Knicks Rumors & News
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We all know about the great athletes in New York sports history – Babe Ruth, Tom Seaver, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Namath, Mark Messier, Walt Frazier – and even the busts – Ed Whitson, Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Stephon Marbury, Scott Gomez. But what about the slightly-to-highly-above-average athlete? The kind-of-great but not all-timer? They may not have been Hall-of-Famers, but they were All-Stars, fan favorites, cogs on a championship team or maybe even just pretty darn good. They’re the little brother that didn’t hog all the attention. But they’re certainly worth talking about and remembering. So when do they get their due? Well, now they will. Here is a series of the not-quite-legendary in New York sports history.

Some say Charles Oakley is the toughest man alive. Some say he was one of the best rebounders and fiercest defenders of his time. Some say he looks like Darryl from The Office. And they would all be right. Oakley played for the Knicks for 10 years, and he epitomized the brawling, blue-collar defensive style of the team of that era. He was tenacious. He was intimidating. He was the heart and soul of the Knicks.

The Cleveland native attended Virginia Union College and was drafted by the Cavaliers but traded to Chicago before ever playing a game for his hometown team. He was an instant success, being named to the All-Rookie team in 1986. After three years with the Bulls, he was shipped off to New York (for Bill Cartwright, and draft picks going each way), who were looking for a power-forward complement to Patrick Ewing. In Oakley, they found the perfect player. In his full decade with the Knicks (1988-’89−1997-’98), the team qualified for the playoffs every season he was on the team (yes, the Knicks once actually made the playoffs, and they did it consistently). Defense and rebounding were his specialties, and the Knicks of that era were one of the top defensive teams in the NBA. Oakley finished in the top 10 in rebounding six times in his career. Twice he led the league in total rebounds (while with the Bulls). He made the All-Defensive First Team in 1993-’94 and the All-Defensive Second Team in 1997-’98. Six times in his career he played all 82 games of the season, and had a few consecutive-game streaks that ran well into the hundreds. He set a number of Knick records (single-game offensive rebounds, total offensive rebounds for a season), and averaged 12.1 rebounds per game in 1990-’91, which was the highest per-game average for a Knick since Bob McAdoo’s 12.3 in 1977-’78.

The Charles Oakley−era Knicks peaked in the 1993-’94 season. The team boasted the league’s No. 1 defense, only allowing 91.5 points per game, which was the lowest total in the NBA since the 1954-’55 season. The Knicks finished in first place, with a 57-25 record, and defeated the Nets, Bulls and Pacers in the playoffs, before losing to Houston in the Finals (oh no! John Starks 2 for 18!). The team set a record by playing in 25 postseason games, with Oakley himself appearing in every game that season (107). He averaged 13.2 points and 11.7 rebounds in the playoffs. And his hard work was finally rewarded when he was named to his only All-Star team that year.

Oakley’s Knick career ended when he was traded to Toronto for Marcus Camby. He then bounced around to Chicago, Washington and Houston to finish his 19-year career. He scored 12,417 points and grabbed 12,205 rebounds, but numbers weren’t what he’ll be remembered for. He had a number of run-ins, feuds and extra-curricular activities with the likes of Tyrone Hill, Charles Barkley, Jeff McInnis and Shaquille O’Neal, and wouldn’t back down from anybody. He was also a sharp dresser who defended the NBA’s dress code. Charles Oakley once said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.” And his dogged, hard-working, bulldozing style of play certainly wasn’t broke, so there was no need to break it.

(Click on the names to read the other bios in the series: Steve Vickers, John Olerud, Al Toon, Brad Van Pelt, Dick Barnett, Mickey Rivers, Butch Goring/Ron Duguay/Ken Daneyko, Rusty Staub, Buck Williams, Matt Snell/Emerson Boozer, Mark Bavaro and Mel Stottlemyre.)

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