New York Knicks: John Starks, Shooting Guard (1990-98)
John Starks was not your prototypical free-agent signing for the New York Knicks. He was undrafted coming out of Oklahoma State when the Golden State Warriors gave him a shot, only to cut him loose after his rookie season.
He wound up in smaller leagues around the country for a year before landing back in the states via the Knicks, who appreciated his grit and tenacity. What followed in the years after is something nobody expected, probably not even Starks himself.
The franchise had already been reinvigorated with Patrick Ewing’s presence, but it was the undrafted guy out of Oklahoma State who gave them a little something extra.
The Knicks of the 1990s were built on a physical brand of defense, where they invaded personal space and bumped the opposition off their way. Starks’ mindset played perfectly into the fold, as shown by the way he guarded greats such as Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller, constantly at a war of words, while picking fights at least once a game.
He shot 34.5 percent from the 3-point line on his way to 14.1 points and 4.0 assists per game across eight seasons with the Knicks. His two-way play helped continue New York’s playoff streak and would play a large role in their appearance in the 1994 NBA Finals.
Unfortunately for both Starks and the Knicks, an ill-timed cold-spell had him shoot just 2-of-18 in a Game 7 matchup with the Houston Rockets, ultimately resulting in their demise.
Like so many of his 1990s teammates, Starks is not beloved in New York for his statistical greatness or hardware, but rather for his style of play that resonated with people all across the city.
He helped elevate the Knicks to title-contender status and filled the hearts of fans everywhere with countless memories. Not too bad for a player who had to leave the NBA in order to perform at his best upon returning.