By Tony McClean
Updated: October 4, 2004
John Starks, Dante Hall, and Thomas

John Starks, Dante Hall, and Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson

NEW HAVEN, CT.—In the sports world, John Starks, Dante Hall, and Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson offer the entire spectrum of human emotions on and off the field.
For Starks, it was his meteoric rise from playing for four junior colleges to finally settling on Oklahoma State. The Tulsa native parlayed that into a successful NBA career, mostly with the New York Knicks.
For Hall, it was overcoming a poor reputation gained while playing at Texas A&M. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound dynamo languished on the bench most of his pro career before his breakout season in 2003. The “X-Factor” is now regarded as one of the NFL’s most explosive players.
For Henderson, a product of Langston University, it was dealing with the inner demons of drug addiction. A talented athlete, who played on Super Bowl teams with the Dallas Cowboys, nearly succumbed to those demons, but rose above it all and offers his own story as a testament to changing one’s lifestyle.
In their books, Starks, Hall, and Henderson each give a revealing insight on their chosen professions. In the same vein, all three offer their own unique perspectives on the world outside the cheering.
Most fans remember the emotional Starks from his days in the Big Apple, a career defined by two remarkable, yet polar-opposite games. The highest of highs would be his memorable dunk against the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference finals.
The low would come a year later, again in the national spotlight. His 2-of-18 shooting performance in Game 7 of the NBA Finals versus the Houston Rockets is something that Knicks fans all over have tried to forget. Starks holds nothing back in this autobiography that he collaborated with writer Dan Markowitz.
“John Starks: My Life” speaks of a childhood that included stealing from stores and later cars with a friend who eventually died in a high-speed police chase. Starks credits his escape from that life and his rapid rise to stardom to the influence of his older brother, Monty, and the single mother who raised him and his siblings.
It was Monty who called Leonard Hamilton, then-coach at Oklahoma State, and got him to come down to see his brother play at Oklahoma Junior College, resulting in a scholarship from the Cowboys.
The rest, as they say, is history.
As one of the most heralded running backs to ever hail from Texas, Hall enjoyed tremendous success at Texas A&M University. However, he unceremoniously dropped from the Aggie roster because of a series of parking tickets that drew as much attention as his exploits on the field.
Kansas City Chief president and CEO Carl Peterson had been eyeing the diminutive Hall prior to the 2000 NFL Draft. He conferred with A&M head coach R.C. Slocum about Hall’s character and was convinced that Hall was a great young man who had made a silly mistake.
Hall didn’t get much playing time during the first two years of his career until Dick Vermeil came to the Chiefs’ organization. He envisioned Hall as a great return man, slotback, wide reciever, and occasional running back. An “x-factor” on offense, so to speak.
In 2002, Hall returned two punts and a kickoff for a touchdown and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl. He followed up that campaign with an MVP-type season in 2003. He became the first man in NFL history to have a return for a touchdown in four consective games while leading the Chiefs to the AFC West crown.
Co-authored with sportswriter Bill Althaus, Hall talks of his life and times on and off the field including his high school and college days in football-crazy Texas.
Back in 1988, ex-Dallas Cowboy standout Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson released “Out of Control: Confessions of An NFL Casualty”. The book talked about how Henderson reached the top of the mountain as an athlete, but on the way reached rock bottom off the field due to drug and alcohol abuse.
Henderson, who has remained clean and sober since December of 1983, felt the need to re-deliver his message of sobriety in his new book. Co-authored with sportswriter Frank Luksa, Henderson speaks of his life since the end of his playing days.
“This book is not about me, it’s about us,” Henderson says. “We who clean up our lives aren’t victims, we’re survivors. We live clean and sober, we enrich ourselves, our children, family, friends, neighbors, employees, society, and those seeking to change their lives.”