He was the villain


Saturday morning, Lincolnwood, Illinois

This morning I find myself at an estate sale. I’ve visited them before, and written about them before, and today is more of the same: picking through the worldly possessions of someone who’s no longer worldly. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote, over and over again in Slaughterhouse-Five, “So it goes.”

I come across upon a large box of baseball cards from the early 1990s, but the sale’s proprietor wants much more than I think they’re worth. They aren’t worth the cardboard they’re printed on, in my view, but pawing through a box of them is sort of interesting, so we agree that I can pull out the ones I wanted for a dollar.  So I’m looking for something of interest, and I found it in the form of this John Starks basketball card.

In the early 1990s, during the first Bulls’ championship run, John Starks was the embodiment of  the New York Knicks. They were the only team that could threaten the Bulls, and they came within an eyelash of actually beating them, but for this remarkable defensive sequence. Starks had the ball, and thought about shooting it but passed the ball off to Patrick Ewing, who then passed it to Charles Smith under the basket. I’m sure Smith just wishes that Starks or Ewing had shot the ball instead.

As I’m walking out of the sale, recalling those glorious times from twenty years ago, my eye catches the Bulls logo on the shorts of whoever it is that’s defending Starks. I laugh at the irony of this. Of all the teams it could have been on that player’s shorts, it had to be the Bulls. It’s almost as if Starks has no purpose, other than serving as the Bulls erstwhile, yet ultimately unsuccessful foe. In a very weird twist of fate, Starks played four games in a Bulls’ uniform in 2000, after he had left New York. Seeing him in a Bulls’ jersey is proof that anything can happen.

I pay a dollar, and leave the sale with a reminder of the Bulls’ glory days and a story to tell on my blog. That seems like a fair trade to me.

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