By: Rob Botts
Not sure if I can be anymore accurate with the title of this “Best” article. It’s not best “tough guy.” It’s not best “fighter.” It’s not best “dude with the worst temper.” It’s not best “bad ass of all time.” It’s not best “crazy” of all time. It is the best “guy you don’t mess with” of all time in the NBA because that guy always posses a great deal of the above that was just stated and then some. This is a very, very particular person we are talking about that has run up and down the hardwood and if anybody did mess with him, their brain activity was clearly not functioning at full capacity.
There have been some good contenders for this title of the years. The late Anthony Mason of the 1990s New York Knicks comes to mind. Or the Davis brothers from those really rough and tumble Indian Pacers teams in the 1990s as well. There was also the entire 198os Detroit Pistons basketball team, coaching staff and fans in the Detroit area. Well, maybe not all of them. Rick Mahorn to be particular. There was Charles Barkley in his entire career. Maybe not the Houston days but he did take on Shaquille O’Neal towards the end of his basketball run. The mind is always the last to go for guys you don’t mess with. There was Ron Artest in more recent history that was not a guy you would choose to mess around with. The guy once told a story on TNT years ago about a dude who got stabbed in the chest with a wooden table leg in a NY city pick up game back in the day.
Those guys are all right up there near the top, but there can only be one. That one is non other than the guy who played for the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and the Houston Rockets during his 19 years in the National basketball Association. The name that was burned into the players who would ball with and against him on a nightly basis was Mr. Charles Oakley. First of all, anytime you have one of the strongest natural woods on the face of the earth in your name, that is a very good start. What were some of the points that made this man the way he was? See directly below:
- He had one, strong take – In other words, you always knew where he stood and there was no way he was changing his mind. He had an acute, ferocious focus. It was unwavering and it was usually not on the positive end of the spectrum. IF you got in his way.
- He was a very, very intimidating individual – He was a man of large physical stature that had the ability for you to “feel” his presence right next to you even though he was across the court. Opponents looked like slot receivers in today’s NFL looking around to see where human muscle missile of the Seattle Seahawks legion of boom defense Kam Chancellor might be.
- He sent reminders like Santa Clause sends Christmas presents – St. Nick might give you a lump of coal if you were a bad boy but St. Oakley presents would leave lumps of swollen tissue and blood clots if you got in his way.
- He was a patient man – Oakley lived the expression “Don’t get mad, get even.” Whenever ever he got wronged and he couldn’t get you back right then, he would be patient enough to get at you the next time he had a GOOD opportunity at you. Just when you thought you were safe after a few passes through the lane untouched, BAM! A shiver sandwich on rye!
- He would have no facial reaction to you – You remember in those great 1980s action movies where the big, strong hero of the film like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sly Stallone would get hit by the bad guys and the most that would happen would be there heads snapping to the side and then they would go right back with the same calm expression? That was the man known as “Oak.” You crack him with an elbow and he just takes it and then stares at you as if nothing just happened. Face calm. Eyes fierce. Opponent scared.
- He was a very strong man – Charles Oakley had a very chiseled make up. He was one of those guys that was build rock solid. The kind of guy where when you cut through the lane and if he got in your way, it was like literally running into a brick wall. The was no giving any ground. He would use his strength to move players up off of their feet and out of the paint while clearing space for a rebound or an inside bucket.
- He was a walking, shooting, rebounding, defending swiss army basketball knife – “Oak” would use so many different parts of his body to get the job done. He would use his back side to upend a player that had just gone down the lane on him. He would land a long swooping slap across the body reaching for the ball. Or so he would tell the nearest zebra. He would use the back of his head, if he had the inside rebounding position and the player was on his back, to apply pressure to a dude’s face while waiting for the ball to bounce off the rim or go through it. He would use his broad shoulders to slam a guy who was just a tad off balance into the first row. But most of all he would use his stone face to intimidate anybody who was in front of him.
Guys you don’t mess with have an effect on their team as a whole. They instantly become tougher and more difficult to deal with. But the the following is quite clear. You are tough, but you are NOT a guy you don’t mess with. But you do have THAT guy on your side. Oakley had that effect in particular on the New York Knicks were he had some rough rider dudes already. Guys like Patrick Ewing, the previously mentioned late Anthony Mason, John Starks, Greg Anthony and Derrick Harper. Then head coach, Pat Riley I think would privately concede that if he had a guy like Charles Oakley on his Laker teams, they would have won the decade outright.
But, at the end of the day there is only one reason you don’t mess with a guy you know you shouldn’t mess with. What is that reason? You already know the outcome if you decide to dance with that individual. Two plus two equals four. Messing with Charles Oakley back in the day was like making a week’s reservation at the finest suite at the nearest hospital’s emergency room. Your in-room concierge / nurse approaches and asks you in a very nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” type of tone, “Would you like a red or blue straw to suck up your breakfast?”
You could then brag to your buddies through your wired shut, shattered jaw, a drooling, mumbling message about how you once messed with a guy you shouldn’t have messed with. The best “Guy you don’t mess with” of all time in the NBA. Mr. Charles Oakley.