On Dec. 18, 1978, Bernard King, in his second year in the NBA and as a hope-filled star for the needy Piscataway, New Jersey Nets, was busted for cocaine possession, drunk driving and driving without a license.
Although his arrest made big news, King was neither benched nor suspended. It was a case for the courts, not the team.
Two nights later, the Nets were home — at the Rutgers Athletic Center — against the Rockets. When King was introduced as a starter, the 4,102 fans in the house didn’t seem moved, one way or the other.
At that point, team radio broadcaster John Sterling took it upon himself to rise from his courtside seat next to the Nets’ bench, face the small crowd and furiously gesture for people to stand and applaud King, to show him their love. Several hundred actually complied.
Seconds later, as the national anthem played, Rockets coach Tom Nissalke, seething and having bolted from Houston’s bench, got in Sterling’s face. He told him what Sterling had just done was the lowest, most unprofessional act he ever had seen from a broadcaster. – Phil Mushnick, NY Post, August 12, 2013
Granted, Sterling was just getting started, career-wise, so it really isn’t fair of Mushnick to suggest that Nissalke was either a) overreacting or b) being disrespectful to the American flag and “The Star Spangled Banner”.