Charles Oakley’s no-nonsense demeanor and penchant for physical confrontations were part of his portfolio when he played 18 NBA seasons primarily for New York, Chicago and Toronto. And in the years since he retired (2004), Oakley as tough guy has become the stuff of legends, sort of the league’s version of a “Chuck Norris” joke as someone with whom one would not want to mess. In recent days on Twitter, for instance, someone related a tale of Oakley taking a young child from another player’s arms – just so he could smack the dad.
What Oakley got involved in Wednesday, though, in the stands at Madison Square Garden was no joke. It was, instead, unacceptable and a threat to Oakley, security and customers attending the Knicks’ game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Oakley angrily scuffled with MSG security a few rows from the court, as players from both teams watched, during the game’s first quarter. It wasn’t initially known what triggered the exchange, but video clips of Oakley shoving men who appeared to be trying to calm or restrain him hit social media quickly. He was hustled out of the arena bowl by a cadre of Garden employees.
Oh snap Charles Oakley! pic.twitter.com/lufv0bW5nq— SB Nation (@SBNation) February 9, 2017
The NYPD said Oakley was arrested on three counts of assault, all third degree. He was being processed for a desk appearance and will be issued a summons to report back to court.
The Knicks issued a statement soon after Oakley was dismissed:
Troubling as the incident was, it offered a reminder that odes to toughness and nostalgia about the league’s “villains” and “enforcers” can get carried away. Oakley’s strong, aggressive and even intimidating presence at power forward helped the Bulls, the Knicks and the Raptors reach the playoffs 15 times in his first 15 seasons. Once Oakley got there, he got better, averaging 10.9 ppg and 10.2 rpg in 144 postseason games compared to 9.7 ppg and 9.5 rpg in 1,282 regular season contests.
He ranks ninth in NBA history in offensive rebounds, 15th in defensive rebounds and 21st in total rebounds overall (12,205). No less than Michael Jordan, an Oakley teammate and friend, lauded his toughness and help when Jordan was a young player, and the NBA in the 1990s – in the wake of Detroit’s notorious “Bad Boys” championship teams – was a rougher league that tolerated a higher level of physical play.
Oakley couldn’t comport himself on a basketball court in quite the same way in 2017, however, and at age 53, surely can’t behave that way off the court.