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Bernard King: Ratner offered not just Executive VP job, but private school for his daughter. But job in NYC promoting project caused marital strains.

Hey, remember former New York Knick star (and New Jersey Nets rookie, and final career-year player) Bernard King?

He had an important early role in the Atlantic Yards rollout, participating in the December 10, 2003 project announcement, and representing Forest City Ratner at community events and even a City Council hearing in May 4, 2004, before being dropped, quickly, after an arrest for domestic violence.

But how exactly did he get there?

In his 2017 memoir Game Face, King devotes two pages to the episode:
In 2003, I was contacted by Bruce Ratner, chief operating officer of the real estate development company, the Ratner Group. He wanted to acquire the New Jersey Nets and move the team to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, an area bordering on the neighborhood where I grew up. Ratner had some ideas about getting me involved in his plans and asked to discuss them over steaks in New York.

[His second wife] Shana and I lived in Georgia, just north of Atlanta. We'd moved there when Amina was two years old; it was a nice, quiet place to raise her. So I had to fly up for our meeting.

Ratner offered me the job of executive vice president of the Nets. The Ratner organization would enroll my daughter in private school and arrange for a driver to bring her there and back. And provide other generous perks.

For all my professional success, I'm a kid from Brooklyn at heart. It was a stunning offer....The deal was obviously lucrative, but it appealed to me for deeper reasons.
King wanted to "contribute to the revitalization of my old neighborhood," apparently believing that Atlantic Yards would specifically help the area around the housing projects in Fort Greene, where "the unemployment rate was over 50 percent."

"I felt that a new basketball arena would be a powerful economic stimulus for the community," he added, clearly unaware of the consensus that sports facilities don't necessarily do that.

The rupture

However, King typically left his wife at home, and his business trips "put strains on our marriage."

Though he eventually brought his wife north, she "was adamantly opposed to moving to New York."

He writes about a fateful 10/23/04 incident:
We wound up arguing in our hotel room. When I look back at that awful night, it's clear to me that the tensions associated with the Ratner negotiations brought issues we'd never faced to the surface. Issues of trust and openness. Emotions welled up in a way neither of us could have imagined. Things got physical, and the police arrived. I explained what happened to them, but they said they would have to take one of us in. Though they did not file charges, they arrested me.

Shana and I would attend marital counseling and grow closer and more trusting as a result of the incident. Together, we made the decision to stay in Georgia, raising our daughter in the place we called home. We've been married for two decades, love each other madly, and look back at that night at the hotel as a learning experience. 
But it still pains me to think of it, and I wish it had never occurred.
That's a somewhat sanitized account, if understandably so. The complaint, according to the AP, "charged him with assault, attempted assault and harassment. It said his wife, Shana, suffered a cut with bleeding, and bruises, swelling and redness to her eye and forehead."

King got a conditional discharge, the AP reported 2/1/05, after his wife refused to cooperate with prosecutors and the couple went to counseling. In his memoir, King acknowledged a history of abuse by his mother and his own alcohol abuse.

Flashback: 2004 City Council hearing

City Council Member Charles Barron, as the transcript of the hearing shows, was skeptical, saying, "I  know Bernard you want to play some ball, and everything, and Jay-Z wants some ownership, but it is beyond basketball."

Jim Stuckey, then the point man for developer Forest City Ratner introduced King: "I want to turn this over, for a second now, to Bernard King. Bernard, as many of you know, has actually been working with our team. He is recently nominated to the NBA Hall of Fame. Bernard has played with both the Knicks and the Nets. He is tremendously important to us as an advisor. He has been working with us in terms of putting together kids' camps and making sure that we can figure out ways of tying this to the community. And Bernard, why don't I ask you to stand for a second, if I can?"

King stood. "Thank you, James," he said. "Good afternoon, Council members, pleased to be here, and as a kid who grew up playing hoops in Downtown Brooklyn, specifically Fort Greene, I am proud to be here before you today... And Chairman [James] Sanders, I will try to contain my enthusiasm, but I am passionate about basketball, because I know how it transforms lives."

"It has certainly transformed my life, transformed the lives of many friends of mine that I had an opportunity to grow up with in Brooklyn, who today are lawyers, and also Vice-Presidents of banks, and working in the areas of real estate," he said. "nd so basketball has been very crucial in my life."

