Bernard King, NBA and UT Legend Still Honored - Review - Endurance

Bernard King – A National Basketball Association (NBA) Champion without the Ring and a 2013 NBA Hall of Famer is still being honored because he will always be a true, legendary Champion.


Bernard King, the NBA Legend who broke records in college and the NBA - Courtesy of


Bernard will always be known as part of the dynamic duo of the “Ernie (Grunfield) and Bernie Show" at the University of Tennessee (UT) from 1974-1977 under the coaching years of the late Ray Mears (June 2007) at Stokely Athletic Center. Both New Yorkers brought a lot of excitement to Tennessee and that's when I was introduced to Tennessee basketball.


One of the hottest Sports Illustrated issue in the late 70's - Courtesy of


In 2013, ESPN aired a documentary Bernie and Ernie, 30 for 30 which received high ratings and can still be seen periodically.


Bernard is the first UT player to have his jersey retired (2007), the third African American to play UT basketball (paved the way for others) and is known for overcoming many obstacles in college, the NBA and in life itself.  He even had an acting role in the 1979 comedy basketball movie “Fast Break” overcoming obstacles. Once again, he was honored in March 2015 in Knoxville, Tennessee.


Bernard King's Autograph Jersey - Courtesy of Raymond Moseley


Bernard King's Honorable Plaque given from the University of Tennessee - Courtesy of Raymond Moseley


Bernard receives a treasured items from Mr. Larry Smith, UT Historian - Courtesy of Raymond Moseley


The week prior to Bernard King’s weekend the UT family had to say farewell to Mike Rollo, the longtime Athletic Trainer for Bernard and many others over 30 years.


Mike Rollo, the longtime athletic trainer passes at age 59 on February 27, 2015 - Courtesy of UT Sports


Then, on Friday, March 6 at Calhoun’s On The River Restaurant, everyone gathered for the “Bernard King Recognition Dinner” which was organized beautifully by former teammate, Johnny Darden and event planner, Jill Yarberry and photographed by Raymond Moseley.


Bernard King's Recognition Dinner's Event Planners, Ms. Jill Yarberry and Mr. Johnny Darden - Courtesy of Jill Yarberry


The Great Bernard King and The Great Photographer Raymond Moseley - Courtesy of Raymond Moseley


Several of Bernard’s teammates, coaches, staff members and friends enthusiastically took the microphone to reminiscence about their experiences, bringing lots of laughs. Several teammates remember the night he had his UT career high with 43 points which was a thriller. Darden, doesn't hesitate to admit even though he would be on the court with Bernard, he would catch himself being amazed at all the moves and shots Bernard would do.


Dr. Bob Overholt, Hollywood actor Cylk Cozart and UT/NBA Great Bernard King having basketball practice - Courtesy of Raymond Mosely


Retired UT Coach Frank Harrell and Retired UT Champion/NBA Champion Reggie Johnson - Courtesy of Raymond Moseley


UT Vol Teammates: Mike Stapleton, Coach Frank Harrell, Bernard King, Mike Jackson, Johnny Darden; Back Row - David Cockrill, Terry Crosby, Jeff Fancher, Ed "Juan" Littleton, Patrick Messing, Ralph Parton, Pat Walden, Vinnie Tracey and Terry Glenn - Courtesy of Raymond Moseley


The Dardens-Lynnell, Jondra and Johnny (the only UT Vol with 1976-77 & 1978-79 SEC Tournament Championship Rings) - Courtesy of Raymond Moseley


The highlight that everyone is still talking about is the emotional moment when Bernard shared from deep inside his soul. He said he would never forget the years at UT and how certain events in his life prepared him for the unknown.


"Looking Through The Window" of time with Ernie Grunfield, Bernard King, Johnny Darden, Reggie Johnson and Mike Jackson - Courtesy of the University of TN Sports


UT/NFL Footballer, Anthony Hancock with UT Basketballers Mike Jackson, Johnny Darden, Patrick Messing and Mark Hancock - Courtesy of Mark Hancock


UT Vols Pat Walden and Steve Ray being reunited with Judy Constantine, former Executive Director of UT Letterman Club - Courtesy of Jill Yarberry


A major milestone in Bernard’s life was when the New Jersey Nets drafted him in the first round in 1977. He played for Utah, Golden State, New York and Washington. He had a 14-year career that consisted of averaging 32 points a game.


In 1984, he set records for his New York team by scoring 50 points during back to back games and gave his fans and team a gift on Christmas Day scoring 60 points for a win. Bernard was the man to watch out for because he stayed focused in his own zone, went hard on the court, and was super quick despite his 6’7” frame.


Jill Yarberry, Bernard King and Judy Constantine still enjoying the nice dinner for Mr. King while Mrs Lynnell Darden and Mike Stapleton wanders in the background - Courtesy of Jill Yarberry


Then, one dreadful night, March 23, 1985, Bernard’s faith and determination was tested when he went down with a knee injury. Everyone thought this former leader of the 1977 Southeastern Conference College Championship and the leading scorer in the NBA 1984-1985 season had been defeated by this destructive, painful knee injury in the NBA. He fought long and hard when others had given up on him and counted him out.


Bernard shared the story of how he would sit at home and watch from his window, observing ducks that visited him daily. They were actually the therapy that he needed. They would come to his window every day while he was inside trying to make his comeback at life and basketball.


