Knicks Legend John Starks Is Enjoying the NBA Bubble, Just Like the Rest of Us
Starks spoke with us ahead of his foundation's 25th Annual Celebrity Golf Classic
As an NBA player, John Starks was tough, physical and, above all, competitive as hell.
And as an amateur golfer set to participate in his own John Starks Foundation’s 25th Annual Celebrity Golf Classic this week at the Tamarack Country Club (where a silent auction to benefit college students in need will also be held), the former All-Star and Sixth Man of the Year is the same exact way.
“It’s a competitive game. It’s you against the course,” Starks tells InsideHook. “You don’t have any teammates to blame if you don’t play well, just yourself. It gives me a chance to just be competitive without the physical play. The intensity is still there and it never left me. It’s just a fun game to play.”
Starks, who says he once lost $20 to Michael Jordan over a round of golf, picked up the sport after the Knicks team lost the NBA title to the Houston Rockets in a heartbreaking seven-game series.
“I started back in ’94 to help me get through that painful Game 7. Herb Williams actually introduced me to golf,” he says. “It really was therapeutic just to get out on the golf course and clear my mind. I’ve been golfing ever since. I got the bug just like pretty much every athlete who picks the game up.”
The 55-year-old, who is a 2-handicap and rarely shoots more than three or four over par, says he would definitely be hitting the links if he were playing in the NBA bubble in Orlando to help deal with the stress of the playoffs and being away from family. As he notes, that stress hasn’t affected play on the court.
“These guys are locked in. The play has been very good. The energy level has been high,” Starks says. “Not having fans out there to distract guys that normally probably would be nervous on an opponent’s home court helps. That advantage is gone. You’re just going out there and playing basketball now. The way the NBA has done the bubble has been very successful.”
One of the things Starks excelled at — hitting three-pointers — has been a big part of the way the games in the bubble are being played. Why?
“They just have so much time just to practice. Outside of playing golf and fishing, there are not a lot of distractions,” he says. “These guys are just focused on their craft right now. That environment, plus the court they play on has a dark background, so it makes everything seem very close. One of my best shooting gyms, when I played, was in Cleveland, and it was similar to that. It just seemed like the rim was so close to you.”
Starks also thinks the bubble has probably been rampant with another one of his on-court skills: talking trash.
“Normally you play a game, you leave and you don’t see your opponent until the next game. These guys are around each other pretty much 24-7. You see your opponent every single day,” he says. “So you’ve got a lot of trash-talking going on behind the scenes. You look at that battle between Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell. There had to be a lot of trash-talking. Those two guys were going at each other and it was great to see that type of matchup. You don’t see those types of matchups too much. To see two young players put on a show like that, it was great to watch it. And it was great for the NBA.”
Let’s hope it continues tonight, where Murray’s Nuggets face another Game 7 — this time against the LA Clippers — to make it to the Western Conference Finals.
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