Charles Oakley was honored by the Toronto Raptors on Friday March 13th during their game against the Miami Heat. Oakley, who played for the Raptors, Bulls, Knicks, Wizards, and Rockets during his two decades in the NBA had his bobblehead handed out to the first 5,000 fans in attendance at the Raptors game.
That’s not the big news—the big news came from Oakley’s comments about the state of the NBA today:
“Who do I like watching?” said Oakley. “It’s hard to watch. I don’t know, it’s just, it’s a different game. It’s some good games and a lot of bad games. More bad games than good games these days.”
Oakley was definitely a tough player back in his time, but his brief stint as an assistant coach with the Charlotte Bobcats from 2010-2011 showed him just how much the game has changed:
“Everybody says the game has changed, instead of talking about the guys I got a chance to see them first hand. It was kind of bad. The mind is not—you don’t have to be strong to play this game no more. 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. So that’s one of the 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.”
Maybe Oakley just got tired of seeing the Heat in the NBA Finals every season from 2010 to 2014, or maybe he is legitimately afraid for the future of the game. It is weird to see big men like Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol routinely criticized for not being tough enough, but maybe that’s just what the game has come to.
Oakley sure never had a problem being aggressive, nor did greats like Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon. Maybe the NBA just needs another dominant center. Or maybe Oakley is just mad that at 51 he can’t keep up with the younger generation of players.
Either way, in Oakley’s mind, something needs to change.