When John Starks first arrived in New York City, he was a relatively unknown player looking to make his mark. The then-32 year old worked out of the small gymnasium on West 47th Street for several years before becoming one of the most feared players in basketball history and eventually being inducted into the Hall Of Fame
John Starks, a former NBA player, is considered one of the most fierce competitors in basketball history. After he retired from basketball, he found his passion in New York City and became a successful businessman.
The NBA’s popularity peaked in the mid-to-late 1990s. When Michael Jordan wasn’t playing baseball, he was dominating the league.
The “Bad Boys” of the 1980s, the Detroit Pistons, were no longer in existence, and a new team assumed the “Badboy” moniker.
The New York Knicks were that club, and Patrick Ewing was their standout center. They had several strong hitters on the team, including Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason, in addition to Ewing.
One of their most tenacious players wasn’t one of their big guys; instead, he was a little guard who would take on anybody, even Michael Jordan. I’m referring to John Starks.
Career in College
Most athletes’ collegiate careers aren’t like John Starks’. During his four-year undergraduate career, Starks attended four different institutions.
In 1984, Starks enrolled at Rogers State College in Claremore, Oklahoma. He wouldn’t be at Rogers State for long.
In punishment for another student sneaking into Starks’ room, Starks stole another student’s audio equipment and was expelled.
He and his housemates were deemed financially liable by Rogers State for the damage.
Starks moved to Northern Oklahoma College and joined the basketball team in the spring of 1985.
Starks had to fulfill his 5-day sentence for stealing audio equipment before he could play a game of basketball for Northern Oklahoma College.
Starks barely lasted a few months at Northern Oklahoma College before being busted using marijuana in his dorm.
Starks enrolled at Tulsa Junior College in the summer of 1986. Ken Trickey, the former coach of Oral Roberts University, spotted Starks playing intramural basketball and instantly wanted him for his basketball team at Oklahoma Junior College.
The next year, Starks received a scholarship to Oklahoma State University, where he played his last year of collegiate basketball, averaging 15.4 points per game.
Career in the NBA
The NBA Draft of 1988-89 passed without Starks being selected. He’d later sign with the Golden State Warriors, but he’d only see limited action behind Mitch Richmond, another rookie.
Starks was released by the Warriors a year later, and he ended up in the minor leagues.
Before getting his big break in 1990, Starks played for the Continental Basketball Association’s Cedar Rapids Silver Bullets and the World Basketball League’s Memphis Rockers.
Starks attempted a dunk on Patrick Ewing during a tryout with the New York Knicks, which culminated in Starks getting smashed to the ground.
Starks’ knee was twisted as a result of the fall. The Knicks intended to cut Starks after practice, but he hurt himself and had to be placed on the disabled list.
So Starks stuck in there and the Knicks ultimately gave him an opportunity to play when he was physically healthy.
During the 1990-91 season, Starks appeared in 61 games. He only played 19.2 minutes each game, yet he averaged 7.6 points.
But he was back in the NBA, this time in New York City, on the largest platform. His name will soon become well-known.
By the time the NBA playoffs rolled around in 1992-93, Starks’ name had made national headlines.
In the first round of the playoffs that year, the Knicks faced the Indiana Pacers. Reggie Miller, the Pacers’ guard, was getting on Starks’ nerves in game three.
Miller continued elbowing Starks, and when Starks sought intervention from a referee, he got the following response:
“I recall him striking me with ‘bows.’” I informed the referee that he had struck me with a ‘bow,’ and the referee responded, ‘Starks, shut up and play.’ ‘OK, I can handle this,’ I thought. I scored on him and went up the court, furious. I wanted to punch him in the face with my fist.”
Starks did not punch Miller in the face with his fist. Instead, he gave him a headbutt.
“We just came close, and BAM just tapped him like that,” Starks said of the headbutt. “He knows, he dramatic, Hollywood.”
Starks was still furious after the headbutt. Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley, two of his teammates, raced over to “scold” him.
Ewing and Oakley started punching Starks and shouting at him, attempting to calm him down.
They were well aware of how important it was for Starks to win, and they didn’t want him to be punished.
“‘If you ever lay your hands on my kid again…’ said my mother to Patrick.” According to Starks. “If he does it again, Ms. Starks, I’m going to do the same thing,” he replied.
Starks wouldn’t have to worry about his mother getting into a confrontation with his colleagues. In the following game, he controlled his emotions to help the Knicks defeat the Pacers, and then the Charlotte Hornets in the second round.
The Knicks have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. What was obstructing their progress? The Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.
The Knicks had home-court advantage in the game, and thanks to Starks’ 25 points, they would vault out to a 1-0 series lead. Then came game two.
The Knicks were thrashing the two-time reigning champion Bulls, and it seemed like the Knicks may even grab a 2-0 series lead.
If there’s one thing Michael Jordan is known for, it’s his refusal to give up. He took over and immediately got the Bulls back into the game.
The Knicks led 91-88 with less than a minute remaining in the game, and the ball was in Starks’ hands.
He dribbled along the court’s right side. Starks rushed toward the basket after driving past B.J. Armstrong, launching a massive left-handed slam in the face of Horace Grant, whose goggles fell off his eyes, while Michael Jordan sprang in vain.
Starks only had 12 points in the game, but he was instrumental in the Knicks’ 96-91 victory and, more crucially, their 2-0 series lead.
Starks and the Knicks were doing well, but things would alter later in the series.
The Bulls grabbed control, striking from all angles, and the Knicks were eliminated from the series. The Bulls won the series 4-2 and went on to win the NBA championship.
The next season, Starks was instrumental in leading the Knicks to the NBA Finals, where they faced the Houston Rockets.
The series was deadlocked 3-3 in game 7, with one game remaining to determine whether the champion or the first loser would be crowned. What was Starks’ reaction to the pressure? He had his poorest game of the season.
Starks finished with 8 points on 2-18 shooting, including 0-11 from beyond the arc.
The Knicks lost Game 7 90-84, and this was effectively the start of Starks’ career demise.
Starks’ job shifted from starter to role player in less than two years, and things went swimmingly at first.
Starks earned the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1996-97, but he was transferred out of New York and back to Golden State just two years later.
Starks was moved to his longtime arch-nemesis, the Chicago Bulls, after a good one and a half years with Golden State.
Starks would only play four games in Chicago before being dealt to the Utah Jazz, where he would finish his career.
At the age of 36, Starks chose to retire after the 2001-02 NBA season.
Starks’ career scoring average is just 12.5, but his dedication and never-say-die mentality epitomized what it means to live in New York City, and he’ll always be a Knicks fan favorite.
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John Starks was a fierce competitor that won the heart of New York City. He was born in Brooklyn and his family moved to Harlem when he was four years old. His mother died when he was nine and his father died when he was seventeen. John Starks went on to play for the New York Knicks, becoming one of their most successful players ever. Reference: what happened to john starks.
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