If New York City likes one thing over all things it is toughness. They will take tough over glamour. When Pat Riley came to New York from Los Angeles, he shed his glamorous past and created bully basketball with Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason. The league hated it but the city felt redeemed. Come into the lane and you will feel it. Not to mention the Oakley principle: he made his teammates tougher. He was the perfect compliment for Patrick Ewing and the best thing about Oak was he didn’t give a damn what you thought. He was as old school as they come. He stuck up for teammates. He hammered players when they came into the lane. He never smiled in the game, not once; it was all business. He was the archetype when the NBA was about intimidation and toughness, not friends and Twitter. Knick fans didn’t just appreciate Oak, they identified with him.
NYC can be a hard city. Brooklyn can be hard. Queens can be hard. The Bronx can be hard. And here was Oakley representing that identity of having to make a living the tough way.
And here was James Dolan the rich man’s son who never had a manual labor work minute in his life getting Charles Oakley arrested as if Oak had done nothing for his franchise, as if he was garbage.
James Dolan called Charles Oakley an alcoholic. Pause for a moment. Take the glamour teams and their beloved players. The Bulls have long passed the Dennis Rodman era. Would they ever say he hit the bottle, even though Rodman has had substance abuse issues? Would Danny Ainge call his former teammates Robert Parish and M.L. Carr lushes. Would Jeanie Buss lay out A.C. Green or Kurt Rambis?
No. Of course not. Tough players are the franchise untouchables. They come to games, they get their ovation from the fans, they grimace at how bad their former teams are and everyone calls it a day.
But James Dolan had to be a hardass and ban Oakley from the game and the stupid thing about it is he turned Oakley into a hero. Already he had security confiscate Free Oakley signs at the game so what is next? If you wear an Oakley jersey to the game he is going to rip it off of you? It wouldn’t surprise me if there was an Oakley jersey fan night orchestrated on social media by the Knicks faithful just to screw over Dolan.
And Carmelo wants to try to win with this organization? The Knicks are going nowhere fast and it is hard not to say that with Dolan at the top, they are getting what they deserve. They are 4-11 in their last 15 games. Of their 4 wins, only one came at MSG. That was 16 days ago. Their apathetic loss to the Lakers, nearly trailing by 30 points, was the low point on the season. The next game, Charles Oakley was arrested. They say if you can’t be good, don’t be boring. But this was not what they were talking about, humiliating a former great.
I guess it is true, the fish rots from the head down. The head of the Knicks is rotten. This season is a catastrophe.