Story: When Jim was King

This is not Razorback related in some ways, but in others it is. Jim King, from tiny Branch, would have been a Razorback had Glen Rose recruited him. That came back to haunt Rose. Here is a column I wrote for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette about one of the great Arkansans to play in the NBA. He has been attending Razorback games in the past year as a guest of Tommy Boyer, his high school teammate at Fort Smith High School (now Northside). Here you go: … -was-king/

There are many stories that Jim told me that I didn’t have room for. Yes, I got in a lot, but we talked for well over two hours. He talked about playing with Jerry West, Rick Barry, Nate Thurmond, Oscar Robertson and Jerry Sloan. All were his teammates in his 10-year NBA career. He had stories about Bill Russell, too. There were stories about the way the NBA traveled in his days. Bus and commercial flights, stuffed into small seats.

There aren’t any finer men than Jim King. You come back a better person after spending time with a man like that.

Love historical sports articles related to little known Arkansans.

Great stuff. Thanks.

Luved it, Excellent!

Maybe you can post some of those other stories!

Loved playing with West. Get him the ball and go opposite. He would score or find you. Said West was great athletically and turned it on in the clutch.

Dangerous to play with Oscar. Such a clever passer he would hit you in face if you were not always paying attention.

Rick Barry was a true prima donna. Pouted if you didn’t get him the ball.

There was a game where Barry scored 53 and King scored 35 (his high) that still ranks second for two players both topping 30 in same game.

Bill Sharmin used him as sixth man with Warriors. He told him he had to shoot the first time he touched the ball. Jim was always a pass-first guy

But Sharmin said, “You are a pure shooter and you can hit your first shot.” He averaged 16 that year and made the all-star team.

On guarding Oscar, “He did anything he wanted. Pass or shoot, he was the best. You just had to keep the ball out of his hands.”

Jerry Sloan was toughest player in league. He got a reputation for being mean. Jim said, “He was not dirty. His screens were legal. Just tough.”

Jim cried while telling of Sloan leaving after a win to attend his brother’s funeral. He drove all night. Drove to make tipoff next night. Played with no sleep and got 18 rebounds in a win at second place Detroit. They won again the next night and he had 22 rebounds. They didn’t expect him back for either game but needed both wins to make the playoffs. Jim said, “He wasn’t going to let his brother down and he wasn’t going to let us down. He drove straight to the arena and was in his uniform sitting in his locker when we got off the bus in Detroit. I cried then and I cry every time I think about it.”

Said he loved watching Nolan’s teams. Would not go to arena when Nolan first took over. Did not want to cause a scene. But ran into Nolan and was told to come to practice or games and so he began to go. Thought Nolan put his old players and Nolan’s new guys in their perfect roles, mixing them in with juco guys from his Texas team and Mike Anderson.

Best big man he ever saw was Bill Russell but saw Oscar dunk over him. Generally no one tried that.

He said Russell never blocked a shot out of bounds. He’d direct them to teammates to start a fast break. Only person who could do that. He said Russell picked him up and threw him once.

Mostly, Russell intimidated everyone, including Wilt. But Nate Thurmond loved playing against Russell.

Great story, Clay. Fell in love with basketball watching the old ABC Sunday afternoon basketball and watching the Baltimore Bullets, Cincinnati Royals, St. Louis Hawks, etc. Being from NE Arkansas, we tended to follow everything St. Louis and I remember Richie Guerin, Bob Pettit, Zelmo Beatty, and so on. That was a long time ago. I do remember Jim King, not sure if I knew the Arkansas connection then. To me this was the real hey day of professional basketball where finesse and skill seemed to be big parts of the game, before it became wresting with a basketball. Also it did not seem that the games were called to favor the marquee players.

Used to laugh at the old guys longing for the good ole days, now I am one of those guys. The calendar can be real cruel!

Great stories. Thanks for sharing them Clay. I just finished reading Golden Days: West’s Lakers, Steph’s Warriors, and the California Dreamers Who Reinvented Basketball by Jack McCallum. I learned a lot about Jerry West from that book. Jim King’s comments about West go hand in hand with what this book is about.

I got the feeling Jim could have gotten me an interview with Jerry West after our interview two weeks ago. Ron Wey, one of my sources for the story, is close to Gail Goodrich. Goodrich is the reason King was traded from Lakers. Goodrich was a “territorial” pick for the Lakers. I didn’t opt for those interviews. I had enough already. This is a long piece. Sometimes you just have to say I’ve got enough stuff and it’s all good. That’s what I did.

Clay, I especially love this story of Jim King. I remember him very well during his high school days on the Grizzlies’ court with Tommy Boyer and others, whose names I do not remember. At that time, they were so good. I loved Jim’s game then and then throughout his college days in Tulsa. Growing up in Fort Smith, I was a year behind Jim in High School, as I attended St. Anne’s Academy, but had several friends at Northside and attended most of their athletic events during those years. We did not hang around with the same group, but I never heard an unkind word about him among our peers. Along with many other Fort Smithians, I was so disappointed when he did not become a Hog. It was fun reading and hearing about Jim. I would love to see an article about the Grizzly teams of that era under Coach Kaundart and/or Coach Stancil. They were both so well respected.
I have to believe you have receive many other requests to write articles about past Arkansas High School teams of different eras. Add my vote to those who have requested.
Thanks again for such a fun article to read.

Thanks to all. These stories write themselves. Jim is really a treat to interview.

We took a pounding from this great Fort Smith team when I was a sophomore at Harrison in 59. Deward Dopson was the Harrison coach. Another player on that team that was also a Razorback was a player named Wofford (sorry first name eludes me) By the time I was a senior Bob Denniston had come to Harrison from Mulberry to coach. He and coach Kaundart were pretty good friends. No doubt Fort Smith was always a tough game. In 61-62 we beat them during the regular season, but fell to them in triple overtime at state in Little Rock. (At that time it was the longest game played in the state tournament. Thanks Clay for all these stories you bring us.

Great stories Clay. I had never heard of Jim King. So Kaundart coached Jim King, Ron Brewer and Almer Lee among others.

Correct. And Tommy Boyer.