Ex-Knicks great Charles Oakley was arrested after an altercation in close proximity to team owner James Dolan during New York’s 119-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
Oakley told the New York Daily News he bought a ticket to Wednesday’s game and never said a word to Dolan. The two have historically feuded with each other. But four minutes into the first quarter, Madison Square Garden security asked the former All-Star to leave at the owner’s request. A shoving match ensued:
Soooooo Charles Oakley just got into a fight at he Knicks game. pic.twitter.com/klZBD89VI7— Ian Schafer (@ischafer) February 9, 2017
Oakley was later charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of criminal trespass, the New York Police Department said according to ESPN.com’s Ian Begley.
After his arrest, the Knicks released a statement, citing Oakley “behaved in a highly inappropriate manner,” and “he was a great Knick and we hope he gets some help soon.” Oakley said it’s unclear if he’ll be welcome back at Madison Square Garden.
So why wouldn’t the Knicks welcome a former club mainstay with open arms?
Oakley was the heart and soul of a Knicks team that made the playoffs in each of his 10 seasons, highlighted by an NBA Finals appearance in 1994. But since Dolan took over for his father in 1999, the team has seen the postseason just five times and suffered first-round eliminations in four of them.
It’s unclear when Oakley’s feud with Dolan began or who started it, but since retiring from the NBA, Oakley has often been critical of his former Knicks team.
“They say I’m hard on them. I say, I’m not hard on them; that’s just the way the game goes and people have opinions,” Oakley told the New York Daily News in 2012. “Ex-players I talk to, they say, ‘Management, they like you. But sometimes it’s the way you say things, the way you do things.’”
Dolan has never publicly commented on his relationship with Oakley, but it has devolved beyond repair. So much so that The Undefeated’s Mike Wise, who covered the Knicks during Oakley’s era, said on ESPN’s Coast to Coast on Wednesday that "at the All-Star Game in New Orleans, [Dolan] wouldn't even shake [Oakley’s] hand. He refused to shake (his) hand."
Oakley’s childhood friend, Jeff Warren, defined his personality in a New York Times piece as “maybe too honest.”
That candor, as it pertains to the Knicks, is why Dolan has turned a cold shoulder.
Here are some comments Oakley has issued over the past several years.
Oakley, who grew up in Cleveland and was good friends with LeBron James, warned The King against signing with New York in 2010: “I can’t tell him to go to New York,” Oakley said, according to the New York Post. “New York treated me bad. … When I go to the Knicks games, do you know that they have somebody that follows me around to see what I say to the press?
“I said maybe Chicago or Miami. I think him and (Dwyane) Wade would be great together,” Oakley said.
James later signed in Miami, winning two championships alongside Wade and Chris Bosh.
The four-time NBA champion supported Oakley on Instagram after his Wednesday arrest with the caption: “Mood!! #Legend.”
In 2012, the Knicks offered Patrick Ewing a D-League coaching job instead of the team’s assistant coaching job, which it gave to LaSalle Thompson, who never played in New York.
“That’s embarrassing,” Oakley said, according to the New York Daily News. “How can you offer Patrick a D-League coaching job? I think it’s embarrassing. No matter what a person did to you or whatever over the years, his agent or somebody. ... That’s Kindergarten. This man has been the coach for 10 years and you’re going to offer him a Kindergarten job. Totally disrespectful. Then you’re going to hire a guy, LaSalle Thompson, that had nothing to do with the Knicks.”
In 2015, Oakley questioned Carmelo Anthony’s superstar status: “Is he still a superstar or is he going to be a complimentary player? You win  games, I don’t know,” he said, according to the New York Post. “He made the All-Star game. He played on the All-Star team, but he didn’t play during the season.”
He later scoffed at Anthony’s five-year, $125 million deal: “I didn’t give him the contract. He won a championship at Syracuse. What’s the potential? They give a lot of people $100 million.”
Also in 2015, Oakley opened up about his relationship with Dolan to the New York Daily News.
On Dolan’s resistance to mend fences: “As hard as I played for that motherf-----, and he don’t want to talk with me?” he snapped. “He’s a special type of owner. Donald Sterling did some crazy things, a lot of (owners) do crazy things. So I guess it’s a disease. It’s going around.”
On trying to help the Knicks win games: “I’ve been trying to give suggestions over the last 12 to 15 years, but every time I said something, they say I’m criticizing the team. it’s not that I’m criticizing the team, it’s that when you play here for so long and you understand basketball and you got a good I.Q. and understanding, it’s just one of those things.”
On their relationship: “Everybody in New York liked me except this one guy. Why is this?” said Oakley. “Everywhere I talk to people — ‘Why aren’t you working with the Knicks?’ I said I try to. They said, ‘What, is it Dolan?’ I talked to maybe a million people. He’s a bad guy.”
More on trying to repair their relationship: “I asked the commissioner to set up a meeting with (Dolan), take a step forward,” said Oakley. “I want to know what I did to be hated so bad by an owner. The dad (Charles Dolan), I never heard him say nothing bad about me. I asked players I played with to go talk with (James Dolan). He said he don’t want to deal with me.
“He’s a billion-dollar guy. He own the team,” said Oakley. “But fans are the ones that pay your bills. When I was here I treated people with respect, the writers, everybody. How can I be that bad?”
In 2016, Oakley reiterated he wanted to repair their relationship: “The boss don’t like me,” he said, according to the New York Times. “I wouldn’t mind having a sit-down dinner with Dolan. I wouldn’t mind cooking him dinner. ... Might put something in it, though!
“I mean, I had at least 15 people try to set up a meeting. He won’t meet. I want to sit down to talk to him. I want me and him in a room. And lock the door. Lock that door!
“I mean, he can have the police outside the door.”
Despite more lows than highs, Oakley still supports the Knicks
Regardless of his situation with Dolan, Oakley spent built a unique relationship with the fan base during his 10-year stint in New York. He acknowledged that in an interview on Wednesday, where he told his side of the story and reiterated his love for the franchise.
“As long as the fans care about me, I love the fans, and I’m always going to love the fans,” he said. “I’m a Knicks fan for life. No matter if I go back to the Garden or not, I’m still going to cheer for the Knicks because I played here for a decade. My heart and soul are here.”
It’s evident New York’s “Once a Knick, always a Knick” slogan has overlooked its once-heralded forward. But Oakley’s embraced the franchise, cold shoulder or not.
He just has his own way of showing it. Some call it tough love.