The NBA has seen enough of the mess that’s become of the relationship between the New York Knicks and beloved former player Charles Oakley. Some sort of resolution appears to be on the horizon, and none other than Michael Jordan was called on by commissioner Adam Silver to broker the peace.
“It is beyond disheartening to see situations involving members of the NBA family like the one that occurred at Madison Square Garden this past week,” Silver said in a statement on Monday. “In an effort to find a path forward, New York Knicks owner Jim Dolan, Charles Oakley, and I met today at the league office, along with Michael Jordan who participated by phone.
“Both Mr. Oakley and Mr. Dolan were apologetic about the incident and subsequent comments, and their negative impact on the Knicks organization and the NBA. Mr. Dolan expressed his hope that Mr. Oakley would return to MSG as his guest in the near future.
“I appreciate the efforts of Mr. Dolan, Mr. Oakley and Mr. Jordan to work towards a resolution of this matter.”
Oakley was arrested last week at Madison Square Garden during a nationally televised game against the Los Angeles Clippers for reportedly “going after” Dolan — allegations the former Knicks forward vehemently denied. The Knicks immediately released a statement saying, in part, “we hope he gets some help soon.” The team doubled down, reportedly banning Oakley for life, and then tripled down, releasing another statement that said, “Everything he said since the incident is pure fiction.”
The back and forth got so brutal, Dolan all too casually and way too carelessly insinuated Oakley might be an alcoholic — “He may have a problem with alcohol, we don’t know” — on ESPN Radio’s “The Michael Kay Show.” That shameful comment forced Oakley to come out publicly and insist on SiriusXM NBA Radio, “I’m not an alcoholic.” Silver called it “disheartening, but really, it’s an embarrassment.
Enter Jordan, who Knicks president Phil Jackson reportedly called during Oakley’s tussle with security at MSG in an attempt to calm the bruising ex-Knick down. Almost a week later, Silver has done the same, hoping Jordan’s status as Dolan’s fellow owner and his friendship with Oakley — predating the Knicks-Bulls rivalry to their time as Chicago teammates in the mid-1980s — might help build a bridge.
With the league’s announcement that Dolan hopes to host Oakley as his guest at the Garden “in the near future” — an olive branch that would end the lifetime ban after just one week — it appears the bridge is under construction. Whether Oakley accepts Dolan’s offer is another matter entirely.
The 53-year-old Oakley, who served as an assistant coach on Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats during the 2010-11 season, insists Dolan has long refused his requests to discuss a potential role in the Knicks organization, and it would be awfully hard to sit next to — much less work with — a guy who has told anybody who would listen over the last week he’s potentially an alcoholic and definitely a liar.
That it has taken noted New York killers Reggie Miller and Jordan, respectively, to serve as the voice of reason and convince Knicks ownership that banning a fan favorite for life might not be such a good idea is probably the most perfect commentary on just what a mess this organization has become.
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