Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Got Heart Like John Starks

If you grew up a New York Knicks fan in the 1990s, the chances are John Starks had a hand in helping your passion for the game of basketball grow steadily.

The gritty and tenacious off guard's hard-hitting style was emblematic of the rough-and-tumble, basketbrawl Knicks of the 1990s.

A hard-driving guard known for 3-point shooting and his patented switch-handed dunks in traffic, Starks played with an unbridled streetball-esque savvy which won over the Garden.

A classic case of a "man of the people" professional, Starks held a caliber of high character that seems damn near impossible to find in our current day.

Starks lived in a rented Stamford, Conn. house, drove a far from flashy car, and developed an unbreakable bond with the world's most alert, emotional and ultra-passionate fan base.

Starks' ferocious competitive nature was ingrained in him by his older brothers.

Anyone who understood the true nature of Starks' game knew he never backed down from a challenge no matter the aggressor or what was at stake.

His list of on-court adversaries is endless: Micheal Jordan. Reggie Miller. Horace Grant. Dennis Rodman.

Very few could leave the high-strung and pesky defender rattled.

Starks, on the short list of players to play on both a CBA team and an NBA All-Star team (1994), is the lead character of a story as unprecedented as it is unheard of.

Several years after working as a Safeway Clerk in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Starks found his way to the Knicks roster merely by accident.

 In his first-ever meaningful minutes with the Knicks, he guarded Jordan.

Built with resilience and an engine of perseverance, Starks authored a memorable one-year stay at Oklahoma State and made the league undrafte. This is despite minimal high school basketball experience.

Thriving in Oklahoma area street tournaments and bouncing from one obscure in-state JUCO to another, Starks took the less-traveled route to the NBA fame and prosperity.

From bagging groceries to bagging three-pointers on the world's biggest basketball stage, few can simulate Starks' unlikely journey.

A mercurial scorer with a habit of shooting himself into rough situations and somehow circumventing a funk and managing to shoot his way out of it, Starks was buoyed by a heart that pumped monstrous in-game fire.

His selflessness and charisma off the court catapulted him to the upper crust of New York's most admired and imitable athletes.

This signed item was purchased in the spring of 1996, smack in the center of his apex as a Knick.

Leaders don't create followers, leaders only create more leaders.