Kansas City has nearly forgotten the King who still rules hoops.

Small Wonder 

Kansas City has nearly forgotten the King who still rules hoops.

Third-baseman George Brett, golfer Tom Watson and quarterback Len Dawson can still draw crowds. With the venerable former Kansas City Monarch Buck O'Neil and the world's fastest human, Schlagle High grad Maurice Greene, they're regarded as Kansas City's greatest sports legends.

One man who richly deserves similar fame is former Kansas City Kings guard Nate "Tiny" Archibald. The Hall of Famer and six-time All Star set a standard in Kansas City's 1972-73 season that no NBA player has topped or matched: He led the league in scoring and assists in the same season. Archibald's 34 points and 11.4 assists per game were as incredible a feat in sports as Barry Bonds' 73 home runs.

Almost thirty years have passed since Archibald did what still seems impossible. Everything has changed. The Kings, now in Sacramento, scared the L.A. Lakers in the NBA semifinals just two weeks ago. Archibald lives in New York, working at the NBA's Manhattan headquarters.

Archibald arrived in Kansas City in 1972 after being drafted in 1970 from the University of Texas-El Paso by Bob Cousy and the Cincinnati Royals. "The most memorable times of my career were when I was growing and learning the game during my early years in Cincinnati and Kansas City," Archibald says. "The move from Cincinnati to Kansas City was great for the franchise because it gave us an identity change. I remember the Kansas City fans as being very receptive. We usually drew eight or nine thousand fans there, which was much better than Cincinnati," he says.

Archibald is short ("Tiny," actually) for a pro basketball player, just 6 feet 1 inch. But he became a king among giants by sneaking quickly to the basket, drawing fouls, sinking foul shots, making quick passes and perfecting his outside shooting.

He thinks the NBA could do well by returning to Kansas City. "I believe there is going to be further NBA expansion, and nobody knows where it's going to be," Archibald says. "I'd love to see the NBA back in Kansas City with me as the team's general manager."

That would be a big change for him, now that he has settled not far from the concrete Bronx neighborhood where he grew up. "People wonder why I'm back here, but I just love kids," Archibald once told Sports Illustrated. "These kids need positive people to take an interest in them." Archibald was kicked off his high-school team because of poor grades as a sophomore. He never forgot that lesson. He puts on summer basketball clinics, coaches amateur teams and supplies equipment for them.

"Once they make it, they're gone. Once they get the big car, they point it out of here," Hilton Barker, a community worker in South Bronx, New York, told SI. "Except for Tiny. He came back."

The NBA has changed dramatically since Archibald's playing days. "We didn't go around hugging and kissing guys," says Archibald. "We barely shook hands with each other."

Will his record ever be broken? "As long as the game is played, records can be broken," Archibald tells me. "Of all the people now playing in the NBA, I think the person with the best chance to break it is Shaq. He would have to work on his passing skills, but he handles the ball about 80 percent of the time in the Lakers' offense. And the number of possessions you get is the key to breaking that record."

After leaving the Kings, Archibald appeared on four more NBA rosters, and he won a championship ring with the Boston Celtics before his career ended in 1984.

That itinerancy might explain why many Kansas City sports fans seem to have forgotten his spectacular play for the Kings. "I don't have any strong feelings about not being recognized as one of Kansas City's best," says Archibald. "I felt I had a very good time there."

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