The John Starks Foundation Annual Celebrity Bowling Tournament hosted former NBA players, current Knicks execs, a rapper, pop singer, and many others at Lucky Strike (624-660 W. 42nd St.) Tuesday night. The John Starks Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides academic scholarships to high school students, and administers community programs focused on furthering the educational and vocational development of youth and families. “We are giving out two scholarships in Tulsa [Oklahoma], and 13 scholarships here in the Tri-State area,” said Founder and President, John Starks, in regards to his Foundation’s 3-Point Scholarship Program. “We give kids the opportunity to go out and do things within the community to be able to apply for the scholarship. They have to do community service. It’s been going very well since we implemented it some years back. I’m excited that we get the response that we get year after year, and our students are exceptional students that we bring on board when we give the scholarships out.”
The Tournament was attended by former football star and talk show host Michael Strahan, rapper Driicky Graham, NFL star Plaxico Burress, former NBA player Anthony Avent, Hootie & The Blowfish guitarist Mark Bryan, former Giants player O.J. Anderson, former international and NBA player Felipe López, Knicks City dancers, Knicks Assistant GM Allan Houston, Knicks Assistant Coach Herb Williams, Knicks Basketball and Business Operations Representative Larry Johnson, and many others. “It’s more like a family atmosphere,” said Herb Williams, who is also a John Starks Foundation Director. “We try to stay in touch with each other as much as possible. Anytime one of us is doing something that’s very positive, we all try to come out and support to make sure it’s a successful event. John has been doing this for quite a while—raising money for kids coming out of high school so they can have scholarship money. We think it’s a great charity, it’s a great event, we get to come out... I can’t bowl at all, but we have a good time and talk to some friends, and raise money for something that’s a worthy cause.”
Basketball great Charles Oakley celebrated his 50th birthday at the event (although his actual birthday was in December), with singer and actress Samantha Cole leading the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to him. Items for auction included Knicks tickets, a basketball autographed by the Knicks’ 2014 roster, an autographed Carmelo Anthony jersey, and more. All proceeds benefited the John Starks Foundation and its 3-Point Scholarship Program.
Starks, who is from Tulsa, is also visible in the New York community in his position as the Knicks’ Alumni Relations and Fan Development Advisor. “I’m kind of like the face of the organization. I go out within the community, and I may do reading events, school events, and I deal with a lot of our corporate sponsors. I’m kind of like ‘The New York Knick’ within the community. It’s great for me because it feeds into what I’m about. I’m a community-oriented person, and I like seeing people and being a part of something that going to help really change lives. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of the John Starks Foundation, and do this for 20 years, and also the Garden of Dreams [Foundation], which is the charitable arm of the New York Knicks.”
Larry Johnson cited the John Starks Foundation, Allan Houston Legacy Foundation, and his own Dallas, Texas recreation center as examples of commitments to community service. “I donated a million dollars to the city of Dallas, which is where I’m from, born and raised. We built a recreation center maybe 15 years ago, and it wasn’t just for basketball. We have 15-20 computers, an after-school program, tutors that come in—same thing with John’s program—where you’re giving back to the youngsters and you’re [instilling] in them to pay it forward. You’re letting them know that: This is John Starks, this is Larry Johnson, Allan Houston—this is what you’re supposed to do. God gives you the ability so you can go out and provide for your family and that’s fine; that’s perfect. But to show people and to show the community that you do have a kind heart, and you’re doing it not just for yourself or for your benefit... you’re doing it for the whole community. We’re all a community.”
For more information on the John Starks Foundation, please visit JohnStarks.org.