On Basketball, hot pastrami, and lots of chicken!
Billy King started his career as an outstanding defensive player at Duke University. He joined the Brooklyn Nets in 2010 after spending 10 years with the Philadelphia 76ers, serving as the team’s president from 2003 to 2007 and leading them to five consecutive playoff appearances. As general manager for the Nets, King oversees all aspects of the team’s basketball operations. Having transformed the franchise by overhauling the Brooklyn Nets roster, King has established the Nets as a title contender as they head into their second season in their new home at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
What are some of your favorite food memories growing up? My mom’s fried chicken and liver and onions. My mom was originally from the South, so I had a lot of Southern cooking growing up, which continued when I went to Duke. At training camp I would live on fried chicken, collard greens, and a lot of stuff like that.
Do you enjoy cooking? I love to grill. My butterflied whole chicken is always requested at barbeques!
When you are on the road, are there certain cities you look forward to eating in? I used to look forward to coming to New York, but now I live here! I love going to New Orleans to visit Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants, and I’m a fan of Gibsons Steakhouse in Chicago. In Philly, it’s the Palm, the original Buddakan, and the original Morimoto.
Do you have any pre-game food rituals? Back in 2001, when I was in Philly with the 76ers, our first game of the season was against the Knicks. I had a hot pastrami at Katz’s Deli before the game. We won, and so I started eating a hot pastrami sandwich before every game, no matter where I was. We won 10 games in a row! After the first loss, I stopped eating them—and lost a little weight!!
Incidentally, I found myself at Bloomingdale’s before my first Nets game and had a burger at David Burke at Bloomingdale’s. I remember it was so good, I even got some grease on my shirt! We won that game. So maybe I need to go back before opening night, when we play Miami, and have another burger!
Do you see any similarities between basketball and the restaurant business? It takes more than one person to put a great meal together. It’s the chef’s job to manage his team in the kitchen, and if they are all on the same page, the dish will come out right. It’s a team mentality— from the front of the house and the waitstaff to the kitchen. Everyone has to work together so that the guest leaves satisfied. It’s the same in basketball: The team might play a great game, but if you have an overall horrible experience, you might not come back! From the ticket takers to the coach and his players, everyone has to work together to create a memorable experience.
What is your favorite dish at David Burke Kitchen? The roast chicken and the porterhouse for two.
What are you most excited about for your team in the 2013-2014 season? I always look forward to every game. We have a great team with a lot of depth, and I predict every game will be exciting as we work toward winning the championship!
What is the most exciting moment of your career? Getting to the NBA finals in 2001 with the 76ers. With the Nets, it was trading for All- Star point guard Deron Williams.
You were a great defender at Duke. Who would you call out as a great defender in the NBA these days? Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko.
Who would you say was your toughest player to defend from UNC? Since Michael Jordan left before I got there, I would have to say Kenny Smith.
If you could share dinner with anybody in basketball history, who would it be? Dr. [James] Naismith, who invented basketball. But I would also love to share a meal with Muhammad Ali, not only because of what he achieved in the ring but also because of everything he stood for and went through in the name of his beliefs.