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'The Dunk' still resonates with Starks, kids

John Starks dunks over Horace Grant and Michael

John Starks dunks over Horace Grant and Michael Jordan in a 1993 NBA playoff game against the Chicago Bulls. Credit: Getty Images

When John Starks visits Urban Tech programs, he jokes that most of the students only know of him from videos on the Internet -- specifically "The Dunk."

"YouTube has kept me alive," the former Knicks guard said. "The dunk ... that's what they talk about quite a bit."

But what Starks is really there to talk about is the work done by the National Urban Technology Center, an educational group that provides computer training and essential life skills to students and adults through schools and community-based organizations.

Starks joined the group several years ago and has been a member of their board for more than two years. He was honored with the Humanitarian Award at at Urban Tech's 2011 Gala Dinner on Tuesday night in New York City.

Starks, who was unable to attend the gala, said that his involvement in the organization traces back to his time in the NBA.

"One thing I've tried to do since my playing career is to give back to the people who have given so much to me over the course of my career," Starks said. "Being a former athlete, you just want to continue to make a difference in people's lives, because you know how important they are to the future of this great country of ours."

According to Starks, Urban Tech delivers on its goal to educate children 10-18 years old.

"Being around and seeing the impact that this program has had on children has just been amazing," Starks said. "I think when you can do something to have children grow from a character-building standpoint, [it] means a lot."

Starks played for the Knicks from 1990-98. He averaged a career-high 19 points per game in 1993-94, and led the league in 3-point field goals in 1994-95.

A 6-3 guard, Starks was most identifiable with his fiery play, specifically his rivalry with Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers. Starks believes that in today's NBA where players are more friendly with each other off the court, Knicks-Pacers type rivalries may be a thing of league's past.

"Rivalries are built out of tense play and hatred for each other. You don't see that in today's game; you don't see guys disliking each other," Starks said. "The game was obviously a lot different and more physical, and that brought out the passion. You don't get that intense level of basketball you used to."

The end of Starks' career coincided with the previous NBA lockout in 1998. After it was resolved, the Knicks dealt Starks to the Golden State Warriors as part of a four-player package that brought Latrell Sprewell to New York.

Television stations such as MSG and NBA TV are not airing programs that feature current NBA players because of the lockout. In their place have been classic games. For Starks, the most memorable game was the one that put him on the map.

"The series against Chicago in '93 is one I really truly enjoyed, because it was a learning experience for us, a coming out party for me in a sense of really putting my name out there with that particular play," Starks said, referring to when he drove the baseline and dunked left-handed over Horace Grant and Michael Jordan. "Just watching how we responded really from one year to the next really meant a lot."

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