While playing for Ken Trickey, Starks was discovered by then-OSU coach Leonard Hamilton. The next season, in his final year of eligibility, Starks played at OSU and averaged 15.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists during the 1987-88 season. His performance was good enough to garner a training camp invitation from the Warriors.
Though Golden State cut him a year later, Starks was determined to stick in the NBA. He went the minor league route, playing for the Cedar Rapids Silver Bullets of the Continental Basketball Association and the Memphis Rockers of the World Basketball League.
Starks' big break came in 1990, during the final training camp practice with the Knicks. Starks attempted to dunk on New York's 7-foot franchise center Patrick Ewing. When Ewing challenged Starks at the rim, Starks landed awkwardly and twisted his knee. The Knicks, who were planning to cut him following practice, couldn't release Starks until he was healthy. Starks had to go on the injured list.
It opened the door for Starks to stick and set the stage for him becoming one of the most beloved players by Knicks fans in the franchise's history.
“He's one of my all-time favorites,” longtime Knicks fan and film director Spike Lee once told The New York Times. “You have to admire someone who was bagging groceries at the Piggly Wiggly and despite being cut and in the CBA saying to himself, ‘They're not going to hold me down. I'm going to make it.'”