In recent memory, the New York Knicks aren't really known as one of the more feared or respectable franchises, but back in the 90s' their image was completely different. The Knicks presented must-see TV in that era, filled with a team full of great talent and unique individuals. That is precisely why Chris Herring wrote and recently released the book called "Blood in the Garden," going behind the scenes of that era in New York.
Gambling in the NBA
Gambling is one of the taboo subjects when it comes to the NBA, but it's common knowledge that players love to play, compete and gamble with vast amounts of money. I mean, the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, is known as a notorious gambler that many would say even had an addiction.
These are competitive athletes with a lot of money and time on their hands, especially when traveling on the road. That is why most teams have those groups that will play various games, primarily including cards, while putting countless dollars on the line. It's a form of fun for the guys that have earned those big contracts, but if you are an up-and-comer, this isn't really the best hobby to get into.
Oakley's brilliant idea
Charles Oakley is known as one of the toughest NBA players ever, but his intense personality went beyond the court. Coming up in the NBA with MJ, Oakley had the opportunity to get into the gambling scene early, and when he got to New York, he was the ring leader for organizing those "team-building" events:
"It was a team bonding exercise...Oakley, in particular, really liked cards, and he got angry with teammates that would not play cards on the plane. But keep in mind Oakley, Mason, Ewing, Starks they were paid in a much different way than the young guys were on the team. They would use the rationale: All I have is my per diem. That's all I'm willing to gamble, I don't have enough money, and you guys are playing high-stakes games. I can't get into that.
Chris Herring, NoDunks Inc
Oakley had some money in his pocket at that point of his career, but the young guys on the team couldn't really hang with that considering their salaries at the time. But Charles was sick of the excuses, and he found a way to include everybody in the card games:
"Oakley started getting mad about the fact that guys wouldn't participate. So what he did at a certain point, this is what Chris Childs told me in 96'. Oakley buys a credit card imprint machine. He basically was:'Ok, you guys can play on credit right now. You gonna pay a percent of whatever the money is. Now you got no excuse not to participate in these games because it's not about cash. You can use your credit card. Aren't you happy that you can play now?' So Oakley was trying to strongarm guys in playing and gambling with them.
Chris Herring, NoDunks Inc
Now that is some outside-the-box thinking from "Oak." This just shows how much Charles Oakley loves to gamble and compete. This is a huge reason why the Knicks were so cool and tough in the 90s'. Having a cast of guys like Oakley, Mason, Starks, Ewing, McDaniel meant you had respect on and off the court. Legendary stuff.