Charles Oakley, a slick passer and midrange jump-shooting specialist who nevertheless is talked about (by himself and others) as though he were the NBA's Cosa Nostra liaison and carried a goddamn shiv in his sock, tells Canadian media* that he isn't super keen on today's NBA. "It's hard to watch," he says. "The guys don't love the game."
From the ESPN article:
"I don't know what it is. They just roll you out there like a basketball. That's why ... you see the same teams in the finals or winning 55 games. Strong teams, strong-minded coach. Just the players, they don't think it, they don't know how to play together," he said. "So that's one of things I see the weakness is: Communication, the guys don't love the game. They play the game, but they don't play with their heart."
There's plenty to be amused by, here. The very idea of a complaint about the NBA's watchability issuing from the mouth of Charles Freaking Oakley, whose peak years came as the talisman of those '90s Knicks teams that made basketball look like watching an angry doofus try to tighten a stripped crosshead screw with a goddamn spoon—that's funny! The idea that the watchability of basketball hinges on the, what, heartfulness of the players, as opposed to how good they are, is funny too!
My favorite thing, though, is the basis for Oakley's harsh assessment of today's players. "Everybody says the game has changed, instead of talking about the guys I got a chance to see 'em first hand," he says, referring to his brief time as an assistant coach on the 2010-11 Charlotte Bobcats, a 34-48 disaster of a team that got Larry Brown fired 28 games into the season. That's one of the saddest, most hopeless, most miserable NBA teams of all time! Look at this goddamn roster!
Screencapped via Basketball Reference
That is a fucking horror-show. Prior to the assemblages of hobos and YMCA heroes the Knicks and Sixers have trotted out this season, it might have been the most depressing combination of human beings ever put together and forced to wear the same color shirt. If Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw showed up to the arena each night looking disappointed that a meteor hadn't incinerated them on the way over, I mean, could you blame them? "Today's NBA players understandably prefer not to be humiliated on television every night" would have been a smarter take.
Also, not for nothing, but another crotchety '90s relic, Oakley's good buddy Michael Jordan, put that team together. C'mon, old dudes.
Photo via AP