It was a crazy night at the Garden Wednesday, that saw a Knick legend hauled out of the arena by security, handcuffed and taken to jail in front of a stunned star-studded crowd just a few feet from Garden chairman James Dolan.
Charles Oakley, known for his physical style of play that made him an all-star and helped the Knicks reach the NBA Finals in 1994, vehemently denied that he yelled at the Knick owner moments before being thrown out by several security guards.
Oakley told the Daily News moments after being released from Midtown South police station at around midnight that the Garden security asked him to leave because Dolan did not want him there.
“I was there for four minutes,” Oakley said late Wednesday night. “I didn’t say anything to him. I swear on my mother. They came over and wanted to know why I was sitting there. I bought the ticket. I said why do you guys keep staring at me. Then they asked me to leave. And I said I’m not leaving”
What followed next is the ugliest chapter yet in a rapidly deteriorating Knicks season, all on full display in front of a nationally televised audience and the league’s commissioner Adam Silver. Oakley, confronted by security forcefully shoved one guard and appeared to strike another before he was physicaly removed from the stands.
However, sources at the Garden and police sources dispute Oakley’s account of the altercation, saying the scuffle was provoked by the former Knickt yelling at his longtime nemesis Dolan.
Oakley was asked by several members of Garden security to leave, and then was seen shoving the swarming security guards – not far from tennis legend John McEnroe and with Dolan standing nearby in a maroon scarf.
Oakley was then escorted through the tunnel, taken to the floor by NYPD, and cuffed. According to police, Oakley was charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault, one of criminal trespass. A source said that Oakley declined legal representation because he was only hit with a desk appearance ticket. He was released from the Midtown South precinct at around police and snuck out the back door and into a black SUV, avoiding the waiting press outside.
Oakley, according to the source, first told police that he bought his own ticket for New York’s 119-115 loss to the Clippers, but then acknowledged that somebody else did.
After being escorted through the tunnel, Oakley was overheard shouting for his release, “F–k that, let me go,” among other profanities. He was also shouting about Dolan, and witnesses told the News that Phil Jackson unsuccessfully tried to calm down the emotional Oakley. After Oakley was taken away by police, Chris Rock was spotted waking through hallway asking, “What the hell happened?”
The Knicks released a statement calling Oakley’s behavior, “highly inappropriate and completely abusive. …He was a great Knick and we hope he gets some help soon.”
One fan, Andrew Hurst, who was sitting several rows behind Oakley, told the Daily News the former Knick, “Clearly looked wasted.”
“One-hundred percent. And he was definitely upset about something,” Hurst said. “He was shoving some security guards, some guy in an orange tie. And then he fell to the ground for like 15 seconds. And when he got back up, you could he was just agitated at everything He started pushing everybody. And then he started pushing security real hard, people to the ground. And that’s when 10 people kind of jumped in and he started freaking out.”
However, another fan witness – Ian Schafer – said Oakley appeared calm until the melee.
“He took off his watch and asked somebody to hold his watch,” Schafer said. “It didn’t look like he started anything, to be honest. It looked like he was provoked in some way, because it didn’t look like there was any buildup to anything happening.”
Oakley has a contentious history with Dolan, having been excluded from invitations and tributes reserved for former players. The team’s slogan — “Once a Knick, Always a Knick” – hasn’t applied to the former All-Star. Oakley has maintained that Dolan doesn’t like his honesty and bluntness, and recently told the New York Times that the owner has refused to consider a reconciliation.
“I want to sit down to talk to him. I want me and him in a room. And lock the door,” Oakley said. “Lock that door. … I mean, he can have the police outside the door.”
Former president of the Knicks Dave Checketts, who presided over the successful teams in the early 90s with Oakley as the enforcer, said he unsuccessfully reached out to see if his friend needed a lawyer or help.
Checketts said he couldn’t bail out Oakley because he was in Boston.
“For many years at the Garden, he was heart and soul, blood and guts, he gave it his all, all the time,” Checketts told the News. “So I wanted to see if I can help.”
With JOHN ANNESE