along with my complete ball-boy uniform (which back then included a pair of white and blue, Bullets logo Converse high-tops, a red embroidered logo polo shirt, a red white and blue warm up jacket with our name embroidered on the left breast and the Bullets logo embroidered on the right, matching warm-up pants and finished with a blue Bullets hat- a very nice uniform compared to the baggy t-shirt and track pants unis ballboys wear these days). I also have about a dozen Bernard King Starting Lineup figures still sealed as these were given away as a door promo one night that season and I got to take as many left-overs as I could hold at the end of the night when I was leaving. Anyway, Bernard King was and still is my favorite Bullet from that time period and I’m glad I have the magazine to remember it. On a side note, Steve Colter was the friendliest Bullet with us ball boys. Always up a for a quick one on one game during pre-game warm ups- always smiling, laughing and kidding around with us. Anyone remember him?