Eighteen players with the last name King have suited up in the NBA, and this franchise has had its fair share with three Kings.
It therefore only seemed fitting when picking a player with the letter K for our series to land on with the last name King, and the choice is Reginald Biddings King, who went by Reggie during his playing career.
Reggie King was born in Birmingham and was a local hero when he attended the University of Alabama from 1975 to 1979. “The Mule”, so named for his physical play, was a two-time All-American and two-time SEC Player of the Year, leading the Tide to one NCAA Tournament win over future teammate Phil Ford and the North Carolina Tar Heels.
King concluded his Alabama career averaging 18.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game while shooting 55.6% from the field over his four years. The 6’6 forward graduated as the program’s all-time leading scorer, an honor he still holds. He is also the Alabama record-holder in career field goals and free throws, as well as the single-season leader in points and field goals.
The Kings, then in Kansas City, selected King with the 18th pick in the 1979 NBA Draft, right in between Lee Johnson and Wiley Peck. I include those names because I have never heard of either of those players, but King actually ended up being productive for Kansas City.
In his first season in the NBA, King played in all 82 games and earned a starting role halfway through the season. He played 25 minutes and chipped in 8.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for the 47-win Kings, who ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs. Although he had a decent rookie season, it was impossible to make any headway in Rookie of the Year balloting with both Magic Johnson and Larry Bird debuting that year.
As a full-time starter the next season, King really started to assert himself on the glass and was the team’s leading rebounder with 9.7 per game. His biggest highlight of the season came in November against the San Diego Clippers when he hit a game-winning jumper to give Cotton Fitzsimmons the 400th win of his coaching career.
During the regular season, King was the fourth-leading scorer (14.9 points per game) behind Otis Birdsong, Scott Wedman, and Phil Ford, but he had to take on a bigger role in the postseason when both Birdsong and Ford were injured. King scored at least 20 points nine times during that playoff run as Kansas City advanced to the Western Conference Finals. The late great Chuck Daly, then an assistant coach for Philadelphia, was especially complimentary of King’s performance (and the Kings’ performance) that postseason:
‘’They’ve done it without Phil Ford and Otis Birdsong,’’ he said. “And with a backcourt of Ernie Grunfeld and Scott Wedman. Those two are not guards, they are small forwards. And they’ve done it with Reggie King playing great ball.’’
King had 28 points and 15 rebounds in the first-round closeout game and followed that up with 23 and 7 in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. The Kings only won one game in the conference finals, and that was when King played all 48 minutes and scored a postseason career-high of 31 points.
That offseason, King renegotiated his rookie contract and became Kansas City’s highest-paid player. Unfortunately, the team lost much of its talent from the previous year, including Birdsong and Wedman, and faltered. King’s averages dropped to 12.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game despite remaining a starter, and his efficiency also took a hit. He and the team rebounded to win 45 games the following season thanks to a breakout season from Eddie Johnson, but still fell short of the playoffs.
The team traded King to Seattle before the 1983-84 season, and his time as an impactful player was essentially over. He must have enjoyed his time in Kansas City because he still lived there as of 2019, remaining a true King to this day.