To celebrate SLAM’s 30th anniversary, we’re spotlighting the 30 most influential men’s college teams from our past 30 years. Stats, records and chips aren’t the main factor here, it’s all about their contribution to the game’s cultural fabric.

For the next 30 days—Monday through Friday— we’ll be unveiling the full list here. We’ve also got an exclusive retro collegiate collection, out now, that pays homage to each squad’s threads. Shop here.

Back in ‘99, St. John wasn’t just a university; they represented the true essence of New York City. Their men’s basketball team was no exception: with a hustler’s spirit, a chip on their shoulder, and newly sponsored fire engine red Jordan Brand uniforms, they lifted the program into a new era. The Red Storm may have entered the season unranked, but by March, the entire college ecosystem was echoing the vibrations of Queens. 

Head coach Mike Jarvis understood what he was dealing with in his squad: players like Queensbridge native Metta Sandiford-Artest – known back then as Ron Artest –  grew up living on New York City black tops. Toughness and attitude weren’t ever a question. Instead, he capitalized on that intensity and fueled their local pride so that every time his players took the court, they played to represent themselves and the city. With a 28-9 regular season record, they captivated audiences everywhere they went. Artest’s will to win was off the charts, like when he made sure to nail that three against Duke to push the game into OT because he knew he’d sink it. Then there was freshman sensation Erick Barkley, who dazzled crowds with no-look passes and highlight-reel dunks. Bootsy Thornton didn’t just dominate on the defensive end; he could score under any circumstances. The two-time All-Big East selection was good for nearly 15 points a game, but the DMV native truly shined under the spotlight. The No. 2 ranked Duke Blue Devils were on the receiving end of one such performance, where Thorton exploded for a 40-piece. Bolstered by Tyrone Grant’s post presence and Lavor Postell’s sharp shooting from deep, the Storm’s five double-digit scorers could light it up in transition and half-court. 

The Red Storm weren’t afraid to bully their way through the Big East while rocking those baggy yet sleek bright-red uniforms. Any time they stepped on the floor, they weren’t content with just winning; they wanted to entertain, to leave spectators in awe of their skills and dominance. St. John’s destroyed the Maryland Terrapins 76-62 because they weren’t satisfied with just winning; they had to show their dominance over their opponents. Barkley’s 24-piece was evidence enough. Each game was a spectacle, a showcase of the team’s talent. 

The Big East championship game went down to the wire against UConn, and despite the 82-63 loss, that was just the beginning of their postseason run. St. John’s dominated the NCAA tournament through the Elite Eight, winning each game by an average of 25 points.

And even now, decades later, the legacy of the ‘99 St. John’s men’s basketball team lives on. They remain a symbol of hope and inspiration, a reminder that anything is possible with hard work, dedication, and a never-say-die attitude. They weren’t just a team; they were a phenomenon, a shining example of what can be achieved when talent, determination, and heart come together in perfect harmony. Their impact extended far beyond the confines of the basketball court. With the Big East running through Mecca in 98-99, the Red Storm returned to the Garden 25 years later to a standing ovation from the New York faithful. Their legacy is cemented and enshrined in the city’s historic connection with the game. 

Photos via Getty Images.


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