Charles Oakley, a longtime favorite of New York Knicks fans as an enforcer power forward on the rough-and-tumble teams that waged yearly postseason battles with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers during the 1990s, was in attendance for the team’s nationally televised matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
“Was.” Past tense. He wasn’t there for long.
They were chanting that because it really was Charles Oakley.
Just before the halfway point of the opening quarter of Knicks-Clippers, ESPN’s cameras captured the 53-year-old Oakley shoving what was reportedly a Madison Square Garden security guard near courtside before being hauled off by a slew of security personnel and taken away from the court.
We don’t know for sure what Oak was doing, buuuuut …
That’d be the owner of the Knicks, whom Oakley insists has refused to talk to or meet with him over the years about possibly returning to the organization in some capacity (in stark contrast to the franchise’s recently adopted “Once a Knick, Always a Knick” PR credo) and for whom the former “Chopped” competitor “wouldn’t mind cooking […] dinner,” providing he gets the chance to put “something in” the boss’ dish.
“I mean, I had at least 15 people try to set up a meeting,” Oakley told Scott Cacciola of the New York Times in November. “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! [pause] I mean, he can have the police outside the door.”
We saw during the 2016 NBA Finals that Oakley, who averaged a double-double over a 10-year stretch with the Knicks during which the team made the postseason every year, doesn’t much care for aggressive security guards:
… but on Wednesday night, his unwillingness to be touched or delayed led to his removal from MSG:
Shortly after the incident caught the attention of a national TV audience, the Knicks issued a statement:
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.
“We hope he gets some help soon” sure is some way to end a quickly composed public relations statement.
A law enforcement official told Mike Vorkunov of the New York Times that “it appeared that Oakley would be charged third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and that he likely would be issued a desk appearance ticket, which meant he would probably be released pending a court date.”
That’s exactly what happened, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, though apparently the number of charges tripled:
… which isn’t to say that Oakley doesn’t still have his supporters among New York’s finest:
Oakley spoke with Isola after his release from the Midtown South police station shortly after midnight ET, saying that “the Garden security asked him to leave because Dolan did not want him” in the area:
“I was there for four minutes,” Oakley said late Wednesday night. “I didn’t say anything to him. I swear on my mother. They came over and wanted to know why I was sitting there. I bought the ticket. I said why do you guys keep staring at me. Then they asked me to leave. And I said I’m not leaving.”
Oakley then granted an interview at a restaurant called Jimmy’s Eat Drink Party on Instagram, which, again, is a totally normal set of circumstances for this string of events in New York City on Wednesday:
One fan told the Daily News that Oakley “clearly looked wasted” and “was definitely upset about something.” Another, though, said “it didn’t look like [Oakley] 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.”
Well, if nothing else, we’ve got something Knicks-related to talk about that isn’t Phil Jackson trying to force star forward Carmelo Anthony out the door. Top-shelf work all around, guys. Truly brilliant stuff.
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