Super Starks: The Story and Legacy of John Starks

Michael AkelsonCorrespondent IMay 9, 2010

If you look up the word overachiever in the dictionary, chances are a picture of John Starks won't be too far away.

He was never supposed to amount to anything on the hardwood.

During the 1988 NBA Draft, 25 teams passed Starks up on three occasions each. He went undrafted.

He couldn't squeeze his way on to an NBA roster, but he didn't give up. He continued to play in the independent leagues, until he forced his way on to the Golden State Warriors.

Starks played one season in Golden State, but he was unhappy with his playing time. So he packed his bags, and took off to tryout for the New York Knicks.

His chances of making the team were small, but his heart was quite the opposite.

During a practice, Starks (standing at 6'3") attempted the impossible, he attempted to something that Michael Jordan would think twice about, he attempted something that only a minority of NBA players could do.

He attempted to dunk on Patrick Ewing.

As you might have guessed, this didn't go over very well with Ewing, who slammed Starks to the hardwood and made sure it would never happen again.

When Ewing pulverized Starks, he created a legend, he just didn't know it.

Because when Patrick Ewing and his 7 foot, 240 frame met John Starks and his 6'3", 180 pound frame, Starks twisted his knee.

According to NBA rules, an injured player can not be cut from his team, so when John Starks' injury didn't heal by December the Knicks were forced to keep him on the roster.

This is where Starks' story starts, but not where it ends.

Impressed with his work ethic the Knicks started to show Starks around 20 minutes per game once he returned from injury.

As seasons passed, John Starks minutes began to increase, and so did his love affair with New York Knicks fans.

Starks worked and worked to get into the NBA, and he wasn't about to let his opportunity go unnoticed.

He showed more heart, will, desire, and passion than any player in recent NBA memory, and Knicks fans loved him for it.

New York was a city of hard work where nothing came easy, Starks was a man who worked hard, and nothing came easy for him.

They were a match made in heaven.

Starks was also known throughout the NBA as one of the leagues toughest players, which was the foundation for the Knicks "we take crap from nobody" reputation back in the '90s.

However, there were times when John Starks proved to be a little bit to short-tempered for his own good.

When John Starks head-butted Reggie Miller back in the 1993 NBA playoffs he may have sent a message to the entire NBA that John Starks takes crap from nobody, but he was ejected in the process.

The Knicks went on to lose that game.

However, despite everything that Starks went through in his life, his NBA career can be summed up in just two games: Game Seven of the 1994 NBA Finals, and Game Two of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals.

The former was his all-time low, while the latter was his all-time high.

Basketball fans everywhere debate these two moments when attempting to shape the legacy of John Starks.

Game Seven of the 1994 NBA Finals was John Starks' worst career moment. He shot just 2-20 from the field in a game that could have made the Knicks ring-less run of the '90s ring-less no longer.

Game Two of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals was John Starks' greatest career moment, when he went airborne and dunked over Horace Grant and some guy named Michael Jordan to put the Knicks ahead in the closing moments of that game.

No matter what side of the John Starks spectrum you stand on, one thing is for certain: He deserves your respect.

John Starks' legacy as an NBA player is a debatable one, but to NBA fans of the 1990s it can be summed up in just four words: tough, dedicated, heartful, SOB. Whether you call him a choke artist or a hero, we can all agree on that.


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