Monday, March 27

Charles Oakley’s new book explains why LeBron James never joined Knicks in free agency

Despite being one of the biggest markets in the NBA, the Knicks haven’t ever had much success bringing in talent through free agency. Although they’re always in the rumor mill to land big names, rarely do they amount to be anything but whispers.

You could argue the franchise’s only star free agency signing (depending on where you stand with Julius Randle) was Amar’e Stoudemire, who landed in New York back in the summer of 2010 by way of a sign-and-trade. Stoudemire did have one more monster year with the Knicks, but the then 28-year-old struggled to stay healthy after that, cutting his prime shorter than expected.

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Besides, despite Stoudemire’s standing as a five-time All-Star before signing with the Knicks, he was actually a “Plan C” option once the team struck out on their hopes of bringing LeBron James and Dwayne Wade to New York that same summer. James elected to team up with Wade in Miami, which, in hindsight, was a much better option for the NBA’s best player.

James-to-the-Knicks rumors sparked up again when he was a free agent in 2018, but as you well know, he was elected to sign with the Lakers instead.

A recent story told by Charles Oakley in his new book, “The Last Enforcer,” gives us a bit of perspective on a specific situation that may have played a role in steering LeBron away from the Knicks permanently. Oakley cited a moment during All-Star Weekend in 2014 when he was hanging with LeBron, his agent Rich Paul and William Wesley (otherwise known as “Worldwide Wes”) who is now the Knicks’ vice president.

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Oakley had never met Knicks owner James Dolan but he had been highly critical of how things have been handled in New York under Dolan, so he assumed there wasn’t much of a friendship to be had there. Wesley introduced Dolan to Oakley and the group, but, according to the book, when the introduction was made, Dolan would n’t look at Oakley and refused to shake his hand from him.

“You would have thought I did something to his wife,” Oakley wrote. “S—, 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.”

Oakley continued to describe what transpired next.

“I walked back to LeBron and said, ‘This m—f—(Dolan) wouldn’t shake my hand.'”

All LeBron said was: ‘This is why I’m never going to New York.'”

Is it possible that there is much more to LeBron never going to the Knicks than this one instance with Oakley? Certainly. But it is telling as to why one of the league’s biggest markets has never had much success in bringing in top-tier talent.

You can purchase Oakley’s book “The Last Enforcer: Outrageous Stories from the Life and Times of One of the NBA’s Fiercest Competitors” here.

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