Charles Oakley embodies the gritty character of the New York Knicks.
He is the heart and soul of the team, and is (to my knowledge), the only
player ever to get a technical foul for having his jersey untucked! Some of
my favorite things about Oakley?- the way he throws himself around the court,
his poor balance and jumping ability, his knack for drawing offensive charges, his bold full court outlet passes,
and the arc he gets on his free throws.
The John Shaft Award
This goes to Oakley. One of the networks needs to have a "Coolest guy on the planet" contest because Oakley would absolutely win. You know those "Road House" scenes in which Swayze just stands in the bar, surveying the scene with a thin smile on his face, barely moving a fingernail and meanwhile, 10 drunk guys are brawling a few feet away from him? That's what Oakley is like. You could hire some extras to play gang members at one of these parties, then have them fire blanks at each other 10 feet from Oakley and I'm not even sure he would flinch. The great thing about him: He served as MJ's enforcer in Chicago, and now they're both retired ... and from what I could tell, he's still Jordan's enforcer. Could there be a greater tribute in life to someone's kickassability than Michael Jordan himself deciding, "You know what? I need to make sure he's still on my side. I don't care if we're in our 40s."
Personally, I think Oak could do more. Why couldn't he become the next great action hero? He's got the looks, the size, the swagger ... at the very least, he could mumble through his lines and become the black Steven Seagal. For God's sake, everyone in the league is still afraid of him, personified by the one-sided Tyrone Hill/Oakley and Jeff McInnis/Oakley feuds, as well as the famous story of Oak slapping Barkley hard across the face during a '99 lockout players-only meeting, which became his signature "Here's why you don't mess with Oakley" moment.
Anyway, on Thursday night, I asked one relatively famous current player who knows him, "What makes Oakley more intimidating than everyone else?"
His answer: "There's a lotta tough guys in the league, but Oak don't give a f---."
Well, then. Should there be reality TV cameras following Oak around at all times? Sure, I think so. But what do I know? By the way, we're not done with him yet, either.
The pair of big men, who had their share of battles when Oakley played for the New York Knicks and Brown played for the rival Miami Heat in the 1990s, got tangled up on a rebound, with Brown (nine points, eight rebounds) pulling Oakley down from behind. Oakley (four points, four rebounds) bulled Brown and appeared to have gotten off a punch as players and coaches from both teams rushed to pull the players apart near mid-court.
After all parties got up off the floor there were a few words exchanged, but both players made their way to their locker rooms without incident. Both could be fined and suspensions for their next games are likely. It is unclear if any players from either team left the bench to break up the squabble but if any did, they could be suspended.
"We do what we go to," Oakley said. "You got to fight . . . that's part of leadership. Didn't nobody bleed. Things happen, the game kept going and they won. He came on my back, he tried to run to the basket, he was mouthing off a couple times before that. He came around my back, I blocked him out, he grabbed me and I got him up off me."
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michael Jordan believes the Washington Wizards "got disconnected'' in an embarrassing defeat by the Toronto Raptors, and Charles Oakley thinks some of the young players are too sensitive.
And coach Doug Collins? He made the players watch the tape of their Tuesday night horror show before sending them to a do-it-yourself practice.
Two days after talking big -- a four-game sweep of the homestand and home-court advantage in the playoffs were the newly stated goals -- the Wizards spent Wednesday in the dumps, mulling over a terrible performance. An 84-75 loss at home to the undermanned Raptors, a team that relied heavily on players on 10-day contracts, was almost beyond comprehension.
"Everybody knows we gave the game away, and it was solely because of the effort and not because we don't have the players or the knowledge,'' Jordan said. "That's the disappointing thing, that this late in the season we can put out an effort like that. We're trying to make ground, and we come out and lay an egg.''
Jordan was as big a culprit as anybody. He pumped the team up by talking about "something big'' on the horizon for the long-moribund franchise, then made just three of 12 shots in the second half. He was just 1-of-6 in the fourth quarter, looking all of his 39 years on both offense and defense, and refused to talk to reporters after the game.
