You couldn’t have asked for a better player to root for as a young fan. Undersized, undervalued, jacking up threes every which way, jacking up Reggie Miller every which way…I mean, other than a Jordan-esque superstar, there’s just no better way to get a young kid excited about a team and the game of basketball.
The record books rightly remember Ewing over Starks. But if it had been up to Ewing to make an eight year-old me into a Knicks fan, I would’ve thought basketball was about dumping the ball to your biggest guy, watching him sweat on his defender for a few seconds, and then shoot free throws. Starks was just the opposite: he was supposed to be too small (like a little kid), one college he attended wouldn’t even let him on the team (kids love underdogs), he ran around the court like a maniac and was prone to bubbling over with intensity at just the right and wrong times (like a little- well, you get the idea). Starks wasn’t just a perfect tactical complement to Ewing; his game was a foil for Ewing’s, and in the process they showed me just about everything basketball could be.
As I got older, the more I learned about Starks just reinforced his on-court persona. Four colleges, undrafted, two years in the CBA, cut by the Warriors – the guy was simply not supposed to make the NBA. Hell, he coached slamball, for God’s sake. How much cooler can this guy’s story get?
Oh yeah, The Dunk. Now that’s an underdog story.