Charles Oakley arrested, charged with assault after MSG altercation

ByIan Begley ESPN logo
Thursday, February 9, 2017

NEW YORK -- FormerKnicksgreatCharles Oakley was arrested and charged with three counts of assault following an altercation in the stands near team owner James Dolan at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

The incident occurred during a stoppage in play as Kristaps Porzingis was shooting free throws in the first quarter against the visitingLA Clippers. A police source told ESPN that Oakley had purchased a seat a few rows behind Dolan and was making comments at the Knicks owner, whoeventually had security escort him from the arena.

"What happened is me and four friends went to the game tonight, to watch the Knicks and Clippers. We did sit down, trying to have a good time. Next thing I know I was asked to leave the building," Oakley said at a New York restaurant after his release from Midtown South Precinct shortly past midnight ET. "I asked, 'Why?' and they said, 'You have to leave because someone ordered you to leave.' And I'm like, 'I've been here four and a half minutes.'

"I'm a Knicks fan, played here 10 years. I love the Knicks. I love New York. This is my heart. I wish them all the luck and success on the basketball court. I don't know why I'm not welcome into the Garden."

Knicks president Phil Jackson came out to try to calm down Oakley, who was yelling about Dolan and telling security he wasn't going to move as they handcuffed him outside the tunnel leading to the court. At one point, Oakley was on the ground surrounded by police and Madison Square Garden security.

Fans chanted, "Oakley! Oakley!" in support of the popular former power forward, as players from both teams turned to watch.

"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."

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony said he saw what happened "from afar."

"I was kind of on the opposite end of the court," Anthony said. "I just saw a commotion, guys standing up. I don't really know kind of what happened, all the details."

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who played with Oakley for two-plus seasons with the Knicks in the mid-1990s, said the scene was "sad."

"That was tough for me to watch," Rivers said. "Honest to God, you could see it. I actually took three steps and I swear I was going to run down there, and I thought, 'What the hell am I going to do?' But I didn't like that. That's my guy. That was tough to watch from where I was standing."

Rivers said he still keeps in touch with Oakley.

"He's the best teammate in the world," Rivers said. "He really is. Honestly, the players could see me. That was a tough thing to watch. I've been in the league a long time; I've never seen anything like that."

According to the NYPD, Oakley, 53, punched three male MSG employees -- all of whom suffered minor injuries and refused medical attention at the scene -- as he was being escorted out. He was charged with three misdemeanor counts of assault, all third degree, and one count of criminal trespass, a third-degree misdemeanor.

Oakley said he felt threatened by the security personnel.

"When someone is walking up on you, you've got to protect yourself in all matters," Oakley said. "I've been in situations like this before. I've been jumped before. So in my mind, if you see eight, nine, 10 guys walking up on you, you've got to brace yourself and be ready for the challenge. That's all I was thinking."

A fan who was sitting near Oakley said the former player was being boisterous, but the fan did not hear Oakley speak directly to Dolan or address the owner in any way before he was approached by security.

Oakley was given a desk appearance ticket and will be required to appear in front of a judge at a later date. The court date is scheduled for March, a source told ESPN.

"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."

Friends of Oakley have reached out to Michael Jordan in an effort to connect the two to help calm Oakley down, sources told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Ian Begley. It is unclear whether Jordan reached out to Oakley, but the two are close friends.

It's the latest drama surrounding the Knicks, who lost their third game in a row, and it came just hours after first-year coach Jeff Hornacek said he expected as much when he took the job.

"I kind of, not was warned, but it was expected that it was going to be something all the time," Hornacek said. "And it's lived up to the billing. It's been something all year."

Oakley played for the Knicks from 1988 to 1998, helping them reach the NBA Finals, but he has a poor relationship with the team because of his criticisms of Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman.

The New York Timesprofiled Oakley in November, with the newspaper reporting he had "been estranged from the Knicks organization for years, a rift that stems, at least in part, from Oakley's inability to keep some of his more caustic opinions to himself."

A year earlier, Oakley called Dolan "a bad guy" and a "m-----f-----" in a New York Daily News story.

In the Times story, Oakley said "at least 15 people" had tried to set up a meeting between him and Dolan, at Oakley's urging.

"He won't meet," Oakley told the Times. "I want to sit down to talk to him. I want me and him in a room. And lock the door. Lock that door! I mean, he can have the police outside the door."

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James appeared to voice his support for Oakley in an Instagram post Wednesday night:

ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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