Jul 29, 2007 04:30 AM
The lime green T-shirt goes perfectly with the lime green sneakers – you expected anything but sartorial splendour from such a vaunted clotheshorse? – as Charles Oakley relaxes in his lawn chair, a guy without a worry in the world.
He's laughing and joking, Oak being Oak, laying out a lifestyle that'd be the envy of anyone to the manor born. The biggest decision is often whether to take the Bentley or the Ferrari to Miami, New York, Chicago or Atlanta, following no one's schedule but his own, checking in with his people here and there, staying a day, maybe two, before hitting the road again.
"I'm doing the rock star life right now," he said yesterday during a short swing through Toronto to judge the dunk contest at the Raptor 3-on-3 tournament at the Ex. "Travelling, chilling, hangin' out."
But Oakley, 43 years old and three years removed from a stellar 19-year NBA playing career, is never one without a project gurgling in his mind. As he criss-crosses the continent, thoughts run the gamut.
He thinks about a comeback – his 6-foot-9 frame looks in better shape than the day he left Toronto in 2002 – but only under the right circumstances. Toronto would be nice, but so would Dallas, Miami, Cleveland or New York, as long as the price is right.
"I'm not coming back cheap," he said. "If you read this article and you think you can get me cheap, there's another thought coming."
He's not quite sure what to make of the Tim Donaghy mess the NBA finds itself in, although he wonders if a league so controlled at the top could really be in serious trouble.
"David Stern is the mastermind behind a lot of stuff, he controls a lot of stuff, he dictates a lot of stuff so he's going to make himself look good," said Oakley, who was headed out of town for destinations unknown as soon as his CNE appearance was over. "There's always someone who wants to make you look bad.
"If the guy was fixing games, he was wrong. If players are getting money to win games, lose games, they're wrong."
If the playing thing doesn't go so well, he might even coach, but the thought of Oakley barking out orders from some bench might send linguists into a tizzy.
"The game is not hard, it's how you coach," he said. "Coaches these days don't put pressure on guys to do things they can't do. They've got to do more for the team. You can't say, `You're a scorer, you score. You rebound, you rebound.' Basketball is more than that. Basketball is knowing the next step, knowing the next play, knowing how to make things happen. There's a lot of less talent for smarts in the game, but a lot of talent for athletic ability."
Above all else, Oakley always has a story on his mind, stories that will eventually come out in a book that's been a work in progress for years. He has a New York co-author. If the comeback works out, he might get around to finishing it in a few years. If the comeback stalls, it could be on the bookshelves next year.
Whenever that book is published, it'll be something else, Oakley says.
"I'm not pulling any punches, true stories. It ain't one of those Charles Barkley fake books, it's a Charles Oakley book," Oakley said. "It's not an O.J. book, it's an Oakley book."
Any book that chronicles Oakley's life is sure to have its fair share of explosive anecdotes. He was a guy who got suspended for a Raptor game for drilling a basketball at Jeff McInnis's head at a shootaround. He got tossed from a pre-season game before it began for slapping Tyrone Hill in the head to remind him about a gambling debt.
Oakley has a long list of memorable sayings, ranging from `If it ain't broke, don't break it," to "Just because there's glass on the road don't mean there's been an accident."
If you put those thoughts and others like it to paper, it may not be Shakespeare, but a whole lot of people will read it.
But there's one thing he won't reveal. Oakley, who never came across a subject he wouldn't pontificate on, won't give out the juiciest of book details, or the co-author's name.
"People might try to come after us and take us down, maybe send a hit man," he said. "I have to protect myself, can't let it get out."