"And so when you talk about bringing a professional basketball team, and a world-class basketball team, such as the New Jersey Nets to Downtown Brooklyn, I find that very, indeed, very, very exciting," King said. "

"I think that when you look at the Atlantic Yards area, and I had an opportunity to first see it a year ago, when I toured the site with [developer] Bruce Ratner and [deputy] Bruce Bender, I clearly understood at that point that Brooklyn needed this project. This was an area that I had passed many times as a young kid. And I think that area could be better utilized. And if you look at a Frank Gehry world-class arena at that location, I think it is a very exciting opportunity for Brooklyn to do something  very, very special with that site. I think that when you look at the I clearly understood So I am truly excited about it."

"But I think the people who benefit most from it, and the reason why I am engaged in this project, is because of young kids. I was a young kid one day, playing basketball, and I know what it did for my life and the effect that it has had on my life. But when you look at this arena, I think that young kids benefit the most from this. It is going to accessible to college [teams], it will be accessible to high school teams, accessible to community basketball teams as well. And I think that is a tremendous benefit, because we as adults are oftentimes forgetful that we are the ones responsible for creating safe havens for young kids to go out and utilize their creative skills, such a through sports. And I think that is one of the responsibilities that we have."

"Forest City Ratner is certainly committed to this... and I am delighted that he has allowed me to do some of the things that I would like to do in the very community that I grew up in, so that some of the young kids that has dreams in those very communities, perhaps, will go on to fulfill them, as I have done in my life, today, as well."

King cited a recent mini basketball camp for boys and girls ages 10 to 12 years old, 80 kids, sponsored by Forest City Ratner at the Pratt Institute, and said that it taught not just basketball skills but also life skills.

"Are there issues associated with traffic?" he asked. Yes, but they would be addressed. "But this project has many, many merits to it. I am exited about it. I am very passionate about it. Brooklyn is home for me,, will always be home. My parents reside in Downtown Brooklyn today. I have a brother and a sister who are working professionals that live in the Downtown Brooklyn area, as well."

"When you look at this project today," he said, "you look at professional basketball players serving as models, all of us here, all of you here, are models, but we have to recognize that professional athletes are models as well. And to have this team in our own backyard for these young kids to possibly aspire to play for one day and to be like one day. And I do not suggest that all kids will grow up to be professional basketball players. But I think there is a tremendous benefit here that creates opportunity that we should not allow ourselves to lose."

"Brooklyn deserves this project, the kids of Brooklyn deserve this project, I am certainly behind it 100 percent. I am committed to it." King said he was having another basketball camp in Downtown Brooklyn that summer.

"I recognize that there is a high unemployment rate in the very community that I grew up in, in Fort Greene where we have 70 percent unemployment. I believe that there is a commitment here by Forest City Ratner and Bruce Ratner to affect that."

A response from Tish James

Council Member Letitia James (now state Attorney General), who represented the project site, noted that, at 5'11" she'd been enticed to play basketball but "had my head in the books" while her brothers played. "But I just do not suffer from basketball jones."

"You have talked about how basketball transforms lives," she said. "Education transforms lives, as you indicated earlier, transformed my life and your life. And family stability transforms lives, and families should serve as role models. I just have to take issue with whether or not basketball players should serve as role models. Some basketball players, you know, recently have not been the best of role models for  our children."

King asked to respond.

James continued, saying, "I am glad that you are back in Brooklyn. I recognize you relocated to Atlanta"--a bit of a deft dig--"and that is wonderful... But at the same time, I am concerned about my community, and they elected me to represent and stand up for them, particularly when they feel trampled on."

King said that he did believe that families provide stability. "I was simply pointing out how basketball has transformed my life."

Later, Barron said, "the developers are very slick, swift, they know how to put fancy stuff together, and then they appealing to, I mean, Jay-Z, his rap, Bernard, basketball, they appeal to that... And I just want to caution all of us, whether we are elected officials, basketball players, rap stars, hip- hop stars, not to allow anybody to use us." 

Coming: biopic

The New York Post reported in April 2020 Knicks great Bernard King has biopic in works with filmmaker who looked up to him, noting that producer Rodney Henry, who reunited with King at a charity event in 2017, had told the basketballer that, as a Bronx high school student, he'd attended a basketball camp held by King and former college teammate Ernie Grunfeld.

Henry’s Protege Pictures bought the rights to King's book:
“This film is more than just an athlete and the love of the game,’’ said Henry, who lives in Hollywood and was a driving force behind Stephon Marbury’s discount Starbury sneakers and TV talk show. “It is an inspiring story that encourages hope, but also helps teach people that with any situation, perseverance, hard work and determination could overcome anything. I wanted to turn his words into life."
In December 2020, the Post reported Bernard King is getting an assist from Knicks superfan Ben Stiller., who had joined the production team, calling King his favorite player and saying he didn't know of King's struggles.