For NBA fans of a certain age, John Starks will forever be remembered for his monster dunk over the outstretched hands of basketball stars Michael Jordon and Horace Grant in a 1993 playoff game. While Starks and his Knicks team ultimately lost to the Bulls, the play cemented his position in New York City sports history and capped his meteoric rise from undrafted free agent to basketball legend.
Despite retiring in 2002, Starks doesn’t look much different than during his playing days and you can still often find him at Madison Square Garden on game nights. While the team could certainly use his clutch three pointers and plucky defensive prowess, he now serves as a Knicks ambassador and mentor to the current players.
Even though he looks like he could sub into to the game if needed, MSG itself looks quite a bit different than during his career. One major improvement over the last five years has been the food sold around the stadium. Now fans have their pick of gourmet dishes. (There’s even a Magnolia Bakery stand that’s currently offering so-called Uknickorn Cupcakes this month to encourage people to vote Knicks sensation Kristaps Porzingis into the 2018 all-star game.) “People used to eat out and then come to the game and now they come to the game to eat,” Starks says. “There’s a vast variety of places to eat here.”
Despite being a self-described foodie, he tries to eat sensibly at the Garden—usually he has a plain burger—since “the older you get, obviously, you have to watch what you eat. I try to not eat as much when I used to when I played,” he admits. “Because when I played I used to eat whatever I wanted to eat because I burned it off.”
In fact, to prepare to guard some of the league’s best players, he would load up on carbs, like a marathoner, three hours before tipoff. But despite the copious amounts of pasta and bread, he would often feel hungry at halftime and would grab some fruit or a bar to keep his energy levels up.
Before a recent game between the Knicks and Spurs, Starks picked some of his favorite dishes found around the stadium.
DREW NIEPORENT’S DAILY BURGER
On game night, the Garden will sell between 1,400 and 1,600 Daily Burgers. There are four varieties, including a cheeseburger with a special bacon onion jam, which is Starks favorite. “I kind have a taste for onions from time to time but not when I’m working,” he says with a laugh. The patty is made from a proprietary blend of chuck, flank and short rib from celebrity butcher Pat LaFrieda. It’s served on a flat Portuguese bread roll.
CHARLIE PALMER STEAK SANDWICH
This oversized sandwich is one of the newest additions to the menu and includes five ounces of, you guessed it, New York strip steak and a buttered Italian bread roll. It is topped with caramelized red onions and a drizzle of steak sauce.
JEAN-GEORGES SIMPLY CHICKEN TACOS
These tikka chicken-inspired tacos are made with smoked chili and garnished with roasted jalapeno, avocado, salsa, micro cilantro and shaved radishes. The dish was first introduced at MSG in 2013 and has become a fan staple.