Best of the rest: Leonard King, an All-Star and outstanding guard

Imports come and imports go in the National Basketball League. Few make as much of an impact as Leonard King.

He was the face of Otago basketball for a decade, the star player on a Nuggets squad that won its share of games in the national league.

King was also an ambassador for the game. He loved basketball to his soul, and gave back so much to the province that would adopt him like a son.

From 1991, when he arrived in Dunedin as a promising American, to 1999, he was one of the top handful of players in the National Basketball League.

In 1994, King became the first Otago player to be named in the NBL All-Star Five, and he was named the league's most outstanding guard. A year later, he again reached All-Star status.

Only Phill Jones (1999) and Hayden Allen (2001) have since been All-Stars while playing for the Nuggets.

The Nuggets finished fifth out of 12 teams in 1994 and zoomed up to third, out of 13, a year later, as King carried the team on his back, with assistance from Glen Denham and others.

King was a free-scoring player capable of playing virtually anywhere on the court. He liked the ball in his hands, and his career NBL average is more than 25 points a game.

King left the Nuggets in 1999, and the ending was messy.

King played for the North Otago Penguins for a couple of years, then played one more season for the Nuggets - aged 37 - in 2004.

He lectured at Otago Polytechnic, before working for Basketball New Zealand as a high-performance coach.

He is now in Brisbane, where he works as a development manager for Basketball Queensland.

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