John Starks (basketball)

John Starks

Starks at Madison Square Garden in 2013
Personal information
Born (1965-08-10) August 10, 1965
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Listed weight 180 lb (82 kg)
Career information
High school Central (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
NBA draft 1988 / Undrafted
Playing career 1988–2002
Position Shooting guard
Number 30, 3, 9
Career history
1988–1989 Golden State Warriors
1989–1990 Cedar Rapids Silver Bullets (CBA)
1990 Memphis Rockers (WBL)
19901998 New York Knicks
19992000 Golden State Warriors
2000 Chicago Bulls
20002002 Utah Jazz
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points 10,829 (12.5 ppg)
Rebounds 2,129 (2.5 rpg)
Assists 3,085 (3.6 apg)
Stats at

John Levell Starks (born August 10, 1965) is an American retired professional basketball shooting guard. Starks was listed at 6'3" and 190 pounds[1] during his NBA playing career. Although he was not drafted in the 1988 NBA draft after attending four colleges in his native Oklahoma, including Oklahoma State University, he gained fame while playing for the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association in the 1990s.

Early life

Starks was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he attended Tulsa Central High School.[2] At Tulsa Central, Starks played only one year on the basketball team.[3] After high school, he enrolled at Rogers State College in 1984. While at Rogers State, Starks was on the "taxi squad" of the basketball team for backups to replace injured or suspended players; taxi squad players did not suit up and instead watched games from the stands. However, Starks was expelled from Rogers State for stealing another student's stereo equipment in retaliation for the student breaking into Starks' dorm room and the college holding him and his roommates financially responsible for the damage.[4] Starks transferred to Northern Oklahoma College in spring 1985, made the basketball team there, and was sentenced to five days in jail for the robbery. He served the sentence during spring break.[5] In the fall of 1985, Starks averaged 11 points per game with Northern Oklahoma but left the college after being caught in his dorm smoking cannabis.[6] Having worked at a Safeway supermarket, Starks enrolled at Tulsa Junior College in the summer of 1986 to pursue a business degree.[7] While playing intramural basketball, he came to the attention of Ken Trickey, the former coach of Oral Roberts University who was then starting a basketball program for Oklahoma Junior College. Starks played there for a season, then earned a scholarship at Oklahoma State University in 1988, where he finished his collegiate career.[3][8]


Golden State Warriors

Starks in 1996 with the New York Knicks

Although he was passed over in the 1988 NBA draft, Starks signed with the Golden State Warriors in September 1988 as a free agent. However, as the Warriors had drafted fellow shooting guard Mitch Richmond with the fifth overall pick that year, Starks played limited minutes in only 36 games while Richmond won Rookie of the Year. Starks was cut following the end of the season.

Other Leagues

He played stints in the Continental Basketball Association (Cedar Rapids Silver Bullets, 1989–90) and World Basketball League (Memphis Rockers, 1990–91).[3]

New York Knicks

Starks was able to work his way back into the NBA. In 1990, he tried out for the New York Knicks. In one practice, he tried to dunk on Knicks center Patrick Ewing. Ewing threw him down and Starks twisted his knee. The team was not allowed to release him unless it healed by the end of December. When it did not heal by that time, the Knicks could not release him.[9] As a result, Starks has referred to Ewing as his saving grace. He eventually became the starting shooting guard, becoming a key player on the team and playing 8 seasons in New York from 1990–98. Starks was a posterchild for their physical play during that era, along with teammates Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley. He was a participant in the 1992 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

Starks was at the center of one of the most famous plays in Knicks history, which has now become known simply as "The Dunk". In Game 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals against the Chicago Bulls, Starks was in the right corner of the court being closely guarded by B.J. Armstrong. Ewing came to set a screen for Starks, who faked to the left like he was going to use the pick, and then drove along the baseline and dunked over Horace Grant and Michael Jordan with his left hand.[10][11]

One of the low points of Starks' career came in the 1994 NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets. In the closing seconds of Game 3 and the Knicks trailing by 3, Starks was fouled by Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon while attempting a 3. At the time, the NBA allowed only 2 free throws during a foul on a 3-pointer. Starks made both, but Houston won 93–89 (the league would change the rule to allow 3 free throws the next season). Starks and the Knicks then watched[12] their home court host the New York Rangers' first Stanley Cup celebration in 54 years, with their 3–2 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. It served as an inspiration[12] for the Knicks to recover to take a 3–2 series lead going into Game 6. However, in the final seconds of Game 6, Olajuwon blocked Starks' last-second 3-point attempt to give Houston an 86–84 victory. In Game 7, Starks had one of the worst games of his career, shooting 2-for-18 from the field, including 0-for-10 in the fourth quarter. The Rockets went on to win the game and the championship, denying New York from having both NBA and NHL championships in the same year.

In 1995, Pat Riley left the Knicks to go to the Miami Heat after a dispute with then General Manager Dave Checketts. The Knicks hired Don Nelson, bringing back the tensions from Stark's first season in Golden State. Nelson started Hubert Davis over Starks. Nelson was eventually fired mid-season, and the Knicks replaced him with Jeff Van Gundy. In 1996 Allan Houston took Starks' starting spot. Starks was a steady contributor off the bench and won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 1997.

