Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Happy Birthday, John Starks; We Love/Hate you
Today is grocery worker turned Knicks hero/goat John Starks' 46th birthday. The majority of people in the world (outside of the tri-state) are probably indifferent to Starks, but only remember two things about him: his dunk against the Bulls and his terrible game 7 of the NBA Finals. That's really all you need to know about Starks, actually. That, and he was basically a loser who couldn't crack an NBA lineup to save his life, drifting from rinky dink basketball leagues like the CBA and various training camps to eventually the ever popular "grocery bagger" storyline. He was basically Kurt Warner without the talent, wife with the lesbian haircut and of course, the championship ring.
Most Knicks fans have a love/hate relationship with number 3 or they just hate him. A lot of New Yorkers, like my brother and M@d $cientist, listed John as their favorite Knicks for years. We always heard about how he embodied everything that New Yorkers stood for. He was tough, wouldn't back down from anyone (he fought with Jordan and literally butted heads with the hated Reggie Miller) and made up for what he lacked in talent with hard work and grit. Most New York area basketball people will tell you that the Knicks fans will put up with losing as long as you work hard doing it. Lazy bums like the Knicks pre Amare and Carmelo were examples of the opposite type of player; the guy who collected a huge check but didn't earn it on the court, and Knicks fans showed their anger. Starks never had anything handed to him and worked his way to eventually being an all-star one season, the year after his shining moment in game 2 against the Bulls (I still have the poster of "the Dunk" somewhere in my parents' house). But, at the same time, Starks was an example of the type of guy who could make you scream and hurl Snapple bottles at the tv screen. Hot headed and impulsive, he'd sometimes ruin games with his temper (check out Ewing and Oakley's reactions to the Miller head butt if you can find video of it) or his relentless three point gunning. If he felt shown up by another player or he made a couple threes, you knew that the ball was going up every time it touched his hands, for better or worse. He also fed off his own bottled up energy so much, that he would sometimes psych himself out of games. Case in point: the Game 6 against Miami in 1997 that took place after half of the Knicks team was suspended for wandering off the bench, John was so jacked up off the energy of the crowd and all the hoopla, he dribbled the ball off his foot the first two times he touched the ball. This is probably what happened in game 7, and frankly, the guy deserves some hate for it. Whatever being clutch means or if it exists, we can all agree that being calm under pressure is something that all great players needed and John just didn't have it. It's unfair to expect a guy from Oklahoma who worked at the local Safeway to be the Pippen to Ewing's Jordan, but most Knicks fans would have settled for a Steve Kerr at least.
So, if you clicked on PTU today and saw that ridiculous Slam cover (sorry if I overuse the Slam covers, but there just so god damn awesome) you either said "That son of a bitch Starks! I'll never forgive him!" or said "It's Starks birthday? Who cares?"...wait, let me start over. You probably don't care either way about Starks's birthday but you most likely feel one of two ways about the guy: he's the biggest asshole ever, who ruined your youth and if he could have shot 30% in the biggest game of his life, the Knicks would have a championship in your lifetime, or you remember him as a hero of your childhood who overcame the odds and provided a great memory and poster for your bedroom. Either way, the guy is now a Knicks lifer (he works some made-up job title for the Knicks now) and we wish him a happy 46th.
Seriously, though, 2 FOR 18?!?!?!?