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The Last Enforcer: Outrageous Stories From the Life and Times of One of the NBA's Fiercest Competitors Hardcover – Feb. 1 2022
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If you ask a New York Knicks fan about Charles Oakley, you better prepare to hear the love and a favorite story or two. But his individual stats weren’t remarkable, and while he helped power the Knicks to ten consecutive playoffs, he never won a championship. So why does he hold such a special place in the minds, hearts, and memories of NBA players and fans?
Because over the course of nineteen years in the league, Oakley was at the center of more unbelievable encounters than Forrest Gump, and nearly as many fights as Mike Tyson. He was the friend you wish you had, and the enemy you wish you’d never made. If any opposing player was crazy enough to start a fight with him, or God forbid one of his teammates, Oakley would end it.
“I can’t remember every rebound I grabbed but I do have a story—the true story—of just about every punch and slap on my resume,” he says.
In The Last Enforcer, Oakley shares one incredible story after the next—all in his signature “unflinchingly tough, honest, and ultimately endearing” (Harvey Araton, New York Times bestselling author) style—about his life in the paint and beyond, fighting for rebounds and respect. You’ll look back on the era of the 1990s NBA, when tough guys with rugged attitudes, unflinching loyalty, and hard-nosed work ethics were just as important as three-point sharpshooters. You’ll feel like you were on the court, in the room, can’t believe what you just saw, and need to tell everyone you know about it.
—THE NEW YORK TIMES
“They don’t make ‘em like Charles Oakley no more. When the NBA was full of these tough guys, one guy was tougher than the rest. In The Last Enforcer, Oak gives us insight into how it all went down when the game was won and lost in the paint, before flagrant fouls and three-pointers softened up the NBA. You had to be there, and he was right in the center of it, like an oak tree in the middle of a raging flood.”
—ICE CUBE, award-winning rapper, actor, and filmmaker
“This is the book we’ve been waiting on: Oak with Isola, delivering the goods on the golden age of NBA tough guys and blood feuds. An incredible read on some incredible days and nights in the old association.”
—ADRIAN WOJNAROWSKI, ESPN Senior NBA Insider and New York Times Best-Selling Author of The Miracle of St. Anthony
“Mr. Charles Oakley is one of my guys from those great New York Knickerbockers of Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Larry Johnson, and Allan Houston. After all these years, Oak and I are still close friends. When you have Charles for a friend you have a loyal friend for life. The interesting thing is, he has a reputation as The Enforcer, but his book shows that Charles is funny AF – the humor is on point. On top of that, he’s a gourmet chef. You can never go wrong with laughter and food.”
—SPIKE LEE, Oscar-winning director and writer
“In The Last Enforcer, Charles Oakley, as fierce a competitor as ever stepped onto the hallowed floor in Madison Square Garden, tells the story of his career and life as he played: unflinchingly tough, honest, and ultimately endearing. An old-school warrior serves up a sizzling tale of life inside the paint in an era when that was where the game was won or lost. I couldn’t put it down.”
—HARVEY ARATON, New York Times bestselling author of Driving Mr. Yogi, and When the Garden Was Eden
“Basketball fans will enjoy Oakley’s stories about the game’s biggest stars and his opinions about them. . . The book is packed with Oakley’s plainspoken disdain for former players, most notably Charles Barkley, who gets a whole chapter: ‘Barkley and his Big Mouth.’ Among the other players and coaches on the receiving end of Oakley’s unforgiving eye include Lamar Odom, Dennis Rodman, Lenny Wilkins, and Tyrone Hill . . . Many of Oakley’s entertaining stories go beyond basketball; the strongest sections involve amusing run-ins with a wide range of celebrities, from Judge Mathis to Spike Lee. Oakley also has a serious side, on display when he discusses his friendship with George Floyd.”
“Oakley’s unapologetic, uninhibited autobiography, written with journalist [Frank] Isola, matches his dominant presence on the court . . . Of particular interest are his thoughts and experiences as a Black athlete, including his connection with police brutality victim George Floyd. Fondly remembered for his loyalty to teammates and his innovative defensive presence, Oakley’s stories bring back an era when basketball personalities and feuds were over the top and games were front-page news.”
“An entertaining stroll down memory lane … Anchored with a foreword by Michael Jordan—who refers to the author as his ‘bodyguard’ during their time as teammates on the Chicago Bulls—Oakley’s book skims over his youth and early love of the game to instead regale readers with tales from his playing days in the 1980s and ’90s and his decade-long tenure with the Knicks, replete with cameos by the likes of Donald Trump. He also weighs in on a considerable amount of gossip, opening the book with the claim ‘I did not punch Charles Barkley.’”
About the Author
Frank Isola spent twenty-five years covering the NBA and the New York Knicks at the Daily News (New York). His coverage earned him both an APSE sports writing award, as well a Deadline Club award. In 2015 he was voted New York Sportswriter of the Year. He currently is a regular on ESPN programs Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption. He also serves as the cohost on a morning show for SiriusXM NBA Radio, and as a studio analyst for the Nets in the YES Network.
