Every older New York Knicks fan can recall where he or she was when John Starks earned a legend’s status at the Garden with a single slam dunk. Starks, coming off an appearance at the 1992 Slam Dunk contest, took matters in his own hands in the last seconds of game 2 in the conference finals against the Chicago Bulls.
After winning 60 games and the top seed in the eastern conference, the 1992-93 Knicks were still underdogs when they met the two-time defending champion Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. Starks had been an underdog his entire career but found himself with the ball and a chance to take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the champs.
With 50 seconds left in Game 2, Starks dribbled on the right-wing as Patrick Ewing rushed over to set a screen intended to spring Starks into the middle of the court. But instead of using the screen, Starks hesitated, feinted middle, then exploded into the wide-open space along the baseline. Bulls forward Horace Grant rotated to meet him outside the paint but arrived a step late. Starks gathered off of two feet and rocketed into the rafters of Madison Square Garden.
Starks recollected how “The Dunk” on Michael Jordan unfolded in front of his eyes when he saw the opportunity for a clear drive to the basket after Ewing set a screen for him.
“B.J. Armstrong jumped, and I saw that lane open up, and I was like ‘Oh, you gonna get it. “As soon as I saw Horace Grant, I thought, ‘You gotta go hard,’ and that’s exactly what I did.”John Starks, via New York Post
He also admitted he didn’t realize who else was involved in the play until the following day.
“It wasn’t until the next day in the newspaper that I saw who was in the backside of that play. It was Michael Jordan. And I was like, ‘Gotcha!’ ”John Starks, via New York Post
Knicks guard Starks shot a horrific 2-for-18 in that game, but as much as we were mad that the franchise blew another shot at a championship, we couldn’t blame Starks because we knew that he walked off the court with an empty clip. He was symbolic, despite being from Tulsa, Oklahoma, of the grit and hustle of a native New Yorker.
The Dunk,” as it came to be known, is still to this day one of the most memorable dunks in playoff history.