For once, the winds of luck and talent, the crosscurrents of bravery and brains, are coalescing perfectly. By Sunday, Bernard King may get what he deserves. A day of pure perfection.

It's been a ride. Especially lately.

Last week, at the age of 34, six years after his career was supposedly ruined by a devastated right knee, King was named to the NBA all-star team. The towering stoic wept at his news conference and called the moment "the culmination of my goal and my dream."

Two nights later, in the sort of emotional homecoming that almost never works out right, King played one of the legendary games in Madison Square Garden history -- scoring 49 points (23 in the fourth quarter) against his old team. With his family and friends in the stands, with his Bullets team shrunken by injuries, King took command as a child might in fantasy.

"He was as focused and determined as I have ever seen anyone," said Coach Wes Unseld. "I was like everyone else -- in awe. . . . After I saw the expression on his face, I knew there was no way we were going to lose."

"Whatever was there, I took it. Fortunately, it all worked," said King of his 10-for-13 fourth quarter in a 20-for-35 game that included 11 rebounds and five assists. "I noticed things were getting quiet at the other end for a while."

King quieted the Knicks crowd only to let it explode into one final standing ovation: Hail to the Brooklyn native who'd come home to prove his old faithless bosses wrong. Four healthy seasons and more than 6,000 Bullets points after the Knicks gave him away, Bernard King returned -- in the guise of an in-your-face, too-late-sucker, score-at-will, never-gonna-quit, 30-points-a-game nightmare.

"You just have your mind set that . . . you won't be denied," said King.

"Words can't describe . . . " said King's father, Thomas.

Of course, the whole NBA certainly tried to find the proper words.

But then, Sunday in Boston Garden, King left on a stretcher -- hospitalized for an apparent allergic reaction that caused an irregular heartbeat, dizziness and hyperventilation.

That episode showed how vulnerable King's quest has always been. The last time he flew this near the sun, in 1985 when he averaged 32.9 points and was the league's leading scorer, King tore his cruciate ligament on a March night in Kansas City and spent two years in total-immersion rehabilitation.

Bullets General Manager John Nash was dumbstruck when he learned the irregular heartbeat news on NBC. "I felt like Saddam Hussein, learning about my casualties on TV," Nash said. The Bullets can smile again, you see, because King plans to play tonight in Philadelphia. He's fully recovered from what has been diagnosed as an allergic reaction to a bee pollen supplement. No heart problem.

"I'm not sure about any of the others," said Unseld, referring to his M*A*S*H unit of John Williams, Ledell Eackles, Pervis Ellison, Mark Alarie, Haywoode Workman and Charles Jones -- all day-to-day at best with flu or fat, pulled muscles or aching backs. "But the guy who left the last game on a stretcher -- I know he'll play."

The Bullets hope this roller coaster drama, this "Hollywood script," as Unseld calls it, leads up to an ideal culmination in Sunday's All-Star Game. If Larry Bird's back still hurts, King may start for the East. Then King would stand exactly where he belongs -- next to Magic and Michael, Sir Charles and Patrick, Lt. Robinson and The Mailman. No one would look taller than the old King.

"I have to admit that when I heard Bernard was in the hospital, my first thought was not that we might lose him for a few games," said Nash. "I was concerned that he might not get to play in the All-Star Game. It means so much to him. And he deserves it so much."

Whoever wins the NBA title this season may have to share center stage with King's comeback. Early in the season, when King's 40-point games and even one 50-pointer were still novel, Nash believed "things would have to level out." But now he says, "The momentum of all this just seems to carry Bernard further. He gets 24, then comes back with 45. . . . I realize he can lift himself five or six notches above everybody else, but it's still amazing to watch . . . . It's become one of the most remarkable stories in sports."

Suddenly, in his dotage, King is becoming legendary. Stories are told about his playoff heroics with the Knicks when he lit up the Celtics for back-to-back 42- and 45-point games with splints on two fingers of his shooting hand. Tales circulate about how King even practices falling down and how he prepares each night by imaging the whole game.

"It's not how many he's scoring that's incredible," said Unseld. "Other people have done that. It's how he scores. The shots are just unbelievable, but he can repeat them. The Knicks ran two people at him, plus {Patrick} Ewing. They were going crazy. And he made everything."

"I don't have a favorite King 'move,' " said Nash, "because he never seems to take two shots the same. He improvises so much and his release is so quick that, even when you know he's going to shoot, he can still get it off."

Asked if any NBA player has ever equaled King for degree-of-difficulty in his shot-making, Nash named Earl Monroe, then ended the list.

Perhaps no one is as elegant on the subject of King as King. "What seems like spontaneous creativity is 90 percent deliberate -- a recreation of something I've practiced over and over," he said. "The other 10 percent, I don't know where it comes from. Those are the big, big nights."

On such nights, King tapes his own Twilight Zone moves, then studies himself the way he usually studies foes. "If I've done it once, I can do it again . . . .

"One inch means the shot you want."

If justice is on duty Sunday, King will get to show America how a man who looks too old, too slow, too earthbound and too contorted, can torch players who are bigger, stronger, faster and 10 years younger. And do it every night.

All he needs is an inch.