John Starks Sparks Staples Ballers

John Starks retired from the NBA in 2002. That’s several years before even the oldest current Staples High School basketball player was born.

But every fan knows of the former New York Knick’s legendary dunk — against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, no less — in the 1993 Eastern Conference finals.

So it was quite an event this past week, when Starks spent an afternoon with the Wreckers’ boys basketball team.

Starks — who still tops the Knicks’ list of 3-point scorers — came to Westport through Brett Tessler.

A 2008 Staples graduate, he started on the varsity basketball team as a sophomore. After a couple of years at the IMG Academy in Florida, he played at Union College. He’s now the Knicks’ director of fan engagement and youth programs.

Tessler is again a Westport resident. When he learned of the exciting season the Wreckers are having he reached out to head coach Dave Goldshore, and offered to help.

Starks spoke to the varsity, junior varsity and freshman squads. He described his route from college taxi squad to the pros; the life of an NBA player, and what it’s like to be a blue-collar, undersized guard defending against Michael Jordan.

(A Staples player asked about his second-toughest opponent. The answer: Clyde Drexler.)

John Starks talks with Staples basketball players.

Starks also answered questions about Knick coach Pat Riley’s practices, his closest friend on the team (Patrick Ewing), and more.

Life was not always easy. Once — in the 1994 NBA finals against Houston — he connected just twice, on 18 shots. He talked about that too, and how he handled nights like those.

The Staples boys basketball team is having one of their best seasons ever. They’re talented, tough and tight. Westporters pack the bleachers, drawn by their skill and spirit.

They’re legitimate contenders for an FCIAC — even a state — championship.

Of course, it’s far from a slam dunk.

But the man who made one of the most famous dunks in history just gave them a big shot.

John Starks (center) with Staples varsity, junior varsity and freshman players. Head coach Dave Goldshore is standing, 2nd from left.

5 responses to “John Starks Sparks Staples Ballers

  1. Sharon (Sherry) Hauser

    Do you never sleep?

  2. When I think of 3 pointers, I think of Jerry Lucas. He also was co- author of The Memory Book, a must read if you’re interested in memorizing the first thousand pages of the New York phone book, like Lucas did. The only reason Lucas doesn’t have the record is because he made many of his 3 pointers before the rule change, so technically, they weren’t 3-pointers. Leave it to me to distract from the posting, but I’m sure everyone appreciated John Starks’s visit!

    • Jack: if the Knick players of that era had grown up with the 3-point line, I am pretty sure a number of them would have excelled at that (precisely because they were excellent outside shooters).

      Re The Dunk: what made it even more amazing, if possible, is that Starks did it with his off hand.

      And Brett: you have my dream job! (other than being starting point guard for the team).

  3. Brian J. Taylor

    Great story, I remember in 1969 Calvin Murphy coming to Saugatuck elementary school. He was at Niagara at the time.
    It was great to see a future Hall of Famer.

  4. What a special experience for all!

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