NEW YORK — Former Knicks star Charles Oakley was forcefully removed from his seat at Madison Square Garden, handcuffed and arrested after a scuffle near team owner James Dolan.
Oakley shoved security guards before they pulled him away from his seat behind the baseline during the first quarter of the Knicks’ 119-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. Fans chanted “Oakley! Oakley!” in support of the popular power forward.
The 53-year-old Oakley played for the Knicks from 1988-98, helping them reach the NBA Finals, but has a poor relationship with the team because of his criticism of Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman.
“Charles Oakley came to the game tonight and behaved in a highly inappropriate and completely abusive manner,” the Knicks wrote in a statement on Twitter. “He has been ejected and is currently being arrested by the New York City Police Department. He was a great Knick and we hope he gets some help soon.”
The NYPD said Oakley was arrested on three counts of assault, all third degree. Police gave him a summons for a desk appearance at a later date.
The commotion took place a few rows behind the court during a stoppage in play while Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis was shooting free throws. Players from both teams turned to the disturbance. Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who played with Oakley in New York, said the scene was “sad.”
“That was tough for me to watch,” Rivers added. “Honest to God, if you could see, I took three steps. I swear I was going to run down there and then I thought, ‘What the hell am I going to do?’ But I didn’t like that. That’s my guy. So that was tough to watch from where I was standing.”
Security was called to Oakley’s seat after he was shouting at Dolan, sitting not far ahead in his usual seat in the first row behind the baseline. Oakley shoved one security official in the face, though neither he nor any other arena staff threw any punches or pushed Oakley back, as players and tennis great John McEnroe looked on from his nearby seat.
“I stopped and then there was an inbounds play on the side. I turned around just in time as he was handing it to him and then there was a foul. I walked back to catch the third, fourth and fifth rounds,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “It was crazy, man.”
Oakley was handcuffed near an arena exit as he waited for police to arrive.
The 6-foot-8 Oakley was a rugged enforcer playing alongside Michael Jordan in Chicago and then Patrick Ewing on the Knicks teams of the 1990s. He has kept his tough-guy persona long after retirement, trading barbs with former rival Charles Barkley recently.
“He’s the best teammate in the world. He really is,” Rivers said. “Honestly, the players could see, that was a tough thing to watch. I’ve been in the league a long time and I’ve never seen a thing like that.”
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