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“John Starks went from bagging groceries to dunking on Michael Jordan”: Knicks legend’s journey is one of the biggest inspirational stories in NBA history

Akash Murty

"From bagging groceries to dunking on Michael Jordan": John Starks' journey is one of the biggest inspirational stories in NBA history

From working part-time jobs to becoming one of New York Knicks’ most beloved players. John Starks has a story that can inspire generations.

One of the basketball’s most tenacious and emotional players, John Starks, was also one of the game’s most beloved players. Knicks fans were the loudest and toughest crowd to play against during the guard’s presence in the league along with Patrick Ewing.

Coming out of Oklahoma State, Starks went undrafted in 1988 but received a training camp invitation from the Golden State Warriors.

The guy whose adolescence was marked more by bagging groceries than playing basketball had suddenly found himself in the national basketball association.

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But it was short-lived, after playing just thirty-odd games averaging 4-points a game in 8-minutes off the bench he was cut from the squad at the end of his first season.

John Starks’ injury mishap led to another shot in the NBA

Starks was not going to back down that easy. After getting cut, he spent the next year-and-a-half in the Continental Basketball Association and the World Basketball League, there he caught the eye of Knicks scouts.

John never shied away from any challenge. In 1990 fall camp, the 6’5 guard tried to dunk on Knicks All-star center Patrick Ewing. But Ewing wasn’t going to have any of it.

The big man blocked his dunk attempt with such authority that Starks landed awkwardly on his knee and subsequently landed on the Knicks’ injured list with a sprained knee. That turned out to be the turning point of his career as he was going to be cut again if hadn’t injured himself.

Making the most out of his opportunity, Starks ended up playing 61 games in the 1990-91 season. He averaged 7.6 points per game. In the next two years, his average went up significantly, 13.9 points in 1991-92 and 17.5 points per game in 1992-93.

Becoming the fan favorite in New York and posterizing Michael Jordan

That second season was when Starks had his career highlight dunk on Michael Jordan and Horace Grant, two of the league’s best defenders at the time. The guard gained Knicks a lot of fans in the 90s.

Looking for their 3-peat the defending Champions found themselves trailing the New York Knicks in Eastern Conference Finals of 1993, and John Starks was the primary handler of that team. He was Knicks fans’ very own Isiah Thomas.

Although Knicks went on to lose the series to Bulls, Stark had left his impression all over the NBA. He made the All-Defensive team that season, followed by an All-Star appearance in the next, averaging a career-high 19-points, 5.9-assists, and 1.6-steals a game.

He also was NBA’s 6th man of the year in 1997 to round off one of the most celebrated careers in the New York Knicks’ franchise. His presence brought Knicks closest to the NBA title after the 70s.

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After winning every heart in New York, he played for a few other teams. He spent 13-years in the NBA, averaging 12.5-points, 3.6-assists, and 2.5-rebounds a game.

About the author

Akash Murty

Akash Murty


An Electrical and Electronics Engineer by degree, Akash Murty is an NBA Editor at The SportsRush. Previously a Software Engineer, Murty couldn’t keep himself away from sports, and his knack for writing and putting his opinion forward brought him to the TSR. A big Soccer enthusiast, his interest in basketball developed late, as he got access to a hoop for the first time at 17. Following this, he started watching basketball at the 2012 Olympics, which transitioned to NBA, and he became a fan of the game as he watched LeBron James dominate the league. Him being an avid learner of the game and ritually following the league for around a decade, he now writes articles ranging from throwbacks, and live game reports, to gossip. LA Lakers are his favourite basketball team, while Chelsea has his heart in football. He also likes travelling, reading fiction, and sometimes cooking.

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