"It's your turn to watch over Mr. King today" Courtesy of

On the last day when Bernard didn’t see his “guardian angel” ducks he saw the symbolic irony of the story. It was like the ducks knew his future before he did.  They didn’t come back because it appeared to them he was ready to take on basketball and the world once again.  


Bernard was more than the average hard working person who got up, made sacrifices and made a successful comeback in the NBA, which earned him a spot on the NBA All-Star Team in 1991 and more achievements. People who followed his career said he was determined to come back and he did.


Autographs of Bernard King and teammates - Courtesy by Raymond Moseley

I will always respect this man who is a legend, for having the strong willpower and discipline to overcome the obstacles that tried to hold him back. We all have obstacle in life. It is how you go through it, handle it, come out of it and to see the difference it makes in your life. Personally, I need the hand of God when I go through my hard obstacles of life.


Ms Lady, Reggie Johnson, Toni Sudderth, Ed "Juan" Littleton, Renee Sudderth, Caroline Tate, Jeanine Jackson enjoying a great UT Saturday afternoon - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth


On Saturday, the University of Tennessee fans cheered for this legend that spent 3 years at UT (1974-1977) and 14 years (1977-1993) in the NBA.  He walked across the court to hear the UT crowd one more time while his underclass teammates were still in the dressing room discussing strategy against South Carolina.


Bernard King and Johnny Darden walks off court after being honored on the court where they entertained us many times - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth


The Honorees of the day Bernard King and Johnny Darden sitting with Jill Yarberry, teammates Mike Stapleton, Ms Lady, and Reggie Johnson - Courtesy by Renee Sudderth


Even though Bernard was being honored this special weekend for his college and NBA accomplishments, UT made sure we honored his teammate, Johnny Darden, who walked across the floor with Bernard. Johnny is also a legend who is the all-time assist leader with 715 at UT from 1976-1979.  The following week after Bernard’s honor, Johnny was honored as a Legend at the Southeastern Conference College Tournament before the Tennessee ball game.  That was amazing.  Johnny was doing all he could to make sure Bernard's special weekend would be a success not knowing we the people of Tennessee wanted to honor him too.

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Vinnie Tracey, Terry Crosby, Reggie Johnson, Bernard King, Mike Stapleton, Jeff Fancher at halftime of the game - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth


Johnny continues to show pride and honor in what he does best. He may not be able to run up and down the court with those fancy-quick passes anymore, but he is still making history by speaking at events for the Boys and Girls Club and being the best teacher at Springfield High School in Springfield, Tennessee. With Johnny earning his Sociology degree, he went back to school to coach and teach to make a difference in the young people lives.


The same week Johnny was speaking in Greenville, TN. Right over in Nashville, TN, fellow teammate Mike Jackson was being inducted into the Metro Sports Hall of Fame honored at his high school. Mike was so overwhelmed by the honor and all the support his family, friends and fans gave him.


UT Great and Metro Sports Hall of Famer Mike Jackson varies awards (UT 1973 - 1977) - Courtesy of Taylor Jackson


The main 3 Explosions for the UT men team in the late 70's with Bernard King, Mike Jackson, Ernie Grunfield -Courtesy of UT Sports


A month before that, in February, Bernard, Johnny, and Mike’s teammate, Reggie Johnson was having an honorable moment by being the Grand Marshall of an Atlanta Parade while waving to the crowd.


After Reggie’s honorable moment, he found time to reunite with his former UT teammate and friend Dale Ellis.  Dale was inducted into the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame on the heels of having his Tennessee jersey retired March 2014 (Goggle Splash Magazine Dale Ellis).


Former UT teammates and NBA foes Dale Ellis and Reggie Johnson - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth


Atlanta Sports Hall of Famer 2015 (Feb), Dale Ellis - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth



It is a great honor when 30 to 40 years later people are still talking about you and honoring you for your basketball skills, as well as, other achievements. To the young Volunteers who witnessed these milestone events in their upper class teammates later lives, you shall continue to do your best on and off the court and earn that college degree because several years from now we shall still be talking about you.



University of Tennessee vs South Carolina at the last home game before beating Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC Tournament - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth


Tammy Tarvin Walden, UT Men Coach Donnie J. Tyndell and Pat Walden - Courtesy of Pat Walden


Even though, Bernard’s (2007) other “Jersey Retirement” teammates, Ernie Grunfield (2008), Allan Houston (2011) and Dale Ellis (2014) could not be there physically for his great honor, they will always share that bond with him.


As a Big Orange Volunteer fan for life, I will always be thankful for all the smiles and excitement Bernard and others gave to me and other die hard Tennessee fans while cheering and singing “Oh, Rocky Top, you’ll always be home sweet home to me, Good ol’ Rocky Top, Rocky Top, Tennessee. GO VOLS!!!


Renee Sudderth, Legends Johnny Darden and Bernard King enjoying the last moments of this great weekend that also consisted of them speaking to the young Vols at practice and speaking on the radio and TV stations - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth


UT/NBA Legend Dale Ellis, Photojournalist Renee Sudderth and UT/NBA Legend Reggie Johnson (Feb 6, 2015) - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth


Copyright © 2015.May This story written and photos by Renee Sudderth for Splash Magazines. Additional photos by Raymond Moseley, Jill Yarberry, Mark Hancock, Pat Walden and  Taylor Jackson. It is not to be sold or reproduce without written permission of Renee Sudderth


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