Despite not being a perennial all-star, John Starks is considered one of the greatest Knicks in history. He is still the Knicks record holder for made threes (982) and was the first player in NBA history to make 200 threes in a season. But it wasn’t his three-point shooting that won the fans in MSG – Starks’ tenacity and desire to win every single night was what made him a fan favorite.
The most emblematic play to prove it was Stark’s famous headbutt he served to Reggie Miller in the 1993 playoffs. The Pacers were the Knicks’ biggest rival in the 90s, and no player loved to go into MSG and annoy the crowd as much as Reggie Miller. An all-time trash talker, Miller brought his A-game for New York every time. His duel with Spike Lee is one of the best moments in NBA history.
But, Reggie did more than talking. He also used every dirty trick in the book to get under a player’s skin. That night, Miller repeatedly elbowed Starks, and after a while, Starks decided that was enough. As he explained it, you had to earn the respect of other players in the league back then. They would test you, and if you didn’ fight back, it would never stop.
“That needed to happen. No matter what, it needed to happen. That particular time, I remember, he kept hitting me with ‘bows. He hit me with a ‘bow, and I told the referee, and the referee said, ‘Starks, shut up and play.’ I was like, ‘OK, I can handle this.‘ I scored on him and ran up the court, and I was so mad; I wanted to take my fist and put it through his face. We just got close, and just, BAM just tapped him like that, and he knows, he dramatic, Hollywood.”John Starks, MSG Network
Everyone knew Starks was going to be ejected. Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley came up to Starks to make sure things didn’t escalate and started hitting him like a parent disciplining a child. They needed Starks, and he let Miller get under his skin. Later that day, Starks’ mother called Patrick Ewing and told him never to put his hands on her son again. Ewing said to her that if her son did something as stupid again, he’s going to get the same treatment.