John Starks: ‘I would have done very well in today’s game’

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·8 min read
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Former NBA legend John Starks has an upcoming documentary about his life. ‘Keep Shooting’ will premiere at the second annual Orlando International Film Festival on Tuesday, May 25, which is by no coincidence the 28th anniversary of The Dunk. The former NBA All-Star sat down with HoopsHype to discuss the film, his glory days as a Knick, his battles with Reggie Miller, guarding a young Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle and more.

Click here to buy your ticket and unlock a virtual screening of the ‘Keep Shooting: The John Starks Story’ documentary at the Orlando International Film Festival.

Please walk us through the process of filming the documentary.

John Starks: We started this doc probably about, roughly about 10 or 11 years ago in 2010, and just kind of born out of a meeting producer Leigh Simons had over lunch with a good friend of his who was battling cancer at the time, and Leigh had expressed to me that he read my book, 'John Starks: My Life', he really loved the story and I knew that Leigh was involved in films so he thought it would be a good project for him to do. He wanted to start with a documentary and we finally decided on it just after another meeting and a couple of days later. That's kind of how quickly it happened.

You returned to Summit arena in Houston. What did you learn from the experience of going there after all these years?

(Allsport/ALLSPORT)

JS: Whenever you go back to the scene of the crime, you just figure that 'Hey, you have moved on past it.' When I got there just kind of brought back a lot of memories of what happened within that arena. The beautiful thing about it is that it was transformed into a church by the great Joel Osteen, and to be able to have him and be a part of the documentary was incredible. Being a pastor, he always has a great take on experiences like that and things that you have to do in order to get past it. And so it was really cathartic for me to just kind of be in his presence and listen to him talk about it. It really helped me deal with that moment right then and there. It was nice to be able to get back in that arena and just kind of relive those moments.

There was an NBA radio show in Spain named '2 of 18', an example of your legacy across the world in the 90's.

JS: Oh, man... This is amazing. As a player, you're so consumed with your career and you're not really thinking about the impact that you have out there in the world. You feel it a little bit more here in the United States but around the world, you really don't get a chance to feel that impact, until I started traveling. Going on personal appearances throughout Europe and Asia you truly understand the impact that you have on people and is a profound statement to know that you have affected people's lives and you uplifted people and you changed people and how they feel about themselves, because they understand your journey, and they understand what you had to go through and they can kind of see themselves in you, and that makes a big difference with me, knowing that I have that reach that I can truly impact lives like that.

Everybody knows about The Dunk, but what is the second-best dunk you had?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIKkah_VUro JS: I would say the dunk I had on Mark West during the regular season. It was a play where I went baseline and he was up underneath the rim, and you know West is like 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11 and 270 or 280 pounds. And I just went over the top of him. That's like the best feeling as a guard, to slam it down like that.

Can you imagine yourself playing in today's NBA?

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

JS: It's great that you bring that question up. Yeah, I definitely could imagine myself doing very well in this league. Back then, the three-point line was more like a knockout punch so to speak. It really wasn't that emphasized on the game like it is now. Because of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, especially for Steph, it has become more of a weapon within today's game, because everybody's shooting from point guards to centers. I know that I would have done very well in today's game because coaches don't frown on you for shooting the three on a one-on-five fast break. In my days, if I did something like that, with Pat Riley as my coach, he probably would have put me out of the game [laughs]. It's great to see how the game has evolved. We had big guys in the low post game at that time, every team had seven-footers and shot blockers at the rim. You just don't have that nowadays so it is easier to get in the lane and getting layups, it's easier to come out of pick and rolls. The game has evolved into a more offensive style. Score as many points as you can, see if the other teams can keep up.

Can you name your all-time Knicks starting five?

(Chris Bernacchi/AFP via Getty Images)

JS: Well, I would come off the bench, because there are so many great players in Knicks history. I'd choose obviously Clyde [Walt Frazier], Earl [Monroe], Bernard King, Patrick [Ewing]... And I would have to put my man Oak [Charles Oakley] in there.

You played 56 games versus Reggie Miller, including one headbutt. Was Miller your nemesis?

(Lou Capozzola/NBAE via Getty Images)

JS: Reggie was definitely one of those guys that I had to pay a lot of attention to. Obviously, he's a Hall of Famer and a great player. He could shoot the ball, was one of the best at it. He was one of those guys who would try to get under your skin on the court. So I had to learn over the years how to deal with that... And I dealt it with the headbutt [laughs]. But after that, me and Reggie didn't have any more issues for the rest of our careers.

You played 14 games against Kobe Bryant. What did you think of him, back in those early years of his career?

JS: He came into this league with a lot of confidence. That surprised me the most, being 18 years old and he felt like he belonged right away. Obviously, he looked up to Michael and patterned his whole mentality and game after Jordan, which has been well documented. But I was impressed with his intelligence out there in the court being such a young player. You could tell he was a student of the game, knew the history of the game. And I think that's what made him so special as a player, he went out there and say 'You know what? I want to compare myself to the greats.' So he looked at obviously the best of the game at that time, Michael Jordan, and he went there every single day trying to duplicate MJ. More than anybody he was the one who came as close to MJ in my book to surpass him but quite couldn't get there because Michael is a different animal. But I respected that in Kobe.

Can the Knicks build a championship team around Julius Randle?

Julius Randle, New York Knicks
Julius Randle, New York Knicks

(Sarah Stier/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports)

JS: Of course, no question. He's proven that he can lead a team to the playoffs from an offensive and defensive standpoint. What I loved about him coming into this year is that he transformed his body and his conditioning is a lot better. And that's due to coach Tom Thibodeau. You have to give him a lot of credit, I'm pretty sure he had many discussions with Julius coming into the season about what he needed to do in order to lead this team. He's been truly a leader throughout the year and the team has followed his lead. They've been able to grab the fourth seed and that says a lot about him. We're excited to have playoff basketball finally back at the Garden. It's been too many years without it. It is a fun time in New York right now.

What's your prediction against the Atlanta Hawks?

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

JS: I hope Knicks in four! [Laughs] We want to get this over with as soon as possible, but we know Atlanta is a very well-coached team by Nate McMillan. We have to be ready to live up to that challenge they have a solid young team with Trae Young leading the charge for them. I'm thankful that we have guys that have been in the playoffs: Nerlens Noel, Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose... Those guys right they're veterans and so they can help the young guys understand the type of mentality you have to have when the playoffs start. Click here to buy your ticket and unlock a virtual screening of the 'Keep Shooting: The John Starks Story' documentary at the Orlando International Film Festival.

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