The Knicks just doubled down and called Charles Oakley a liar

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After his release from a New York police station early Thursday morning, Charles Oakley insisted he had done nothing to provoke an altercation with Madison Square Garden security guards that led to arrest on charges of assault and criminal trespassing. In several interviews since the stunning incident that was captured during a nationally televised broadcast on ESPN and quickly became the most sensational story in the sport, the former New York Knicks power forward has maintained that his ejection from the World’s Most Famous Arena stemmed from a single source: Knicks owner James L. Dolan not wanting the longtime fan favorite in the gym.

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Oakley, 53, first shared his side of the story with Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, saying he swore “on [his] mother” that he hadn’t said a word to Dolan, the owner whom Oakley says has refused to speak or meet with him over the years about the possibility of returning to the franchise in some capacity. During a subsequent interview at Jimmy’s NYC, a bar/restaurant on West 38th Street in Manhattan, Oakley offered more:

What happened was me and four friends went to the game tonight, to watch the Knicks and the [Los Angeles] Clippers. Get there, sit down, try to have a good time. Next thing I know, I’m asked to leave the building. I ask why. The guy said, “You have to leave because someone ordered you to leave.” And I’m like, “I been here 4 1/2 minutes. I’m a Knicks fan. Played here for 10 years. I love the Knicks. I love New York. This is my heart. I wish them all the luck and success on the basketball court. And I don’t know why I’m not welcome into the Garden.”

Next thing I know, some of their guys, more and more, kept coming at me, and I’m like, “Why do I have to leave?” They said, “I have to leave. They got orders.” And you know, I was on my back, you know. Total disrespect. But, you know, things happen in life. Luckily, I went down [to the police station] and got booked and then I got out.

I mean, somebody walking up on you, you got to protect yourself in all manners. I been in situations like that before. I been jumped before. So my mind’s automatically thinking, like, “If you see seven, eight, nine, 10 guys walking up on you, you have to brace yourself and be ready for the challenge.” And that’s what I’m thinking.

[…] As long as the fans care about me, I love the fans, and I’m always going to love the fans. I’m a Knicks fan for life. Don’t 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. I know people loved the way I played, and I really appreciate it. I wasn’t the best player, but I came out and played every night, and that’s what they want. They want to see you play with heart and effort.

Oakley went into greater detail during a call into Stephen A. Smith’s ESPN Radio show on Thursday afternoon, which began with an apology to Knicks fans and those in attendance at MSG on Wednesday (“You never want to be a troublemaker in life, and it was just a bad scene”) and continued by making the scene look even worse:

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On whether Oakley, as some reports suggested, said anything to Dolan:

“I said something to the [security] guy — I’m like, ‘Why you all looking up here at me?’ The guys who were looking at me, sitting behind the Knicks bench, like, standing on the wall. No, I’m four rows from this guy. So I’m going to walk in the place and just start hollering out, ‘James Dolan, James Dolan?’ I mean, that’s embarrassing, man. I did not do none of that. I didn’t know the man was sitting in front of me at first, until they walked over there. I’m four rows behind him. […]

“Never happened. John McEnroe was sitting right beside him. If John McEnroe say I said that? He was there. Then, on the way out, I spoke to him when I was in handcuffs. He spoke back. And that’s the only time I said anything near him, when I spoke to John, when I was leaving in handcuffs.

“If I was talking loud, [Dolan] couldn’t even hear me if I was talking. There’s four rows of people hollering! I wasn’t even talking to no one. I’m talking to the guys who told me about security. I’m like, ‘I don’t know why they’re watching me.'”

Scott Cacciola of the New York Times, who wrote a feature back in November detailing Oakley’s estrangement from the franchise for which he starred from 1988 through 1998, noted Thursday on Twitter that Oakley had claimed security has its eye on him every time he visits his old workplace:

Oakley expounded on that during his interview with Smith:

“Several people have told me there, people who have retired from there — it’s a rule. It ain’t just this year. It happened last year. Four security guys walked over to me after a game. I let it go. I told two or three different lawyers, “They can’t keep doing this to me when I come in the Garden,” talking about I can’t walk around. […]

“I said, ‘This man can’t keep sending these people over here and telling me what I can’t do.’ I told you, I told them, I want to go where my tickets lie. My ticket say I go this way, I go this way. So when I got up for halftime, they followed me to the bathroom, then followed me back to my seat. […] I would love to go to the Garden, but I’m not going to keep going to the Garden if this keeps happening.”

In the aftermath of the scuffle with security, accounts varied about what exactly touched off the incident that led with Oakley being hauled out of MSG in handcuffs.

Former New York Knicks player Charles Oakley exchanges words with a security guard during the first half of an NBA basketball game between the New York Knicks and the LA Clippers Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Former New York Knicks player Charles Oakley exchanges words with a security guard during the first half of an NBA basketball game between the New York Knicks and the LA Clippers Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Daily News reported that “sources at the Garden and police sources dispute Oakley’s account of the altercation, saying the scuffle was provoked by the former Knick yelling at his longtime nemesis Dolan.” Shortly after Oakley’s ejection, the Knicks issued a statement to similar effect:

Charles Oakley came to the game tonight and behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner. He has been ejected and is currently being arrested by the New York City Police Department. He was a great Knick and we hope he gets some help soon.

But another fan in the area, Ian Schafer, who shot video of the incident …

… told the News that “it didn’t look like he started anything, to be honest. It looked like he was provoked in some way, because it didn’t look like there was any buildup to anything happening.”

