Former NBA center Jayson Williams thinks the world of Charles Oakley. Williams, 49, has known Oakley, 53, since his college days at St. John’s. Williams always looked up to Oakley and respected him.
But it goes deeper than that.
“When I was away, when I went to prison, Oakley and Curtis Martin were the only couple guys that really came to see me,” Williams said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Charles Oakley came to see me once every month like clockwork. Let me tell you something about this man: This is why people are so adamant about supporting Charles Oakley. People just see the rough and tough Charles Oakley. Me and him do a (free basketball camp) six times a year. You never have to ask him twice. You never have to pay him. Oakley just comes down and does it. He comes down and supports it. He’ll never ask you for anything. He doesn’t say much and people take him as being coy, and he’s not.”
Oakley, it seems, has always been willing to lend Williams a helping hand – even if it involved breaking a few rules.
“This is where we’re going to put the NCAA and St. John’s in trouble,” Williams said. “So, how we did it at St. John’s was when you were in your senior year, and the guys who made it before you goes to the NBA, that guy would give you, let’s call it like a loan so you don’t have to go out and get an agent or put St. John’s in any trouble with the NCAA. So when my year was up and I was a senior, it was Mark Jackson. Now if anybody knows Mark Jackson, Mark is the greatest human being on Earth – but cheap as the day is long. That man is so frugal.”
When he entered his senior year, Williams, a 1990 first-round pick, asked Jackson, a 1987 first-round pick, for $15,000 to get him through his senior year, to which Jackson replied, “Come back next game.”
So Williams did – and got the same response.
“After I came back about the fifth time, Oak came over to me,” Williams recalled. “I had never met him, always looked up to him, everybody wanted to be a Charles Oakley-type player. He said, ‘Come here, man. Once you ask somebody once and they ain’t going to give it to you, you don’t beg. What you do is follow me home after.’ Went home and he gave me 20 (and said) ‘When you get drafted, I’m going to want 25 back.’”
Williams agreed to the terms.
“He charged me mafia rates,” Williams said, laughing, “but I didn’t get nobody in trouble and we’ve been friends ever since, man. That’s how we became friends, and we own a chain of car washes (and) steakhouses. Whatever business (we go in, we help each other).”
That’s why Williams was so outraged by Oakley’s arrest at Madison Square Garden earlier this month.
“I had an associate, I’ll call him, who said, ‘Uh-oh, Oak got in trouble. He must have been drunk. He’s going to need treatment here,’” Williams recalled. “That set me off – because that’s something you don’t play with, somebody’s sobriety. I’ll tell you this, and this is a true fact, so help me God. I’ve known Oak 25 years. I’ve never seen Oak drunk, and this for sure: I’ve never seen Oak doing drugs.
“One of the thing that James Dolan (did) to Charles Oakley was when they put that press release out and said, ‘I hope he gets help’ not a minute or two minutes after the incident, that’s what set him off,” Williams continued. “I would defend Charles Oakley because you see all the people – Michael Jordan, the LeBrons – everybody in the league comes to his support because he’s been nothing but a true guy, a great teammate, a great friend, a brother. He has a brother who died from alcohol abuse, and when his mother heard that – ‘He needs help’ – it sent her into a rage. She was nervous, she was scared, and that’s what upset him, when his mother heard that.”
Williams believes this situation was handled poorly in the moment and has been handled poorly ever since.
“I think if James Dolan came out (publicly) and said, ‘Hey, Oak, I’m sorry, you don’t need help,’ I think it would change everything,” Williams said. “There’s so many way that could have been dealt with. You could have waited to halftime. James Dolan could have got up and moved. Somebody could have came and talked to Oak. You could have got Phil Jackson to talk to Oak. It didn’t have to be like that. It didn’t have to be like that. Oak, I love the guy, and Oak is hurting from that. For the league, for all of us, we just got to get this thing behind us and move on.”