Charles Oakley never should have been asked a question about alcoholism, he never should have been forced into defining his relationship with libations on record, and the New York Knicks should be ashamed of themselves.
Even if Oakley had barged into Madison Square Garden last Wednesday with brown paper package in tow and ginned-up breath on the ready to row, MSG’s repeated insistence on telling anyone who would listen that they hope he “gets some help soon” with an unspecified mitigating influence was beyond callous, hardly tactful, far from professional or plain normal. The Knicks, in the hours after shuffling a near-scuffling Oakley away from his seats at the Garden, then pushed all in on Friday in its attempt to paint their former All-Star forward as either a bumbling louse, or an aggressor looking to throw down in a Jack Dempsey-stance after too many tipples.
Or, really, whatever image Knicks and MSG owner James Dolan has of alcoholics. Happy, social alcoholics, a bleary group that Dolan admittedly was not a part of when he was working through his own struggles with alcohol.
Charles Oakley has never been pushed into much, on the court or off, in a lifetime filled with overcoming one obstacle over another. Oakley, in talking with Sirius XM’s NBA channel and then the New York Post after Dolan’s televised explanation of Charles’ indefinite ban from MSG, was certainly eased into explaining himself in ways that can’t help but be termed as anything less than iniquitous.
That’s the New York Knick way, under James Dolan. Blind as a bat despite the MSG lights. Oakley discussed Dolan’s allegations while referencing the work he puts in with former NBA All-Star and admitted alcoholic JaysonWilliams, in Florida’s Rebound Institute. From Marc Berman at the New York Post:
“Dolan might think because I go to volunteer at Rebound Institute treatment centers with Jayson that I’m a client,’’ Oakley told The Post. “I’m just supporting the amazing work Jayson is doing. I’m not an alcoholic, but Jayson is.’’
We recently relayed Williams’ ongoing struggles with his addictions. Oakley went on to discuss why, exactly, Mr. Dolan might be confused:
After Williams got his second DWI, Oakley was instrumental in getting his longtime friend into the Florida clinic.
Williams called Oakley immediately and asked him to check out the facility. Oakley drove 1,200 miles in his truck from Cleveland, toured the facility, interviewed officials and then ordered Williams to attend.
“I’m just helping a friend, same as a friend would do for me,” Oakley told Sports Illustrated last year. “Do me a favor and don’t make me out to be no hero.”
We’re fine with that. Charles Oakley deserves no preferential treatment because of his kindness to Jayson Williams, he deserves no preferential treatment because he’s turned in a wildly successful post-NBA life with successful business interests that were in place long before he retired from the NBA in 2004, or before he was dealt from the Knicks to Toronto (for Marcus Camby) during the 1998 NBA draft.
He deserves no preferential treatment just because he’s more familiar with Charles Barkley’s butt, Bill Cartwright’s elbows or Dennis Rodman’s conniving tricks than most other Madison Square Garden ticket-holders. Even on a team that famously stitches “Once a Knick, Always a Knick” into its uniform, Charles Oakley is still just one of dozens of former New York Knicks that have made the World’s Greatest City beam with pride even in full view of the 89-82 playoff game they just lost.
Charles Oakley does deserve fair treatment as an actual human being, though. He deserves the same combination of sensibility and refinement (and, God forbid, good humor) that any other former employee, paid attendee, sentient person or any other combination of the three would merit.
James Dolan is incapable of many things, so pushing for a level of basic, humanoid understanding is a bit much at this point. Toss in Dolan’s age, perpetual lack of self-awareness and the convenient paucity of compelling reasons as to why he should change, and you have a slug sitting where a leader should.
The team will make money, and James Dolan will forever have a (very famous, he’s totally my friend, I could call him right now if I wanted to) superstar schmuck to pin it on. This round belongs to Knicks president Phil Jackson, with Carmelo Anthony’s feature act winning few hearts with his insistence on playing out the string for a rudderless, terrible team that also pays him a maximum contract.
As has been reminded for decades, though, this mess is entirely at James Dolan’s feet. So why not call an ex-Knick and longtime combatant an alcoholic while things are going down? Even this characterization of the Knicks is lacking, because as we’ve learned with the Knicks James Dolan’s team is never actually “going down.” Nothing is beneath James Dolan and the New York Knicks, at any point.
James Dolan is an admitted alcoholic, with over two decades of sobriety that he should be more than proud of. Pride in that accomplishment isn’t virtue enough for Dolan, not with so little else in his life of his own creation to stand on, so his inability to cope with his own failings as Knicks and MSG boss manifest in telling others where they should stick their cork.
You’ll recall the time Dolan came out of nowhere to dismiss an angry Knicks fan as an “alcoholic, maybe” who “most likely [has] made your family miserable.” Forgetting, of course, that James Dolan at this point is best known for being an alcoholic himself, and for making hundreds upon hundreds of families miserable with his work in leading the Knicks and MSG into this sort of oblivion.
(An oblivion, never forget, that the NBA has happily signed off on. Taking a cue from his predecessor’s disinterest in doing anything of note regarding the reign of Donald Sterling in Los Angeles, NBA commissioner Adam Silver sloughed off James Dolan’s emailed “alcoholic” accusations toward a longtime paying New York Knicks customer as the work of “a consummate New Yorker.”)
After decades of showing up to work without any reason to be there – underprepared, unqualified, untalented, un-asked-for, unchallenged to the point that the New York Knicks became the NBA’s laughingstock ages ago – James Dolan finally has a subject in which he’s an accomplished speaker, as he’s an actual boffin in this realm. Away from the cameras, speaking truth to power about his own struggles, Dolan had a real chance to act like a real person.
Instead, he comes to the figurative table with a literal folder that says “preparation” in lower-case letters, showing absolutely no understanding nor insight into the actual thing that he’s been through. We’d suggest that he perhaps overruled any sensible, poised decision on his way toward steamrolling over things in an attempt to save face prior to any possible lawsuit from Charles Oakley, but that would be giving James Dolan, career screw-up, too much credit.
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