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Charles Oakley’s Ejection From Madison Square Garden Is Just One of the Knicks’ Problems

Longtime New York fans won’t sour on Oak nostalgia anytime soon

(AP Images)
(AP Images)

The Knicks’ PR department likes to tweet out the hashtag “#OAKAAK,” short for “Once a Knick, Always a Knick,” a phrase written on the inside of Knicks jerseys. Mainly, they use this when some forgettable player like Toney Douglas returns to play in Madison Square Garden, or when Quentin Richardson and Al Harrington attend a game together. It shares several letters with the name of a player they’ll never use it for, even though he was a fan favorite on some of the best Knicks teams ever: Charles Oakley, the longtime enforcer who loves the people who love him and will fight anybody who slights him or owes him money.

One of the people he thinks slighted him is Knicks owner James Dolan. In 2015, Oakley said Dolan wouldn’t look him in the eye, and last year, Oakley requested a locked-door sit-down with the Knicks owner. Wednesday night, Oakley showed up at Madison Square Garden to watch the Knicks play the Clippers and reportedly started trying to argue with Dolan. MSG’s security guards decided that wasn’t a good idea, and then this happened:

Normally, the main job of a stadium security guard is to look like they could rough you up. For more than a decade, Oakley’s job was to actually rough up some of the strongest men on the planet, and he appears to have turned his Pro-Athlete Strength into Old-Man Strength. The stadium staff needed an army to take him down.

After MSG’s 17 best dudes hauled him off, he was arrested and charged with assault by New York police, leading to this statement from the same Knicks account that loves to say “#OAKAAK”:

This isn’t the first time Dolan’s administration has urged somebody to get some help. But maybe Oakley isn’t the one who needs help. He may have opted to pay the exorbitant price Dolan charges to watch a sub-.500 squad struggle at home against a team without its best player. It’s the Knicks that need help. They’ve got a superstar on a max contract and one of the most exciting young players in the NBA, and they’re 6–19 in their past 25 games.

But the Knicks’ persistent losing has never offended Dolan. He’s friendlier to the people who contribute to the Knicks’ semipermanent crappiness than he is to people who point out the crappiness, be they announcers, reporters, or Oakley.

To us Knicks fans, Oak represents a better time. No, the Knicks of the 1990s never won a championship, but New Yorkers treat them like they did, because they were willing to fight like they deserved one. And that represents the fundamental difference between Dolan and Oakley: If you tell Dolan that his team is bad, he’ll shun you and keep making money. If you told Oakley his team was bad, he’d spend 48 minutes out-rebounding you, say the most disrespectful things he could, and then leave. Neither of these strategies necessarily leads to a win. But we don’t need a team that wins. We just need somebody who gives a crap.