Producer Rodney Henry reunited with Knicks legend Bernard King at a charity event in 2017 while King was finishing his memoirs.
Henry reminded King that as a Bronx high schooler, he attended King’s “Bernie and Ernie” basketball camp. Henry had been one of 25 kids allowed to participate free in the camp conducted by NBA standouts King and Ernie Grunfeld. Being in King’s presence left a lifelong impression that has now led to a movie.
“[King] said he created this camp because he never could afford camp growing up, it was his way of giving back,’’ Henry told The Post. “He interacted with all the kids, sat in the cafeteria and ate lunch with us.”
One year, King conducted the camp despite having had his famed ACL surgery on his right knee. He didn’t want to cancel it.
“I remember days he drove himself with his swollen right knee laid out across the front console of his black convertible,’’ Henry said “He came each day because he made a commitment and promises to some kids. He put his rehab to the side to come. He potentially was sacrificing his career to put smiles on some underprivileged kids.”
At the 2017 charity event, Henry learned King’s autobiography, “Game Face,” was being published and offered to put it on the silver screen whenever he was ready.
So, in October, Henry’s Protege Pictures bought the movie rights to King’s memoir and will produce the biopic along with Radar Pictures’ Ted Field, whose résumé includes the “Jumanji” franchise.
“I’m overjoyed my memoir will be featured on the big screen,’’ King stated in an email to The Post. “After meeting Rodney, and talking for hours, I knew this project would happen. We are both New Yorkers, and he gets me.’’
King and Henry were at the Garden on celebrity row for the Jan. 22 game against the Lakers, and took publicity shots. After the memoir came out in 2017, Knicks owner James Dolan permitted King to conduct seven different book signings on Garden property.
According to Henry, Dolan has been supportive about the movie. King has sat next to Dolan during games — including the contest after the infamous Charles Oakley arrest incident.
“When Bernard and I informed Jim Dolan about the movie project, he was delighted and expressed to let him know how the organization can help moving forward,’’ Henry said. “I would be honored to shoot part of the film in the iconic Madison Square Garden.’’
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Henry felt King’s Hall of Fame journey, growing up in the drug-infested projects of Fort Greene in the late 1960s and early 1970s would make a unique motion picture.
King, now 63, weaved a Hall of Fame career, from the University of Tennessee to stardom with the Nets and Knicks. King topped it off by recovering from alcohol abuse, as well as that devastating ACL tear, to regain All-Star status in 1991 in an era when that sort of knee surgery was considered career-ending.
“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.
“He truly is one of the most influential people in my life,’’ Henry added. “Any time I came to a crossroad, I would think back to all he had endured and people telling him after a life-altering injury that he was never going to make it back. But he proved everyone wrong.”
Movie production has stopped across Hollywood because of the coronavirus pandemic. Henry has lost to COVID-19 Jonathan Duck, one of his high-school teammate on state champion Our Saviour in The Bronx, and a childhood friend, Dave Edwards.
Through his prior career in distribution with KMart/Sears and with Marbury’s sneakers, Henry has gained access to masks and personal protective equipment that he mails out to family and friends.
The nation’s shutdown has slowed the movie process, but Henry is still interviewing actors and, he said, “the right screenplay writer to be able to capture the grittiness essence and time of New York.’’
When asked who he would like to play him in the film, King cracked, “He has to be handsome, suave and sexy.’’
“[The virus] has affected the way we all do business and the film industry has been greatly impacted by it,’’ Henry said. “ We are still in the creative process of discussion and negotiations with directors, writers, actresses/actors. There is uncertainty in terms of the timing of filming any movies, but we’re working every day to make all of our productions a reality.”
Henry remembers King pulling him over at the basketball camp.
“He told me he appreciated the way I played the game with passion and the mentality similar to his,” Henry said. “I will never forget his words. “You have the eye of the tiger like me. If they can’t play at your level, destroy them so they never want to play you again.”
That is the intensity Henry hopes to bring out in the King movie.