Sunday, May 22 2022

The New York Knicks have a long history of striking out with big-name free agents. The two biggest stars they’ve managed to acquire this century were Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Anthony was via trade, and Stoudemire, who had just one good year left in him, was technically a sign-and-trade. 

Owner James Dolan, a long-running NBA punchline, was a little too sure of himself in March of 2019 when he forecasted a “very successful offseason” to come, with the implication being that the Knicks were in the pole position to sign impending free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, both of whom wound up shunning the Knicks for the crosstown Nets

“The cool thing right now is not the Knicks,” Durant said after signing with Brooklyn. 

Prior to the Durant-Irving diss, the Knicks swung and missed on guys like DeAndre Jordan and LaMarcus Aldridge. But the major whiff came in the summer of 2010, when the Knicks truly believed they were going the land LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It could be reasonably concluded that the Miami Heat were simply a more attractive basketball destination than the Knicks, but to listen to a story from Charles Oakley, the way Dolan treats people certainly factored into LeBron’s decision. 

In his recently released book, The Last Enforcer, Oakley recalls being introduced to Dolan by William Wesley — known in NBA circles as “Worldwide Wes” — in New Orleans during the 2014 All-Star weekend. Oakley, who says he was hanging out with LeBron and his agent, Rich Paul, when Wes approached him, wrote that he’d never met Dolan before that night, but he assumed Dolan didn’t care much for him because he’d been critical of the Knicks under Dolan’s ownership. According to the book, when the introduction was made, Dolan wouldn’t even look up at Oakley and refused to shake his hand. 

“You would have thought I did something to his wife,” Oakley wrote. “Sh–, 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 mother—er (Dolan) wouldn’t shake my hand,'” Oakley continued. “All LeBron said was: ‘This is why I’m never going to New York.'”

And there it is. “This is why I’m never going to New York.” That’s a pretty powerful indictment of Dolan, the way he treats people, and the general arrogance with which he has run his organization (into the ground). With a few exceptions, the Knicks have been a bad team for a long time, but it is New York. It should be an attractive free-agent destination. 

The common denominator for why it isn’t? Dolan. He’s a terrible owner, plain and simple. Arrogance and incompetence like that bleed into every level of an organization and certainly the way it’s perceived from the outside. This story from Oakley only serves to reiterate what most people already know, while also giving up a clearer picture of where Dolan’s well-chronicled beef with Oakley began. 



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