He is one of the all-time great enforcers, so imposing that half of the current crop of NBA players probably wouldn’t dare take on a 50-year-old Charles Oakley.

Oakley is brutally honest, having played during a time when a flagrant foul was one that drew blood and knocked out teeth. The NBA of the 1990s was a defensive league when scoring 90 points would warrant free tacos for the home fans. Oakley stood tall in the paint as a bruising power forward, laying out those pesky guards who chose to challenge his authority by driving to the basket.


Oakley was in Boston on Saturday, appearing at the sixth annual Jaden’s Ladder gala at the Ritz-Carlton. (Jaden’s Ladder is a nonprofit organization that assists survivors of domestic violence. Oakley appeared with Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk and actor Mekhi Phifer.)

And the longtime Knick has some pointed opinions about the direction of the league, the lack of true centers, and the disappearance of enforcers. Oakley never won an NBA title, having been dealt from Chicago to the Knicks before the Bulls began their dominance. As a Knick, he was on the team that lost in the 1994 Finals to the Houston Rockets. Still, he enjoyed a storied career filled with vicious screens, brutal elbows, and flattened opponents.


“I just tried to go out there and play with attitude, doing what I was supposed to do and knowing my role on the team,” said Oakley, who played from 1985 until 2004. “Doing what my team expected me to do every night, not just once a week. It was all about work and I was just a tough guy who would knock somebody down.”