The decade of the 1980’s in the NBA belonged to Magic and Bird, whose teams won 8 of the 10 available titles. In 1984, however, the game’s two biggest stars took a backstage seat in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs when the Knicks’ Bernard King and the Pistons’ Isiah Thomas engaged in a shootout for the ages.
During the regular season, King was out to prove that he was the game’s most lethal offensive weapon, averaging more than 26 points per game, while also scoring 50 in back-to-back games, and posting a 60 spot during the season.
On the flip side, Isiah was building his legacy as a Hall of Fame point guard by averaging 20 points and 11 assists in his own right. The battled ensued from the opening game’s tip and continued until the final horn in a critical and decisive Game 5.
Despite King averaging a ridiculous 42 points per game, Isiah would keep his Pistons in the mix every minute of the way. In Game 5, Bernard was his usual unstoppable self, putting up 40-plus points as the Knicks held a double-digit lead with under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Then Thomas staged an epic performance, tallying 16 points within the game’s final 94 seconds to force overtime.
The two exchanged offensive blows like heavyweight champions, with King landing the decisive punch by jamming an offensive put-back in the game's final moments, giving him a game high 46 points and the Knicks a 3-2 series win.
King showed a national audience that he would become one of the game’s most prolific scoring machines before injuries robbed him of his explosiveness. Game 5 was also arguably the moment that put a young “Zeke” on par with the NBA’s elite.