Charles Oakley and the 90's Knicks never won a championship, but they may as well have for how much that team is adored not only in New York City but by Knicks fans around the world, Oakley in particular. On a team defined by their defensive effort, Oakley was the face of it. Unfairly remembered as an 'enforcer' nowadays, Oakley was more than a goon who'd wipe you out if you attempted a lay-up: a 1994 All-Star, First team All-Defence that same year, not to mention the near-nightly double-double he maintained while playing in New York are all accolades he received in addition to being the toughest player on the best Knicks team in 20-odd years.
So when Oakley was forcibly removed by security during the recent home game against the Clippers, it drew the ire of not only Knicks and NBA fans worldwide, but also from former despised rivals. And fair enough too, the juxtaposition of the confrontation was pretty perfect; you had the 2017 Knicks, with their iso-ball habits and zero commitment to defence, sleep-walking through the first quarter (apart from Porzingis, who scored 11 of his 27 points in the first, but we'll get to that) and in the stands you had Charles Oakley, a man who gave his heart and blood to an organisation to go unrewarded, being escorted out by the establishment.
As always, it takes numerous people to box him out.
People were quick to point out how this bizarre fight is the latest in a laundry list of Knicks dysfunction, and they are correct in doing so, but it's definitely interesting to think on how the Oakley debacle affects Porzingis' future in New York. As the face of the franchise's future, he can't be feeling too hopeful upon seeing a bonafide Knicks legend being treated this way by the current regime.
"It's tough. Everyone's trying to do their best, but it's not working", Porzingis said in an interview with the NY Post.
"Obviously, the expectations this year were much higher and we're still at the same point right now... As a player I have to be focused on what's happening on the court every game and keep going day by day and game by game and not worry about outside noise"
Psychologically, though maybe not physically, Charles Oakley and Kristaps Porzingis are cut from similar cloths, which probably helps explain why both are so beloved in New York: both care about the team aspect of basketball a huge amount, much more than any individual accolade, and both take immense pride, an almost samurai-like honour in paint defence. It's easy to care about offense and scoring in basketball - oh, so you're a power-forward who takes 200 more three's a season and are now a floor-spacer? Big whoop, join the queue - but to always want to be the guy to meet the other player at the rim, to risk the personal embarrassment of being dunked on just to prevent the potential collective embarrassment of losing, takes a certain kind of mettle.
It's a kind that the Knicks have lacked since Oakley departed, and it's one that Porzingis, in the face of all this management petulance and player mediocrity, is doggedly determined to bring back. To trifle with his future like this by disrespecting Knicks greats in his presence is concerning to say the least. If New York has any hopes of retaining Porzingis beyond his rookie contract, and indeed, having any kind of a future, something needs to change.