Knicks’ legend Charles Oakley’s long-running feud with Knicks’ owner James Dolan has made headlines and some lawyers a lot of money. None of that has stopped Oakley from being very public in his criticism of Dolan’s tenure (drawing nods from many Knicks fans).
In Oakley’s new book, “The Last Enforcer,” he doesn’t hold back on criticism of Dolan, including telling a story from the 2014 All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, when Oakley was first introduced to Dolan — and a chilling response from LeBron James. (Hat tip to Brad Botkin at CBS Sports.)
According to Oakley, he was hanging out with LeBron and his agent Rich Paul at a party, when he was introduced to Dolan, but because Oakley had been critical of the Knicks recently Dolan refused to look him in the eye or shake his hand.
“You would have thought I did something to his wife,” Oakley wrote. “S***, Latrell Sprewell, who played five seasons with the Knicks, cursed at Dolan in front of Dolan’s wife when he returned to face the Knicks back in 2003, and they still became friends. I didn’t do anything to this man. What did I ever say that was so bad that he would ignore me like that? I wondered. Man, I wanted to hit him in the head.
“I walked back to LeBron and said, ‘This motherf***** (Dolan) wouldn’t shake my hand,'” Oakley continued. “All LeBron said was: ‘This is why I’m never going to New York.'”
Take this with a grain of salt. To sell a book, Oakley had to have some headline-grabbing moments.
However, over the past dozen years, free agents have been hesitant to play for Dolan’s Knicks. New York thought they would land LeBron and another star back in 2010, only to watch LeBron team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. For the last decade that’s how it’s gone with the Knicks struggling to even get in the room with top free agents. In the ultimate snub, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving chose to play over the bridge in Brooklyn rather than for the Knicks.
Under current Knicks president Leon Rose things feel a little different. Dolan has stayed in the background — a key part of the job for any president/GM is managing up and keeping a meddling owner out of basketball decisions — and the team has built a respectable core of young players, even if the Knicks’ record has taken a step back this season. There is reason for optimism, and the Knicks have been linked to a number of stars such as Damian Lillard.
But until a superstar walks through the doors of Madison Square Garden, the question of what is keeping the superstars away will linger. And people will keep looking at Dolan.