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Charles Oakley didn't speak with his teammate for months until he got punched in the face: "Charles never really respected me until I hit him."

According to Tim McCormick, Charles Oakley was the ultimate enforcer and a legitimate tough guy that started respecing McCormick after a fight broke up between them in practice
Charles Oakley was a menace even in practice and often the hardest working player on the New York Knicks

Charles Oakley was the vocal leader on that squad, and Tim McCormick soon found out he might not be prepared for that type of intensity on a daily basis.

The New York Knicks from the early 90s were a legitimate powerhouse in the NBA, and the Knicks fan can only dream of having a team nowadays that was so recognizable and actually had a winning record every season, on the brink of winning an NBA championship. That Knicks squad was unique because it had a great group of players led by Patrick Ewing, John Starks, and Charles Oakley and a legendary coach in Pat Riley who established a system and a mentality players quickly adopted, and it was engraved in their approach to every game and apparently every single day in practice. 

The basic rule in every sport, and basketball is no different, is that success is a by-product of countless hours of preparation and hard work that players put in the offseason and during the season that translates into their potential success and chances of winning a championship. The Knicks were no different, and this is something that Pat Riley preached from the first day he took over as the head coach. Luckily for him, he had the player personnel that embodied that to perfection, starting with Charles Oakley, who took every practice seriously like it was game 7 of the NBA Finals. 

Knowing what happens behind the closed doors in NBA teams is something regular fans don't usually have the opportunity to hear, but in the book Blood In The Garden by Chris Herring, we get a sneak preview of how truly tough those Knicks were and it all started with Oakley who set the tempo for others on the team. 

The battles in practice were extremely tough

We've already written about the duels between Anthony Mason and Xavier McDaniel at practice that led to physical altercations and a harsh exchange of words. Things weren't different when the Knicks backup center Tim McCormick was brought in on the squad to provide veteran leadership and quality minutes from the bench. McCormick was at the tail end of his career, coming to a team hungry for a championship with players ready to do anything to achieve that remarkable feat. Oakley was the vocal leader on that squad, and McCormick soon found out he might not be prepared for that type of intensity on a daily basis. 

"That tackle-dummy role would have been highly unenviable for any player, let alone an aging vet going into his eighth year, with retirement on the horizon. Like most people, McCormick valued his limbs, and wanted to keep them—something that was never a given when sparring with the likes of Oakley. Each day, the men battled on the glass and in the low post. And most days, things played out the way you'd think"

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McCormick remembers that Oakley was beating him up in all the drills every single practice, and the intensity was getting higher from one month to the other. It got so bad that the two big men didn't even speak to each other even though they were friends. Oakley took things exceptionally seriously, and McCormick accepted his fate and showed up every day to work despite his body taking a huge tool. 

"He was just so much stronger than me, and was beating me up in drills every day," McCormick says. The beatings weren't exactly softened by an underlying friendship, either. In fact, for months, the two men never spoke. About their families. About opponents. About anything. McCormick simply showed up, day after day, and silently got the hell beaten out of him by Oakley.

Oakley was playing dirty against McCormick

Oakley knew that McCormick was no match for him, so he often played dirty, and after a few unnecessary elbows, McCormick finally lost his patience and decided to confront Oakley by punching him in the mouth, which caused Oakley to bleed and visit the doctor.

"Then, one day, when he'd finally had enough of Oakley's elbows in a drill, McCormick thrust his arm back wildly with the power forward standing behind him, catching Oakley in the mouth and causing him to bleed. As Oakley walked away to find a trainer, he shot McCormick an unmistakable death stare."

Oakley respected him after the incident

Oakley was a real enforcer, and if he gives you a death stare like that, you better believe something is coming because he had a very intimidating presence and demeanor. Luckily for McCormick, the complete opposite happened. For the first time in months, Oakley actually spoke to him, and it was that moment when he realized he earned his respect because he finally fought back and responded to his mind games in practice. 

"I was convinced he was gonna kill me that next day," McCormick says. "But instead, he walks up, slaps me on the back, and asks how I'm doing. I was so confused, because it was the first time he had said anything to me. Then, as I thought about it, I realized: Charles never really respected me until I hit him."

These stories are a recurring theme with the older generation of players and enforcers like Charles Oakley. They were brutal and, a lot of time, had no mercy, even in practice, because you had to earn their respect which was a process that entailed a lot of hard work. McCormick experienced it first hand even though he was already in the league for 8 seasons. Interestingly enough, he retired after that season at the age of 30, and it was also the most successful year in his career from a team perspective since the Knicks made it to the ECF, where they eventually lost to the Chicago Bulls. 

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