As one of the anchors for a 90s Knicks team that saw eight straight playoff berths during his tenure – including a visit to the NBA Finals in 1994 – John Starks can definitely relate to the recent success the Knicks are having. Known for his clutch shooting, tenacious defense and a dunk heard ’round the world, Starks (minus the high-top fade) is still involved with the NBA at an executive level, as the Alumni and Fan Development Advisor for the New York Knicks. I got up with Starks at a press conference for Ektio Shoes (footwear designed to prevent ankle injuries) to talk Knicks basketball, covering Michael Jordan and the NBA’s best golfers.
Dime: What’s your involvement with Ektio?
John Starks: I’m endorsing the shoe. My job is to help go out and market the shoe, market the technology and bring players into the company.
Dime: How big of a problem are ankle injuries for a basketball player?
JS: Ankle injuries are the number one problem in sports in general, especially in the NBA. You can go down the line and pretty much every player has had an ankle injury, even LeBron James was out a couple games with an ankle injury during the preseason. Even the best of athletes, no one is excused from that type of injury. But the shoe right here should help solve or cut down on that particular problem and the technology is incredible. The technology was created by doctors and you get best results from these doctors because they study this stuff every day.
Dime: During your playing career, what characteristics would you look for in a shoe when choosing one to play with?
JS: Comfort, first and foremost. Once you put it on you know you’re in a good shoe. It has to fit around your foot, security of it, just a mental thing that athletes go through. I used to wear a different pair of shoes every game because you like that tightness in the shoe. Most athletes want that security and that’s why guys tape and wear ankle braces – because they want to have that security factor knowing that whatever they do out on the court they’re protected out there. This shoe gives you focus, it gives you outer protection and it gives you inner protection with the straps around the shoe.
Dime: What do you think of the Knicks this year?
JS: I love them. They’re exciting and they’ve brought in Amar’e Stoudemire to really try to kick off their run to get back into prominence in the league. Obviously, it hasn’t been that way over the last seven or eight years, but to land him this year is a big difference coming into the season. Hopefully with him being here and the team being successful this year it will attract other big time free agents in this upcoming market next year. I know being a former player, it’s great to see the team in a resurgence and see all the excitement that’s building around New York and in the building (MSG) because it’s been missing for some time. And to see that excitement back means so much.
Dime: Are you surprised with anyone in particular on the team?
JS: I would say obviously Landry Fields. He’s a guy who I haven’t heard anything about until he came to New York and they talked about him during the Summer League but I didn’t get a chance to watch too many Summer League games. When he got here he was a scrapper. He gets out there and believes in himself knowing that he can play at this level. I think what helped him is that he went four years in college and really matured and you can see the maturity in his game. Toney Douglas has stepped up a great deal this year and Wilson [Chandler], Wilson is doing a terrific job. I can go on down the list and it’s exciting to see these guys and their enthusiasm for the game.
Dime: Anyone in the NBA remind you of yourself back when you used to play?
JS: My game was a little different I think. My game was full of a lot of emotion and I don’t see that as much now because I guess the way the rules are. You can’t look at the referees anymore, you can’t say anything. They’ve kind of toned it down to take the emotion out of the game.
Dime: With the rule changes, how would your 90s Knicks team fare against competition today?
JS: We would still be a playoff team. I think what is misconstrued about that rules is that you buy into them and referees watch you play, watch your style of play, and when they know that you’re known as a defensive minded team, they let you get away with a little bit more. You look at Boston, you look at L.A., and they may get away with a little more pushing and shoving because they’re known as a defensive team. When you’re not known as a defensive team and you try to do that, then that’s when that rules comes into play. Referees really don’t want to call fouls. They will let a little bit more go and allow you to go out there and play your brand of basketball. You can’t really buy completely into it because if you do it makes you a soft team.