Return to Golden State

A couple of years later, Starks was traded back to his original team, the Golden State Warriors.

Chicago Bulls

After his second stint with the Warriors, Starks played for the Chicago Bulls.

Utah Jazz

Starks finished his career with the Utah Jazz.

Later career and retirement

After his stint with Golden State, Starks played for the Bulls and Utah Jazz before failing to make an NBA team in 2002 and retiring with 10,829 career points. He currently works for the Knicks as an alumnus and fan development official, and as a pre-and-post-game analyst on MSG Network's home Knicks game coverage. He has also served as the head coach of the Maulers, a Slamball team. His autobiography, John Starks: My Life, was published in 2004.

Starks is part-owner and a promoter for the Ektio basketball shoe, which doctor and former college basketball player Barry Katz designed to reduce ankle injuries.[13][14]

Slamball coaching record

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
WonLostWin %Finish Won Lost Result
Maulers200857.4175th Did not qualify
Total57.417--- -


His fierce tenacity, desire to win, and plays like "The Dunk", made Starks into a great crowd favorite in New York.[10] Starks's fiery intensity often led to emotional displays on the court. Reggie Miller, star shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers, was often a provocateur and target of his ire; during game three of the 1993 NBA Playoffs, Starks was ejected for headbutting Miller.

Starks is the Knicks' all-time leader in three point field goals (982).[15] He was the first player in NBA history to make 200 three-pointers in one season; his 217 during the 1994–95 NBA season broke Louie Dampier's single-season professional (NBA or ABA) record of 199 during the 1968–69 ABA season. Dennis Scott broke Starks's record a year later with 267; it now belongs to Stephen Curry.

Personal life

Starks' mother was one-quarter Muscogee.[16] On December 13, 1986, John Starks married his wife Jackie.[17] Their son John Jr. was born in 1987,[18] and they have two daughters, Chelsea and Tiara Starks.[3]

NBA statistics

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high

Regular season

1988–1989 Golden State 36 0 8.8 .408 .385 .654 1.1 .8 .6 .1 4.1
1990–1991 New York 61 10 19.2 .439 .290 .752 2.1 3.3 1.0 .3 7.6
1991–1992 New York 82 0 25.8 .449 .348 .778 2.3 3.4 1.3 .2 13.9
1992–1993 New York 80 51 31.0 .428 .321 .795 2.6 5.1 1.1 .2 17.5
1993–1994 New York 59 54 34.9 .420 .335 .754 3.1 5.9 1.6 .1 19.0
1994–1995 New York 80 78 34.1 .395 .355 .737 2.7 5.1 1.2 .1 15.3
1995–1996 New York 81 71 30.8 .443 .361 .753 2.9 3.9 1.3 .1 12.6
1996–1997 New York 77 1 26.5 .431 .369 .769 2.7 2.8 1.2 .1 13.8
1997–1998 New York 82 10 26.7 .393 .327 .787 2.8 2.7 1.0 .1 12.9
1998–1999 Golden State 50 50 33.7 .370 .290 .740 3.3 4.7 1.4 .1 13.8
1999–2000 Golden State 33 30 33.6 .378 .348 .833 2.8 5.2 1.1 .1 14.7
1999–2000 Chicago 4 0 20.5 .324 .300 1.000 2.5 2.8 1.3 .3 7.5
2000–2001 Utah 75 64 28.3 .398 .352 .802 2.1 2.4 1.0 .1 9.3
2001–2002 Utah 66 1 14.1 .368 .305 .805 1.0 1.1 1.0 .0 4.4
Career 866 420 27.2 .412 .340 .769 2.5 3.6 1.1 .1 12.9

See also

Further reading


  1. playerfile at the Wayback Machine (archived December 19, 2007)
  2. "Thursday a big day for Central", Tulsa World, September 23, 2001.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "John Starks biography". NBA. Archived from the original on January 31, 2009.
  4. Starks 2004, pp. 39–40
  5. Starks 2004, pp. 41–42
  6. Starks 2004, pp. 43–44
  7. Starks 2004, pp. 46–49
  8. Starks 2004, pp. 55–61
  9. Off the Bench, Out of Purgatory; John Starks
  10. 1 2 Mike Wise, "Hard Way Is Starks's Way; Crowd Favorite Returning to the Garden", New York Times, December 7, 1999.
  11. "Five Great Dunks". Inside Stuff. NBA. December 29, 2004. Archived from the original on December 31, 2004.
  12. 1 2 Boeck, Greg (June 17, 1994). "Knicks Motivated by Rangers' Title". USA Today. p. 09C.
  13. Van Riper, Tom (September 28, 2010). "John Starks Pitching New Shoe". Forbes. Retrieved August 20, 2011.
  14. Pesca, Mike (August 15, 2011). "Basketball Shoes May Reduce Ankle Injuries". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. Retrieved August 20, 2011.
  15. New York Knickerbockers Career Leaders
  16. Starks 2004, p. 28
  17. Starks 2004, p. 58
  18. Starks 2004, p. 70
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