We continue our look at who you voted for as your top 25 favorite Knicks of the Modern Era (1979-present, also known as the “Three-Point Era,” as that is when the three-pointer was adopted by the NBA)! Every weekday we will reveal two more Knicks until we reach #1! Click here for a master list of all Knicks revealed so far!
4. Latrell Sprewell
Latrell Sprewell was coming off perhaps the best year of his career (1996-97, which was even better than 1993-94 when he was named to the All-NBA First Team), including his third All-Star appearance when he had trouble with his coach at the beginning of the 1997-98 season. They had a significant difference of opinion. You see, his coach, PJ Carlisomo, felt that PJ’s neck looked good as it was, while Latrell felt that his neck would look better with Latrell’s hands gripped around it. Honest mistake. Due to this rather minor infraction/assault, Latrell missed the vast majority of the 1997-98 season due to a suspension. As you might imagine, the Warriors did not want to keep Sprewell on the team for the next season, so they looked for a team to trade for him. Great offers were not exactly pouring in, and they eventually agreed on Chris Mills, John Starks and Terry Cummings from the New York Knicks.
Sprewell started the first game of the season at small forward, played terribly in two Knick losses then promptly got injured and missed the next 13 games of the season. When he returned, he was used off of the bench. He became a very valuable member of the team, though, and he and Allan Houston teamed up to give the Knicks a formidable scoring duo as the Knicks surprised the NBA by going all the way to the NBA Finals.
Sprewell as a Knick was a bit of an enigma – his highest TS% as a Knick in his five seasons with the team was a dismal .515. He was under .500 twice! And yet he contributed in other categories, including being a standout defensive wing. He had over 4 defensive win shares twice in his tenure as a Knick (4 is a lot)! So he was a good player and a valuable member of the team. Also, “Spree” was a very popular member of the team (as you can see from his high ranking on this list).
You would not believe how often the discussion of whether the Knicks should start Latrell and Allan Houston at the 1 and 2 took place. It was discussed seemingly endlessly, particularly in the 2000-01 season when the Knicks acquired small forward Glen Rice (the idea of starting all three wings must have seemed appealing to a lot of people). Sprewell made one All-Star team with the Knicks in that aforementioned 2000-01 season.
Eventually, the Knicks traded Sprewell for Keith Van Horn (who they then dumped way too soon for Tim Thomas). Sprewell had a decent first year for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but totally overestimated his worth when he turned down a three-year/$21 million extension (with the now classic “I have a family to feed!” line) which he regretted when he had a terrible second year in Minnesota. Not finding any good enough offers from other teams, Sprewell was finished with the NBA at 34 years of age (oddly enough, both Houston and Sprewell were out of the league before the age of 35 – that’s kind of depressing).
In his five seasons with the Knicks, Latrell Sprewell produced 36.3 win shares. For more of his stats, check out his profile at Basketball Reference!
3. John Starks
It’s really amazing how the Knicks had the Sixth Man of the Year in 1995 and 1997 and both men were remarkable stories of perseverance in the face of adversity. Like the 1995 Sixth Man of the Year, Anthony Mason, John Starks had a long and strange journey to becoming a star in the NBA.
I could go into detail on Starks’ sojourn to the NBA, but A. You all know most of the beats already and B. I went into great detail already here. So just read that for the full story!
Starks was a back-up on the 1990-91 Knicks, but it was the arrival of Pat Riley in 1991-92 that saw Starks make the leap to an important part of the Knick rotation. By 1992-93, Starks had cracked the starting lineup, although he ended up splitting time with Rolando Blackman among the starters, with Pat Riley choosing to use Sparks more as a spark off of the bench. During the 1993 NBA Playoffs, Starks had the most famous slam dunk in Knick history (and one of the most famous dunks period) when he dunked over Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant in a playoff game against the Chicago Bulls that helped seal a Knick victory.
In 1993-94, Starks missed a chunk of time toward the end of the season, but not before making his first (and only) All-Star team – one of three Knicks to make the Eastern Conference All-Star team in 1994! Starks had a strong playoffs in 1994, although he is most likely going to be best remembered for his terrible game in Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals.
1994-95 was a good season for Starks, as he stayed healthy and in the starting lineup for most of the season. In 1995-96, new coach Don Nelson started to play back-up shooting guard Hubert Davis more than Starks, which was odd as Starks was having one of his better seasons.
In 1996-97, with the addition of big-ticket free agent Allan Houston to be the new shooting guard for the Knicks, Starks stepped into a back-up role and embraced it fully, having one of his best seasons of his career and winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
In 1997-98, he had a bit of a lackluster season and in the offseason was dealt to the Golden State Warriors in a trade for Latrell Sprewell. He didn’t exactly the set the world on fire in Golden State, and was dealt the next season to Chicago.
He then joined the Utah Jazz where the 35-year-old Starks saw his last great gasp of relevance when he started most of the season for a good Jazz team that was a bit of a geriatric team led by 37-year-old Karl Malone, 38-year-old John Stockton, 34-year-old Danny Manning, 30-year-old Byron Russell, 36-year-old Olden Polynice and a few “young” folks in 27-year-old Donyell Marshall, 27-year-old Greg Ostertag and 25-year-old Jacque Vaughn.
His next season with the Jazz, he was pretty awful (he did not even make the playoff roster for the Jazz) and he retired. Still, a thirteen-season career for a guy who wasn’t even drafted (back when the NBA Draft had 1,304 rounds!) is pretty darned impressive.
In his eight seasons with the Knicks, John Starks produced 44.3 win shares (good for fifth-most in the 3-Point Era). For more of his stats, check out his profile at Basketball Reference!