NEW YORK — Former Knicks great Charles 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 visiting Clippers. A police source told ESPN that Oakley had purchased his own seat a few rows behind Dolan and was making comments at the Knicks owner, who eventually had security escort him from the arena.
“I was there for four minutes,” Oakley told the New York Daily News, moments after being released from Midtown South Precinct shortly past midnight ET. “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.”
Knicks superfan Spike Lee said it’s time for president Phil Jackson to go, while coach Jeff Hornacek said little, if any, of the team’s recent drama comes as a surprise.
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 added. “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, 54, 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.
A police source told ESPN that Charles Oakley’s comments toward team owner James Dolan led to the former Knick being forcibly removed from Madison Square Garden by security.
Oakley was given a desk appearance ticket and will be required to appear in front of a judge at a later date.
“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.”
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 Times profiled Oakley in a November 2016 story, 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 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.”
Cavaliers star LeBron James appeared to voice his support for Oakley in an Instagram post Wednesday night.