"The true measure of an athlete is how he deals with a negative or adverse situation," said Bernard King, former Tennessee basketball star and No. 1 draft pick of the New York Nets who pleaded guilty Aug. 1 to possession of marijuana and resisting arrest. He was fined $100 and given 60-day suspended sentences on each count.

King, here to work out with his younger brother, Maryland freshman Albert King, also was arrested this year for attempted larceny and prowling. On July 10 he was arrested and charged with stealing $1,500 worth of television equipment from Tennessee athletic headquarters. These charges were dismissed.

"I'd like to leave the whole thing behind," King told The Washington Post in an interview. "I did some good things and some bad things. I'm not worried about what happened at Tennessee. I don't think about what I did.

"I'm thinking about what I'll do,"

"If you don't lose track of yourself, ever lost track of myself.

"I'm getting an opportunity that few people get. Right now, basketball is what's important to me. I have some God-given talent and I intend to utilize it.

"Problems are a part of life. In time, everyone will realize I'm only a basketball player. People have to understand that we're no different from artists or anyone else who uses his talents. People have a tendency to think an athlete doesn't have a brain in his head."

King describes himself as a prolific reader (psychology texts are among his favorites), an occasional poet, an "outgoing person who enjoys himself to the fullest extent and socializes a great deal."

He has not signed with the Nets but is looking forward to attending rookie camp in mid-September. Nets' officials have already stated that King's legal problems will not effect negotiations.

He has been living with a friend in McClean, Va., running up to eight miles a day in obscurity at a local high school track.

His goal, he says, "is to be best player I can be, maybe the best player anyone can be." He adds, "I never set unreachable goals."

He says he is determined to return to school and get his degree. He is interested in broadcasting, and enjoys working with children.

"Basketball players have something to offer children. They'll listen to you," said King. "Sometimes they have no one to talk to."

He was asked if he had someone to talk to when he was a youngster.

"No," he said. "I didn't need anybody. I was a 24-hour-a-day basketball player."