Central High School alum and former NBA star John Starks was back in Tulsa for the premiere of a new documentary. Keep Shooting: The John Starks Story goes through the highs and lows of Starks’ life, both on and off the court.
“I hope someone out there can see a parallel to their life and see that no matter what you go through in life you can come out of it,” Starks said.
Starks played one year of basketball at Central High School before enrolling at Rogers State College, where he admits to making many mistakes.
“I started off in college, made some mistakes, then I had to come back and get a job - fending and feeding myself, wondering if I’m going to have enough money to survive. The answer was no, which is why I went back to school because I knew this wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle,” Starks said.
Eventually, he went to play for Oklahoma State and in the NBA for several teams - most notably the New York Knicks. Starks joined the team in 1990 and played in the 1994 finals against the Houston Rockets, which turned out to be another moment Starks would have to overcome. Going into Game 7 of the 1994 NBA finals, Starks had one of the worst games of his career, shooting just 2-18 from the field. The Rockets ended up winning the game and the championship.
“It was something that really could have derailed my career if I really harped on it and let it do that,” Starks said. “I had to fight through that mentally and had a lot of help to get me through that summer.”
But it wasn’t the first time Starks had to overcome struggles. He credits his mother and grandmother for instilling a strong work ethic in him, which helped him make the right decisions when times got tough.
“It came down to me thinking about all the things I’ve been through, all the mistakes I made, and I had this opportunity right in front of me and I said, ‘Do you want to go back or go forward,’ and sometimes that what it takes."
Starks would go on to win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 1997.
One person at the premiere was Tulsa Public Schools Executive Director of Secondary Schools Student Activities and Athletics Mick Wilson. He said it’s an honor to see such great things from a former student.
“Anytime one of our former student-athletes experiences success at such a high and visible level, it serves as a great example of what’s possible for our current student-athletes. As a role model for students in Tulsa Public Schools, John can inspire them to achieve success through determination, persistence, and hard work," he said.
Starks said he hopes people who see the film will find a parallel in their own lives and see that no matter what you’ve been through, you can get through it.
“I was a young knucklehead running around Tulsa doing stupid things, but there comes a time and place when you come to the crossroads and have to make a decision, and I, fortunately, made the right one,” he said.
In addition to his NBA career, Starks has his own foundation which provides scholarships for students in Tulsa and New York. Starks said it’s important for him to help students grow and to provide them opportunities.