Friday, May 25, 2012
This Date in PTU History: The Dunk
I had a lot of posters on my childhood bedroom's wall as I'm sure you all did. One was a free poster of Greg Anthony in Reebok pumps and jeans that was given out at MSG his rookie season, another was Barry Bonds hitting a home run pre-steroids (my father is inexplicably still a Giants fan even though they abandoned him when he was 5). I also strangely had 2 Barkley posters even though I never even really liked him that much (one is a play on Phoenix entitled Desert Storm, get it? and the other is the awesome Godzilla vs Barkley poster), and one was Raphael, but the very best poster I had was The Dunk. All Knicks fans know what dunk I'm talking about. The pinnacle of John Starks' life. The coronation of Starks as bag boy turned basketball hero. The Knicks were ahead by 3 at the time, looking to put a stranglehold on the hated Bulls. Starks held the ball above the three point line on the ride side and waited for Ewing to come out and set a screen on the ever annoying BJ Armstrong and his mouth guard. The Knicks ran this play 75% of the time (their other play was dumping it directly to Ewing in the post) so of course the Bulls knew it was coming. Armstrong braced himself for the pick, but Starks seeing BJ's shift went away from the screen (something Kobe and Wade do a lot today) and drove baseline. Horace Grant and ex Knick Bill Cartwright went to meet Starks at the rim, but he exploded over them and threw it down with his off hand. The dunk has taken on a mythical quality, with most fans remembering it as bigger than it was. If you took an informal poll at the Village Pourhouse tonight of people in their late 20s or 30s who identify as Knicks fans you'd hear a lot of things that are less than true, such as: the Knicks were down by 1 and the dunk won the game, the dunk came at the buzzer or with less than 10 seconds left, the dunk happened in game 7, and the biggest lie that has been associated with The Dunk, it happened over Jordan. In reality, Jordan was barely in the play, but he happened to make his way into that poster that hung on my bedroom door so why not throw him in the story. It also made it easy for hacks like Lupica to write how "this wasn't just Starks dunking on one player, but the entire Bulls team and the entire state of Illinois, lifting our spirits and hearts, etc". A lot of times people say it seems like just yesterday but, shit, this really does feel like a hundred years ago.
The date was May 25th (today's date) 1993. Wu Tang had just released their first album, Jurassic Park would come out in two months , M@d $cientist was still in high school and the Knicks were 2 games up on the world champion Bulls. There wasn't any Facebook or Twitter back then (most people didn't even have computers yet) so the reaction was limited to phone calls to your friends and high fives in the cafeteria the next day. Most Garden historians and people who have been covering the Knicks for decades say it was the loudest the arena has ever been, and the only close second would be L.J.'s 4 point play. The ground literally shakes when 20,000 people all jump up and down at the same time. It must have been ridiculous to be there. We know what happened from there. The Bulls would win the next two games, including a 52 point game by Jordan on Memorial Day rebounding from 3 sub par games, Charles Smith would miss 4 shots from close range and the Knicks would never beat Jordan's Bulls or win a championship. Starks now works for the Knicks in some made up title like community relations guru or something, the Bulls would win another 4 titles and Jurassic Park made a ton of money. My poster didn't last the trip from my dorm room but Knicks fans will always remember the one day when we got one up on Jordan and the Bulls, John Starks was a hero and we were primed to win the first championship in 20 years. What fools we all were.
Enjoy your Memorial Day, everyone!