I don’t care if you’re in the middle of giving your wedding vows or standing in line at Five Guys, if Charles Oakley is talking, you best be listening.
And talk Oakley did, in a recent interview with the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn.
In a conversation that covered everything from one-and-done athletes to people taking drunken selfies at New York Knicks games, Oak dispensed all the righteous rage of a basketball holy man forced into exile.
What did we do? We nodded our head in agreement so hard our noses started bleeding, you guys.
Here he is on the propagation of analytics:
The coaches in this league, in this day and era, are soft; the players are soft, how can you build something? They put all these stat guys, these analytic guys, and put them on the bench and make them GM because of numbers.
And on the influx of European players:
“When we played in the ’80s, it wasn’t OK [for European players to play in the NBA]. They weren’t coming over here. They were scared. The game was tough and they weren’t tough.
And on Spencer Hawes:
“I don’t like 7-footers shooting threes, it’s a disrespect to the game for me.”
And on a watered down World's Most Famous Arena:
I talked to some fans from New York. It’s like going to a concert — going to the Garden — people just want to get drunk and have fun and take pictures. They don’t really care about the game. That’s not there anymore.
Since when did Charles Oakley turn into everyone’s cranky great uncle who always shows up to Thanksgiving complaining about “punks these days with their long hair and jazz cigarettes?”
But brush away the misdirected misanthropy and mild xenophobia, there’s still a man there we all love and wish was a more visible ambassador for the game he so scowled and strong-armed for the better part of two decades.
If this 2012 New York Daily News dispatch by Stefan Bondy is to be believed, however, Oak has been just one in a long line of Knicks legends given the cold shoulder by James Dolan over the years.
Oakley, who spent a charitable Friday morning cooking and serving Thanksgiving dinners to seniors in the lower East Side, said that for a while he “cried and tried” to get a job in the Knicks organization, with no luck. The 48-year-old has heard it’s because he’s too critical of his former team — a no-no at the Garden, as Marv Albert also discovered.
With the hiring of Phil Jackson sparking what many hope will be a period of détente between New York’s notoriously hamfisted front office and the general public, it stands to reason Oakley might soon be on the short list for some sort of post—official, ceremonial or otherwise.
My suggestion: Official Attitude Killer, or OAK, for short. Dress him in his full 1990s Knicks regalia and have him patrol the premises making sure no one—from Carmelo Anthony to nacho vendor—is bringing a bad ‘tude to the Garden.
Unless you want this to be your world, of course: