Fans old enough to have watched the great New York Knicks teams of the 1990s surely have not forgotten "The Dunk." The famed John Starks lefthanded slam against the Chicago Bulls during the 1993 Eastern Conference final became unforgettable thanks to a photo of the moment that appears to show the longtime Knicks guard dunking on both the legendary Michael Jordan and Chicago forward Horace Grant.
Larry Johnson, later a teammate of Starks but at the time playing for the Charlotte Hornets, laughs off that selective memory. The former Knicks forward points out that His Airness was just in the vicinity of the play in an effort to provide help defense.
“Everybody’s talking about when John Starks dunked on Michael Jordan — that didn’t happen," Johnson, who now works for the Knicks as a basketball and business operations representative, said last Thursday while promoting the new MSG All Access Tour at the World’s Most Famous Arena. "It wasn’t on Michael Jordan. It was on Horace Grant. He dunked dead-on Horace Grant."
Regardless of Jordan’s placement in the play, "The Dunk" was a microcosm of the tenacious attitude that made Starks a fan favorite during his Knicks tenure, from 1990 to 1998. The team reached the playoffs every year with Starks, and he thinks this year’s roster has several players capable of reaching his fan-favorite status.
“I think we got a few of them,” said Starks, who works as the Knicks’ director of alumni relations. "The team itself is going to be embraced by the fans because they’re going to be tough-minded, hard-nosed, scrappy players."
The Knicks finished last season with the worst record in the NBA (17-65) and haven’t qualified for the postseason since 2013. This offseason saw them bring in a quartet of proven power forwards, including 24-year-old Julius Randle. He averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds for the New Orleans Pelicans last season.
Another fun player to watch should be former Duke star RJ Barrett, whom the Knicks selected third overall in June’s draft. But for Johnson, the 1991 top overall pick and 1992 Rookie of the Year, it’s Knicks 2018 first-round pick Kevin Knox that he believes possesses the most breakout potential this upcoming season.
“We got our young boy from Duke [RJ Barrett], and then I like Randle coming over, he had a great year last year,” said Johnson, who played in New York from 1996 to 2001. "But for me, I think Knox — he’s an exceptional talent. It takes some time in the league. When you get to that second and third year, that’s when you really come alive and I’m excited to see him play.”