2nd Team SG: John Starks

  • Stats from 1990 to 1998:  
  • 14.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.2 STL 

Many would argue that shooting guard Allan Houston deserves to be the first guard off the bench for an all-time Knicks team.  Same could even be stated for Dick Barnett, a major offensive piece for Holzman’s Knicks in the ’70s, and Richie Guerin, a Hall of Fame Knickerbocker and six-time NBA All-Star in the 50’s and ’60s who once averaged 29.5 points per game in the 1961-1962 season, but only made the postseason twice in his eight seasons in New York (shockingly, both Barnett and Guerin do not feature on this list, a tough decision that demonstrates how deep the Knicks were in the backcourt across their history).

Statistically, they are not wrong.

But John Starks was the absolute, unquestioned heart and soul of the Pat Riley/Jeff Van Gundy era Knicks, a player who personified determination in bouncing around from three community colleges, to playing for the Golden State Warriors, after going undrafted in 1988, toiling around in the CBA (with Cedar Rapids Silver Bullets) and the WBL (with the Memphis Rockers), before landing with the Knicks in 1990.

An NBA All-Star (1994), NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection (1993), and NBA Sixth Man of the Year (1997) with the Knicks, Starks was often the Knicks’ spark plug for the team on offense and defense, thrusting the Knicks to a 2-0 series lead in the 1992-93 Eastern Conference Finals with arguably the greatest play in Knicks’ history:  “The Dunk” over Michael Jordan and Horace Grant along the baseline in Game 2 of the series.  Had it not been for another series of moments–Charles Smith getting rejected four consecutive times in the closing moments of Game 5 with the Knicks looking to take a 3-2 series lead–that Starks flush would have been revered as the impetus of Patrick Ewing’s Knicks finally beating a Michael Jordan-lead Bulls team.

Alas, “almost” only figures in horseshoes and hand grenades.

[su_youtube_advanced url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCTfxOrX4k8″]

Undoubtedly, Starks was a hothead who often let the likes of Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan get inside his head.  In fact, Starks would get ejected from a playoff game after head-butting Miller square in the chest in the heat of a rather tense moment instigated by the Pacer guard and arch nemesis of Spike Lee’s.

Without question, there was not a shot that Starks did not like, a mentality that literally hurled the Knicks out of contention in Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals, on a night when he shot 2-for-18 from the field, including 0-for-10 in the fourth quarter.

Ever the streaky and volume shooter, Starks is the Knicks’ all-time leader in three point field goals made with 982.  In the 1994-95 season, Starks broke a single-season record for three-pointers made, making 217 in that year, on an unearthly 617 attempts (the record has since been bested by Dennis Scott, with 267 in 1995-96, and Stephen Curry, with 272 in 2012-13).

While many recall Starks’s abysmal shooting performance in Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals, many subsequently forget what he did in Game 6:  with 27 points to his name and the Knicks down two in the game’s closing seconds, Starks hoisted a three (he was scorching 5-of-8 from behind the arc prior to the shot) that just met the tips of Hakeem Olajuwon’s outstretched fingers.  Although his attempt at a game-winner went awry, Starks was mere centimeters away from potentially being a hero (he would have won a title for the Knicks for the first time in 21 years), but is instead remembered as the scapegoat of Game 7.

Regardless, Starks is often favored by many as the mark of perseverance that kept the Knicks chugging along for the better part of a decade.

I am an English teacher, music and film aficionado, husband, father of two delightful boys, writer, sports fanatic, former Long Islander, and follower of Christ. Based on my Long Island upbringing, I was groomed as a Yankees, Giants, Rangers, and Knicks fan, and picked up Duke basketball, Notre Dame football, and Tottenham Hotspur football fandom along the way.