True, the Wizards played without leading scorer Jerry Stackhouse, out for a week with a groin injury. But that shouldn't have mattered against the ragtag Raptors.
"You saw how in disarray we were,'' Jordan said. "We got disconnected in the second half, me included. With Jerry being out, obviously that's a big loss, but we have qualified players that can stay connected and do the necessary things to win.''
Jordan said perhaps his teammates got full of themselves when he and Collins talked of winning four straight to improve their playoff position. More realistically, the Wizards (19-19) need to think about making the playoffs first, starting Thursday night against Orlando.
"That's part of being a young team,'' Jordan said. "We can sit here and assume, talk, but yet you don't understand what it takes to get there. I can think of three losses, Memphis, Golden State and this loss. Those three losses could easily come back and haunt us.
"We gave one back to the course. Now we've got to go make a birdie somewhere to even it out, with a game no one expects us to win.''
Jordan said the Wizards were unpredictable because they have yet to develop a team-wide personality. Oakley, a 17-year veteran, also addressed that notion.
"We've got some sensitive young guys,'' he said. "Nowadays, these young guys, anytime you say something, you're picking on them. Back in the day, half of these guys wouldn't get in the league.
"They've just given them more avenues, they've given them everything, and they don't have anything to look forward to, so when you want them to do something that's tough, they can't do it. The league is just like daycare.''
Oakley added another dose of realism: The Wizards are lucky just to be in playoff contention.
"It's not really hard to be in the middle of the pack,'' he said. "If we were in the West, we probably wouldn't be in the pack. We'd be in the backyard somewhere with the dogs and can't get in the house.
"But in the East, we've got a chance to find an open door so we can come on through the house.''
Collins had few answers. Instead of chewing out the players and punishing them with a hard practice, he showed them the first half of the Toronto tape and told them they were on their own. The players worked out individually in the gym, but the coach didn't watch.
"Maybe they'll come back tomorrow with some more energy,'' Collins said.
Never one to sugarcoat his observations, Oakley offered some pungent commentary on the Knicks' fall before the game. Oakley said he's not surprised by it, but he blamed management for the makeup of the team, not the coaching.
"It ain't the coach; it's the players," said Oakley, 38, who had six points. "They're softer. They don't want to compete, don't want to suck it up. You've got to buy into what the coach wants to do."
Referring to the Knicks' $91-million payroll, Oakley said, "They're a max-out team. They've got the top salaries in the league. There's no excuses. It's bad management and bad deals. It's hard to recoup in this league. You've got to have trade bait."
Because of the season-ending injury Antonio McDyess suffered in training camp, Oakley said the jury still is out on that move. But there's no mistaking the Knicks' glaring problem in the middle, where they are making do with a rotation of undersized power forwards: Thomas, Othella Harrington and Clarence Weatherspoon.
"They've got some garbage. Point- blank," Oakley said. "They need to take four or five players out with the trash and dump them. You can't have a bunch of guys who are 6-5 and 6-6. I know the fans in New York. You can't fake out New Yorkers ... that you're going to get the job done. You've got to get to the playoffs, first round, second round."
Cablevision CEO James Dolan has abandoned his free-spending ways for a policy of fiscal responsibility this season, but Oakley said that might cost the Knicks more in the long run. "It ain't about the dollar," he said. "It's about getting the fan base back, getting the respect back. Go out and get the 'Kandi man."'
That last suggestion was a reference to Clippers center Michael Olowokandi, who will be a free agent July 1. Because the Knicks are far over the salary cap, the only way they can get him is through a sign-and-trade, and they might not have the necessary trade bait to get it done.
That would be a shame, Oakley said. "There's no excuse. That's the mecca."
Click here for the archive of past news stories.
Oakley's NBA Player Profile:
Oakley's Wikipedia page:
Oakley's CNNSI Profile:
Virginia Union University: Oakley's alma mater (class of '85)- they still sell his jersey!
Oakley's Car Wash Directory: