The suddenly nomadic basketball journey being undertaken by former Colorado star George King had just led him to Poland.
Just weeks earlier, King had been playing in Italy, trying to make the best of an overseas detour he didn’t see coming after spending one season on a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns. Now all of the sudden, King’s phone was buzzing incessantly from a group chat he shared with his former teammates in Italy.
At first, the messages were put on the backburner by King. Yet as those messages kept pouring in, roughly one year ago this month, King inevitably checked his phone to see what all the fuss was about. The first video King saw was the grocery store he and his teammates visited frequently in Italy. The shelves were completely wiped clean, and now the store was absolutely deserted.
“One of my teammates said ‘coronavirus’ and that’s it. I didn’t even know what that is,” King said. “I went on Google immediately and looked up what it was. I was still naïve to what was going on. The Italian league already had been shut down, and sure enough a few days later they shut our league down. This was on a Friday, and they said if we aren’t on a plane by Sunday back to the States, who knows how long we’d be there. Immediately it was scramble mode for us all.”
King is in Germany now, spending his second season in Europe playing for Niners Chemnitz. It wasn’t a destination King envisioned after a solid first professional season with the Phoenix organization, and he remains intent on someday realizing his NBA dreams.
After finishing his collegiate career ranked 18th all-time at CU in scoring and 14th in rebounding (thanks to McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Bey, King is now 19th in scoring and 15th in rebounding), King was selected 59th overall late in the second round by Phoenix.
King appeared in just one NBA game with the Suns, grabbing one rebound as his only stat in a five-minute appearance against former CU teammate Derrick White and the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 11, 2018. However, King played 41 games that season with the Northern Arizona Suns, Phoenix’s affiliate in the G-League, and put up solid numbers, averaging 15.5 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting .429 from 3-point range.
King was hoping to use the month between the end of the G-League season and the end of the NBA season to show the Suns how he might be able to help the parent club in the future, but King suffered torn ankle ligaments in his final G-League game, ending his season.
Phoenix ultimately decided to move on from King, and that summer, while his ankle still was less than 100 percent, he played four games with Utah late in the NBA Summer League schedule in 2019.
“Looking back at it now, I probably should not have played. I was not healthy,” King said. “I was out there hurt. I really had only one wheel. I was reluctant about Europe. But the Italian team called (Dolomiti Energia Trentino) and gave me a good offer and a good opportunity, which at the time I thought was a good opportunity for the next step in my career.”
King says he feels as if he didn’t get a chance to show what he can do in Italy, but that has not been the case so far in Germany. In pandemic Europe, his routine isn’t too different from that of the CU Buffs these days, with a solitary schedule of practice, games, and the occasional trip to the grocery store filling his days.
King said he did recently take a drive to Prague on the recommendation of another former Buff, Levi Knutson, who also once played professionally in Germany. Other than those odd detours, King still remains focused on playing his way back to the NBA.
“When I went to Europe, it was to put me in position that I’d be in a respectable league that NBA scouts are scouting, and put me in position where I could get back to the NBA,” King said. “It’s the same thing I did in college. I wanted to play against NBA talent. That was a big part of my decision-making. Don’t get me wrong — you can make a great living in Europe. If my career ends up going in that direction, I’m not going to be upset. But as of right now, I still want to get back.”