ATLANTA - It took Bernard King about 35 minutes to drive from his Duluth, Ga., home to the Marriott Marquis for Monday's announcement that he'll officially enter the Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 8.
It took six years of nominations to convince voters that the former University of Tennessee and NBA great deserved to be enshrined among the game's immortals.
"I would certainly love to say it was a dream, but you can't dream something like this," the 56-year-old King told the media after he joined former NBA point guard Gary Payton, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, former Houston coach Guy Lewis, former Nevada-Las Vegas coach Jerry Tarkanian, North Carolina women's coach Sylvia Hatchell and South Carolina women's coach Dawn Staley in the seven-member 2013 class.
"This is a great day. I'd like to thank the Hall of Fame and the committee for recognizing my basketball life."
Some would say it took far too long for the Hall to recognize a player who scored 50 points in back-to-back NBA road games for the New York Knicks, averaged 22 points over his 15-year NBA career, averaged a preposterous 34.8 points in the 1984 NBA playoffs and was arguably the most unstoppable forward in Southeastern Conference history, averaging 25.8 points and 13.2 rebounds and recording 62 double-doubles in 76 career games.
"I became a student of Bernard King just watching some of his game tapes and seeing his go-to moves," current Knicks star Carmelo Anthony said in February after becoming the first Knick since King in 1984 to score at least 40 points in three consecutive games.
"He definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame. He should have been in a long time ago."
Anthony would get no argument from John Ward, the former radio voice of the Vols who said in a UT news release that King "was the best I ever saw, period."
King was the first basketball Vol to have his number retired, his No. 53 banner hoisted to the ceiling in 2007 during a victory over Kentucky.
Ironically, Pitino -- then a young Knicks assistant under Hubie Brown -- accompanied King from the 1984 NBA All-Star game to Texas for his twin 50-point outings against the Spurs and Mavericks.
"We were flying from Denver to San Antonio," King told reporters Monday. "Rick said that even though we had some injuries, we needed to get off to a good start [on the road trip]. That first game in San Antonio I scored 50 points. The next day in Dallas I had a milkshake and turkey sandwich and scored 50 points again."
Said Dominique Wilkins, the former University of Georgia star and longtime Atlanta Hawks great who was inducted into the Hall in 2006: "I never feared anybody when I played them. He's the only guy who scared the [heck] out of me. He could put 40 in the book and there was nothing you could do about it."
Perhaps to play to that fear, King said of his on-court demeanor during that time, "I know I've got this evil look. But in college it was worse."
He was so scary from day one in college that he scored 42 points in his debut against Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1974 and never looked back. Losing at Kentucky the first time he played the Wildcats later that year, he swore he never would lose to them again and he didn't, finishing 5-1 against Big Blue in his three seasons with the Big Orange.
"Ever since I've been at Tennessee, people have come up to me and told me stories about Bernard King," current UT coach Cuonzo Martin said. "You can tell Tennessee fans hold a special place in their heart for him."
And now the Hall of Fame does, too.