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John Levell Starks (born August 10, 1965 in Tulsa, Oklahoma) is an American former basketball player who gained fame while playing at shooting guard for the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association in the 1990s. Starks was listed at 6'5" during his NBA playing career.
Starks bagged groceries for several years before playing basketball for several community colleges. He finished his collegiate career at Oklahoma State University. Although he was passed over in the draft, Starks worked his way into the NBA after stints in the Continental Basketball Association and the World Basketball League. He was eventually signed by the Golden State Warriors in 1988, but left in 1990 to try out for the New York Knicks. In one practice, he tried to dunk on Knicks center Patrick Ewing. Ewing threw him down and Starks broke his arm. The team was not allowed to release him unless it healed by the end of December. When it didn't heal by that time, the Knicks could not release Starks, and thus kept him. As a result, Starks has on many occasions referred to Ewing as his saving grace. He eventually became the starting shooting guard, replacing Gerald Wilkins. Starks became a key player on the team and spent eight seasons in New York from 1990 to 1998. Starks was a participant in the 1992 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Starks was at the center of one of the most famous plays in Knick history. During a 1993 playoffs series 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 fiercely drove along the baseline and dunked over the much taller Horace Grant as well as Michael Jordan.
One of the low points of Starks' career came in the 1994 NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets. The Knicks had taken a 3-2 lead into Game 6, and in the last second, Starks had the chance to sink a three point shot that would have won the Series. His shot was blocked by Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon. In Game 7, Starks shot 2-for-18 from the field, contributing to the Knicks' loss to the Rockets.
In 1995, Knicks coach Pat Riley left the Knicks to go to the Miami Heat after a dispute with then-General Manager Dave Checketts. The Knicks later hired Don Nelson, resurrecting the tensions from Starks' first year in Golden State. However, Nelson was fired in the middle of his first season, and the Knicks replaced him with Assistant Coach Jeff Van Gundy. With the addition of Allan Houston in 1996, Starks became a mentor as Houston took his spot in the starting lineup. Starks continued to be a steady contributor off the bench that season, and in 1997, he received the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award. Two years later, Starks was traded back to the Warriors, along with Chris Mills and Terry Cummings, for Latrell Sprewell.
After his stint at Golden State, Starks played for the Bulls and Utah Jazz before retiring in 2002 with 10,829 career points. He currently works as an alumni and fan development official for the Knicks. In addition, he serves as a pre-and-post-game analyst on MSG Network’s home Knicks game coverage. His autobiography John Starks: My Life was released in 2004.
Starks' fiery intensity often led to emotional displays while on the court. Reggie Miller, star shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers, was often a provocateur and target of his ire.
Starks ranks 20th all-time in league career three-point field goals made, and is the Knicks' all-time leader in that category. He made 217 during the 1994-95 NBA season, breaking Louie Dampier's single-season professional (NBA or ABA) record of 199 during the 1968-69 ABA season. Dennis Scott broke Starks' record a year later with 267; it now belongs to Ray Allen, who made 269 during the 2005-06 NBA season.
<stats> Player=John Starks Sport=NBA </stats>