October 1st 1990: The New York Knicks sign John Starks
In one of the most important acquisitions of the 1990s, the New York Knicks signed John Starks as a camp invite for the 1990-91 season. Little did the Knicks front office – coach Stu Jackson and GM Al Bianchi – know that the 6’3 undersized shooting guard that jumped around various teams would become a pivotal player in team history.
To understand Starks’ legacy, it’s important to understand his comeup. Starks played basketball for three different colleges, including two community colleges, as he dealt with various off-court troubles that nearly derailed his NBA aspirations. Due to those infractions, Starks was undrafted coming out of the 1988 NBA Draft. However, the Golden State Warriors signed him to a undrafted rookie free agent contract.
Starks played sparingly (36 games) in his rookie campaign. An injury late in the season kept him sidelined for the remainder of the season and eventually ended his tenure with the team. Starks then spent two years playing in the Continental Basketball Association and the World Basketball League.
Meanwhile, the Knicks kept a close eye on Starks dating back to the summer of 1988. Then-GM Al Bianchi observed Starks during the 1988 Summer League in Los Angeles, but passed on signing him at the time. A couple years later, Bianchi sent team scout Dick McGuire to watch Starks again and McGuire passed along rave reviews.
Bianchi signed Starks to a training camp deal to hopefully catch lightning in a bottle. Little did the front office know that a roster technicality changed Starks’ NBA trajectory. Starks twisted his knee in practice after attempting to dunk on Patrick Ewing. According to NBA rules, the Knicks couldn’t release Starks until the injury healed by the end of December. The injury didn’t heal by December and Starks remained on the roster. Thank Patrick Ewing for that.
Starks played 61 games for the Knicks during the 1990-91 season and eventually became Pat Riley’s important players during the championship run of the 1990s. His defensive grit and offensive tenacity immediately turned him into a crowd favorite. The Dunk enshrined him into Garden Lore. His three point dexterity made him a rarity in the NBA. He is the all-time Knicks leader in three point field goals made (982) and was the first player to hit 200 threes in a regular season. His other career highlights included the 1993 NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team, 1994 NBA All Star selection, and the 1997 Sixth Man of the Year award.
Starks played with the Knicks for 8 returns before returning to the Warriors in the Latrell Sprewell trade shortly before the 1998-99 season. Starks retired in 2002, but continues to remain a part of the Knicks organization through the community relations and the fan alumni outreach programs.
Knicks Film School Historian, amongst other things