Charles Oakley - the epitome of the NBA's tough guy. The ultimate 'thank God he's on my team' type of player. Having him on your side was a luxury - playing against him was a nightmare. Tim Hardaway can testify to it.
“I've known Oak since '89 since I came into the NBA. We had a bond, I know exactly how his temperament was, you would talk to him, and he'd be like 'not today.' That means watch yourself tonight when you go to the hole, just watch yourself. It's gonna be a physically played game on his part, but at least he warned me.”
Tim Hardaway, djvlad
We've already covered it - Oak didn't spare Michael Jordan. Well, add Tim to the list. The approach was the same - run over a guy wearing a different jersey. It didn't matter who it was. That's what Oak's teammates loved about him - they knew he had their backs.
“I always had my guys back. When you know somebody on your team got your back you can do your job, not worrying about nothing. So I was just that guy wherever I went. It was a part of my game. I loved making sure guys on my team are happy and I tried to make it easier for them every night on the floor.”
Charles Oakley, djvlad
Ron Artest, Ben Wallace, Dennis Rodman, Tony Allen - they are all among NBA's toughest. It doesn't necessarily mean having them by your side in case of a fight, although Artest has imposed himself as an obvious pick in such a scenario. No - it means having them as a safety net for whatever transpires in a basketball game.
You can always count on them to play hard, take a hit, or commit a hard foul. Such guys are tone-setters, and in a game of momentum that is basketball - that's huge. Most of them aren't world-beaters in terms of how talented they are, but they more than make up for it with their hustle, grit, and approach. That's exactly why players and coaches love guys like that. It's about controlling the controllables, and how much effort you put in is the only thing you can actually control. You won't be in the zone every night, but you can bring your energy every second you spend on the floor.
That's what Oakley did, and it's what every single NBA tough guy is doing. And ask every basketball person, they'll all tell you the same - having such guys on your team is priceless.