Other witnesses shared stories similar to Schafer’s. From Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report:

Jamie Vitiello, a fan seated in the area, said Oakley was “mildly boisterous to one security guard, but nothing that seemed like he should be kicked out.” Multiple other witnesses backed that account.

One person thought Oakley might have initially been irked when, upon entering his section, a security guard asked to see his ticket. Matthew Barbara, another fan sitting in the area, said Oakley cursed at the section’s guard.

“But I didn’t hear him say anything to Dolan,” he said.

That guard, according to Vitiello, left his post soon after. Another one approached Oakley and told him to stop cursing at the security guards, and that, according to the witnesses, is when things erupted.

“[MSG security] handled it poorly,” Jill Guadagno, who was seated two rows behind Oakley and next to Barbara, said. “They never said to him ‘calm down.’ The only interaction was them saying, ‘You need to leave.'”

From Mike Vorkunov of the New York Times:

[..] several spectators said they did not see Oakley exchange any words with Dolan or try to provoke him.

But they did see Oakley exchanging glances with a security guard who was standing several feet away. Oakley seemed to utter something to the guard when he walked by, according to T. J. Veenstra, who was sitting behind Oakley.

A guard soon came over to Oakley and asked him to leave. Oakley asked why.

“He just couldn’t understand why,” said Matthew Barbara, who sat a few rows up from Oakley. “We didn’t see him throw a punch or do anything. He wasn’t nasty to any of the people behind him. We’re trying to figure out what happened.”

A fan-shot video published Thursday by the New York Post shows Oakley raising his hands over his head as security personnel crowd him, with one holding his left arm, before Oakley falls to the ground. After regaining his feet, Oakley appears to resume talking to a police officer, reacting physically only after a second MSG staffer again crowds him and begins to reach for Oakley’s right arm. Things escalated from there.

“Send a New York cop to tell Oakley he’s gotta leave. Escort me out of the building. I have to respect that,” Oakley told Smith on Thursday. “It was a cop there. Every time he asked me something, I did it. I did it. I did it. You can call the precinct, and I told them there. It was the other guys. They went over bounds, for no reason. I might have touched some guys, but they touched me. I got a right. So, they want to charge me with three counts [of assault], I’m going to have to go to court and see what happens.” (Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann has more on the legal ins and outs of Oakley’s present predicament.)

Many have suggested that Dolan’s unwillingness to even acknowledge Oakley stems from the vocal ex-enforcer’s openness in critiquing a Knicks franchise that has made just five playoff appearances, and one trip past the first round of the postseason, since 2000, the year after Dolan took the reins of the Knicks franchise from his father, Charles Dolan. Under the son’s leadership, the franchise has cycled through players, coaches, executives, embarrassments and scandals at a rate far outpacing the rest of the NBA.

As SB Nation’s Kristian Winfield noted Thursday, Oakley hasn’t been shy about sharing his opinions on that. As Isola wrote, it’s possible that’s why Dolan’s refused Oakley’s attempts to settle their differences.

“I’ve been saying the same things I’ve been saying since ’88, when I came to New York,” Oakley told Smith on Thursday. “So if it’s critical, it’s critical. I ain’t critical, man. You’re more critical! Other people on the air are a billion times more critical […] Say, like, this year. Somebody ask me how many games the Knicks are gonna win. I said between 37 and 42. I mean, what am I supposed to say? ‘They’re going to win 60?’ I mean, look at the talent, what they got. Come on. It is what it is.

“But I don’t have nothing personal against this man. I dove on the floor, took charges, I got banged up, and cry about nothing. Didn’t cry about how much money I made. I played for the love of the game, my teammates and the fans.”

After Wednesday’s incident, Oakley received public support from a number of past NBA players, like Reggie Miller, Greg Anthony, Stephen Jackson and Jayson Williams, and from today’s biggest stars:

Mood!! #Legend

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on Feb 8, 2017 at 8:23pm PST

“That’s another smack in the face, like when the security guard came over there and tried to tell me to leave,” Oakley told Smith of the closing line of the Wednesday night statement. “[…] I don’t know. They want to be cute with the statement. That’s cool, though. I mean, you can’t trust my character and all this? It’s cool. You trusted it for 10 years when I played. I’m the same guy. They want to say that, be all harsh about things, I can deal with it.”

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Seemingly undeterred by either the massive amount of public support for Oakley from Knicks fans and NBA players, or the very public questioning of why the Knicks would treat one of their franchise legends this way by several of the sport’s top present-day stars, the Knicks responded to Oakley’s late Wednesday and Thursday interviews with an “updated statement.”

There are dozens of security staff, employees and NYPD that witnessed Oakley’s abusive behavior. It started when he entered the building and continued until he was arrested and left the building. Every single statement we have received is consistent in describing his actions. Everything he said since the incident is pure fiction.

So, not content to just physically drag a franchise legend out of Madison Square Garden and press charges against him, the Knicks have now double down on their stance and called a player who averaged a double-double for them over the course of a decade a bald-faced liar, and done it all within 48 hours of team president Phil Jackson co-signing a column claiming that current top star Carmelo Anthony, whom the franchise is intent on pushing out of town, lacks the will to win.

We have now reached the point in the program where REGGIE FREAKING MILLER is the voice of reason in a matter involving the New York Knicks:

The lesson, as always: the state of James Dolan’s New York Knicks can always, always, always be more embarrassing.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!