Mike Hamersky, a self-described New York Knicks superfan and season ticket holder from Astoria, claims that team owner James Dolan got in his face last night outside Madison Square Garden and screamed mean things.
Asked about the allegations, Dolan tells Deadspin: Hell, yeah, I did!
“I did call him an asshole,” Dolan tells me, “because he is an asshole.”
Hamersky, a 35-year-old attorney, says he was drinking a beer while waiting for his buddy, Raul Silva, to finish a cigarette before the Knicks/Bulls tipoff when he noticed Dolan walking past him to a waiting limo. “I couldn’t believe it was him,” he says.
Hamersky says he grew up with Knick paraphernalia dominating his bedroom, and that he still collects autographs of the team’s stars to showcase in his office. But he says that for years he’s been as peeved as the next Knicks fan about the direction of the team, and didn’t want to waste a chance to speak truth to power.
“Sell the team, Jim!” Hamersky shouted.
According to Hamersky, Silva, and Dolan, the team owner, rather than getting in the car, turned around and walked toward them, asking who yelled. Hamersky admitted/boasted it was him, and Dolan got in his face and started yelling. Dolan asked Mike Hamersky what he did for a living, and Hamersky told him he’s a lawyer. “I think he was surprised to hear that,” Hamersky says.
Hamersky says Dolan then yelled, “What if I showed up at your office and called you an asshole? Because you are an asshole!”
Dolan remembers yelling a bit more at the heckler: “What if I told you, ‘You suck at your job?’ Or, ‘How do you like losing that case?”
Hamersky says Dolan then accused him of being intoxicated, and the owner instructed his security detail to make sure that he not be allowed in the building.
“He had an open bottle of beer and smelled of alcohol, and I told him he wasn’t going in,” Dolan tells me. Dolan adds that his friend and Eagles manager Irving Azoff, who was accompanying the owner during the fracas, agreed that the heckler reeked of booze.
Hamersky denies being intoxicated, saying that he’d come to the Garden straight from instructing a Fordham law class, and wouldn’t have had time to get drunk before the game even if the spirit was willing.
“I didn’t smell of alcohol,” he says.
Hamersky says that at that point he walked away from Dolan because he was worried that the encounter would get out of control, and also that he’d miss the game. He says a member of Dolan’s security followed him away from the Garden for several blocks. (“All the way to 30th and 7th!” he says. “Then I lost them.”) He caught up with Silva on another side of the Garden and both entered the building and got to their seats without further difficulty. They admit they spent the game looking over their shoulders, expecting to be accosted.
“I told Mike, ‘Man, you’re going to get Oakleyed!’” Silva says.
Former Knicks forward Charles Oakley, of course, was removed by Garden security in February after allegedly yelling anti-Dolan sentiments before a game. After that incident, Dolan insinuated booze played a part in the ejection, going on ESPN radio to say Oakley “may have a problem with alcohol.” The episode only burnished Oakley’s legendary status among Knicks followers, and further damaged Dolan’s relationship with the fan base.
Dolan says he knows he came away from the very public spat with Oakley on the losing end. But he’s not at all apologetic about last night. He says this latest brouhaha reminded him of a 2015 episode in which he received an email from a self-described “fan since 1952” pleading with him to sell the Knicks. Dolan responded by suggesting that his tormentor “start rooting.for the Nets.”
“I get it. They call me names every day in the paper. Fine. I get it,” Dolan says. “But you’re walking up to the place where I work? It’s like they’re laying in wait for you. It’s like stalking me outside my home. Some people tend to think of team owners like politicians. But we’re not! I didn’t run for any office. These people who yell at you act surprised when you yell back. It’s like when I got that incredibly derogatory email, and so I wrote back an incredibly derogatory email, and these people are surprised?”
In response to that emailed plea for a sale, Dolan had also suggested the pleader had a drinking problem (“Alcoholic maybe?”) and referenced his own battle with the bottle—“I just celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety,” he wrote—which he has been very open about for years.
Hamersky says he’s still having trouble processing that he almost got into a brawl with the Knicks owner out in the open at Madison Square Garden. But enough surreality wore off by earlier today that he “submitted an inquiry to the NBA to open a formal complaint against Mr. Dolan.”
Hamersky also says he intends to renew his season tickets for next year.
“I can’t help it,” Hamersky says. “I love the Knicks.”