By Ethan Marshall
Why can’t we all just get along? The feud between New York Knicks owner James Dolan and former Knicks star Charles Oakley shows no signs of ending. Since their altercation at Madison Square Garden, which resulted in Oakley’s ejection from the stadium, the feud between the two has gotten so bad that NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Michael Jordan had to get involved in attempting to put an end to the feud. While both have apologized over the incident, there is still clearly tension between them. While there have been differing accounts of exactly how the feud started, the fact is that Dolan had Oakley ejected, arrested, and banned from Madison Square Garden.
There having been differing stories as to how Oakley ended up getting into a verbal altercation with Dolan, and a physical altercation with security. Shortly after the incident, the Knicks issued a statement saying “Charles Oakley came to the game tonight and behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner. He was a great Knick and we hope he gets some help soon.”
In an Instagram interview with a bar, Oakley gave his side of the story. “We sat down, tried to have a good time and we were asked to leave the building. I asked why and [a security guard] said, ‘You have to leave because someone ordered you to leave.’ I [told him], ‘I am a Knicks fan, I’ve been here four and a half minutes, I played here for 10 years, I love the Knicks, I love New York. I wish them all the luck and success on the basketball court, I don’t know why I am not welcome at the Garden,'” Oakley said. Oakley said he shoved one security guard and knocked another reaching for him away because he felt threatened by the fact that a large amount of security guards were around him. “Somebody walking up on you, you have to protect yourself in all manners. I’ve been in situations like this before, I’ve been jumped before. In my mind, if you see seven, eight, nine, ten guys coming at you, you have to brace yourself and be ready for the challenge. That’s what I was thinking,” said Oakley.
Dolan and Oakley have had a history with each other in the past. Prior to this incident, Oakley had been in a state of exile from the Knicks organization. Oakley had previously blamed Dolan as the reason for his estranged relationship with the Knicks. In an interview with The New York Times published last November, Oakley said Dolan didn’t like him. He went on to say “I had at least 15 people try to set up a meeting. 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.” In a 2015 interview with the New York Daily News, Oakley talked about how Dolan disliked him. “As hard as I played for that motherf—, and he don’t want to talk with me? Everybody in New York liked me except this one guy…He’s a bad guy,” Oakley said.
Despite the fact that the two sides apologized to each other during their meeting with Adam Silver and Michael Jordan, Oakley has since said that he’s still not over the incident. Even though Dolan lifted the lifetime ban on Oakley from coming to the Garden, Oakley still wants Dolan to publicly apologize to him. Recently, Oakley compared Dolan to former Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, who was forced to sell the team after audio leaked of him making racist comments. Additionally, Oakley said that despite his ban being lifted, he may not return to the Garden for a long time, if at all.
Many current and former NBA players have expressed their opinions on the feud. On Monday’s Inside the NBA, Charles Barkley called the feud “probably the silliest, most BS thing I’ve ever seen in my 30 years in the NBA. It’s a bad look for the Knicks. It’s a bad look for Charles Oakley. It’s a bad look for the NBA.” Barkley’s co-host Kenny Smith said, “I think Oakley, even though he was wrong in the incident, he did deserve better treatment.” LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade voiced their support for Oakley, with the former even reaching out to Oakley to make sure he was alright. The three objected to the way the Knicks treated Oakley in their statement following the incident. Draymond Green went as far as to say that James Dolan had a “slave-master mentality” toward Charles Oakley.
Days after the incident, the Knicks brought in former players Latrell Sprewell, Bernard King, Larry Johnson, Kenny Walker, Bill Bradley, Gerald Wilkins, John Wallace, Herb Williams, and Vin Baker to come to a Knicks game and sit with Dolan as a means of damage control. In addition to being upset at these players for turning their backs on him, Oakley is also upset with former teammate Patrick Ewing for not coming out to publicly defend him.