Charles Oakley, a New York Knicks legend and fan favorite, denied that he is suffering from “an addiction,” an implication leveled at him by owner James Dolan after Oakley was ejected Wednesday night from Madison Square Garden and banned from the arena.
“Dolan might think because I go to volunteer at Rebound Institute treatment centers with Jayson [Williams, the former NBA player] that I’m a client,” Oakley told The New York Post. “I’m just supporting the amazing work Jayson is doing. I’m not an alcoholic, but Jayson is.”
Oakley and Williams struck up a friendship during the days of the Knicks-Nets rivalry of the 1990s and Oakley reached out to help after Williams’s second DUI. “I’m just helping a friend, same as a friend would do for me,” Oakley told Sports Illustrated last year. “Do me a favor and don’t make me out to be no hero.”
In the immediate aftermath of the ugly incident Wednesday in which Oakley scuffled with security guards and was eventually led away in handcuffs and arrested, the Knicks said in a statement that they hoped “he gets some help soon.” Oakley admitted having had a couple of drinks before the game but said he was thrown out when Dolan spotted him sitting a couple of rows away. In an interview with ESPN New York’s Michael Kay on Friday, Dolan was more specific about what he says are Oakley’s issues.
“He has a problem with anger. He’s both physically and verbally abusive,” Dolan said. “He may have a problem with alcohol. We don’t know. But those behaviors of being physically and verbally abusive, those are personality problems.”
“The most important thing with that is, you know, we need to keep the Garden a place that’s comfortable and safe for everybody who goes there,” Dolan continued. “So, anybody who comes to the Garden, whether they’ve been drinking too much alcohol, been looking for a fight, they’re abusive, disrespectful to their fans — they’re going to be ejected, and they’re going to be banned.”
Dolan, who, according to a 2007 Sports Illustrated profile went through alcohol rehab, told the New York Post: “I’m sure he has problems. I didn’t have the problem he has, but when you’re fighting addiction, it’s not that much different from anger management or other diseases where you can’t control yourself.”
Oakley told SiriusXM Radio that he will just find other things to do when he is in New York.
“I’m in New York every two weeks,’’ Oakley said. “I don’t have to ring a bell when I come to the city. I just do what I’m supposed to do when I’m in the city. I don’t shy away. I go to restaurants, plays, events, high schools. They don’t have to write about me helping the schools. The kids know and the people around me know.”
As for Dolan, he attempted to do some damage control Sunday, bringing back another fan favorite, Latrell Sprewell, as part of the team’s 70th anniversary celebration. He occupied a seat of honor, right next to Dolan.
Two days after Jim Dolan announced a beloved Knicks is banned from MSG indefinitely he magically reconciles with Latrell & sits next to him.
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) February 12, 2017
Here's the video they just showed at MSG "welcoming back" Latrell Sprewell pic.twitter.com/DnXnsPHwmX
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) February 12, 2017
Fans on social media weren’t appreciating the gesture.
James Dolan using Latrell Sprewell and Bernard King as tokens right now and I can't stand it.
— Kareem of Wheat (@AceOfSpady) February 12, 2017
So wait someone who choked his coach (Latrell Sprewell) is allowed in the Garden but Oakley isn't??? Ok that makes sense…. #FreeOakley
— David_The_Man9 (@David_The_Man9) February 12, 2017
Sprewell wasn’t the only one to occupy a seat of honor.
A lot of ex-Knicks in the front row. Spree, Larry Johnson, Bernard King, Vin Baker
— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) February 12, 2017
Meanwhile, Knicks super-fan Spike Lee wore an Oakley jersey in solidarity with the former power forward.