Former Rival John Starks Reveals Why it Was Tough to Guard Michael Jordan

Published 09/09/2021, 12:30 PM EDT
Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls during the 1997 McDonald’s Championship. (Photo by Dimitri Iundt/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)


The Chicago Bulls undoubtedly ruled the league in the 90s. But certain teams always stood as challenging opponents against Michael Jordan and co. One of them during the Bulls’ first three-peat was the New York Knicks.

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The Bulls and Knicks were key championship contenders back in the time. And Michael Jordan wanted to fulfill his ambitions against all odds. Knicks’ famous shooting guard John Starks was tasked to guard prime Jordan. That is surely a tough assignment for the 6ft-5inch Starks.

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John Starks says he couldn’t break into MJ mentally

Starks has gone head-on against powerhouses like Reggie Miller, Clyde Drexler, and Steve Smith. But, MJ was a unique player, and defending him isn’t what most people would sign up for.

John Starks has played for several teams during his career. Nonetheless, Knicks was the momentous part of it in the 90s. Talking about his experience of guarding Michael Jordan, Starks told on ‘People Talking Sports’, “Jordan was a nightmare. He used to get scouting reports on certain guys and you look at the scouting report and they say, well you can take your right hand away, take your left hand away, push him this way. It was just like good luck. So, yeah he was special.”

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The former all-star further continued – “Certain guys I can get to mentally, but him I could never get to mentally. And believe me, I tried my best. But, he was that special player that you couldn’t break his will.”

Michael Jordan and Co. found tough opponents in New York Knicks

Michael Jordan, the greatest of all time, has been a ‘nightmare’ for his defenders. His skillset was unmatched during those years and that was enough to shock his opponents. Starks and Jordan locked horns mostly during the Bulls’ first three-peat.

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The Bulls-Knicks rivalry peaked in the 1990s. Playoff contention was the highest amongst these two teams with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, and John Starks on the same court. From 1981 to 1996, the Bulls and Knicks met seven times in the postseason. Jordan’s team took away six wins from those meetings.

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Pavni Ahuja

505 articles

Pavni Ahuja is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Housing a keen interest in sports journalism, she is pursuing an undergraduate Journalism degree from Christ University. Pavni is an ardent fan of the NBA, with prior district-level playing experience in basketball.

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