- Publisher : Gallery Books (Feb. 1 2022)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1982175648
- ISBN-13 : 978-1982175641
- Item weight : 431 g
- Dimensions : 15.24 x 2.54 x 22.86 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #41,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Despite starting his career as not only Jordan’s teammate… but also becoming his protector… Oakley without hesitation states for the world to read… exactly what my son and I would always yell out at the screen with indignation… (the following are my son and my lifetime of words… through Oakley’s actual quotes!)… “THE WHOLE THING SEEMED RIGGED. I WOULD TELL MICHAEL, “YOU TRAVEL ALL THE TIME AND IT NEVER GETS CALLED. WE’RE PLAYING SIX AGAINST FIVE.” (chorus from my son and I… AMEN BROTHER!)… “HE GOT THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT FROM THE OFFICIALS, WHICH WAS B.S.. HE SHOULDN’T HAVE GOTTEN EVERY CALL!” (AMEN BROTHER!)…”ALL THE BASKETBALL ANALYSTS WOULD SAY THAT ONE OF THE BIG WEAKNESSES WITH OUR TEAM WAS THAT NO ONE COULD SCORE (on the Bulls) BESIDES MICHAEL. MY THING WAS “HOW ARE WE GOING TO SCORE IF THERE ARE NO PLAYS RUN FOR THE REST OF US?” (AMEN BROTHER!)
Now that I’ve got the attention of every true old-school basketball fan and player… let’s go back to the beginning and move forward. Oakley from Cleveland… spent much of his formative years with his Grandfather in Alabama while his Mother worked to be able to afford a house and a better life in Cleveland. His role model for his entire life on and off the court was his hardworking and honorable Grandfather… Julius Moss. In fact “Big-Oak” dedicates his book to him… eloquently stating: “To my Grandfather Julius Moss, who believed in hard work, and being a man of your word.” (Another chorus from my son and me… AMEN BROTHER!)
The reader is then taken by the author’s strong hand through his college and pro career. The bulk of his career was with the New York Knicks… who became the most physically intimidating team (not by words… BUT BY ACTION!). As I touted from the start of my review… no one… and I mean no one… is spared from the tip of Oakley’s spear of truth. Though having nice words to say about longtime teammate Patrick Ewing… he also unflinchingly states: “THERE ARE "A" PLAYERS, "B" PLAYERS, AND "C" PLAYERS. MICHAEL IS AN "A" PLAYER. PATRICK IS A "B" PLAYER. WE NEVER HAD A TRUE "A" PLAYER ON THE KNICKS.” When Pat Riley became coach of the Knicks… it was a match made in heaven for Oakley… and many fans may be a little surprised how hard Oakley always worked… whether in practice or in games… it wasn’t just mouthing off and swinging elbows and fists… and personally as a lifetime Pat Riley fan (and I’m talking about as far back as when he was jumping at center for the University of Kentucky!)… Oak’s statement of what it was like playing for Riley… the following statement sent chills up my spine… “THAT’S PAT RILEY. HE WAS CONSTANTLY PUSHING US, MOTIVATING US, TESTING US, AND SENDING US SUBTLE AND NOT-SO-SUBTLE MESSAGES. I ALWAYS SAID THAT PLAYING FOR PAT RILEY WAS LIKE GOING FROM BEING A RESERVE IN THE MILITARY TO TRAINING TO BECOME A NAVY SEAL. IT WAS MY BOOT CAMP. AFTER A FEW DAYS OF PRACTICE WITH PAT RILEY YOU’RE LIKE, “SO THIS IS HOW THE BIG BOYS WORK.” I can’t think of any greater compliment for a coach!
From there… if you can believe it… the book gets better and better… from slapping Barkley across the face and having him run away… and “Mention my name to Barkley today and he’ll still go the other way.” He states “Laimbeer who was an A-hole”… “McHALE WAS LIKE KARL MALONE, BOTH OF THEM CRIED AND FLOPPED ALL THE TIME, EVEN IF THEY HAD GOOD MOVES.” There are 50-100 more of such classic quotes and comments… all the way to his recent run-ins with Knicks owner James Dolan… whose only claim to fame according to Oakley is… “All the Knicks have done with James Dolan is lose basketball games.”
I must also make sure to mention what a wonderful job co-author Frank Isola did. I have never previously read anything by Frank. I only knew of him as the periodic co-host of the TV program “Pardon The Interruption”. I always thought he was a shining light on that program whether he co-hosted with “Hubie Brown’s bald older brother who lives in an attic… and wears counterfeit off brand used Bear Bryant hats…. Or co-hosted with the other bald guy who wears two zip up shirts at the same time along with a coat… and has a “pocket-protector”… (he thinks he’s making a fashion statement… and he actually is… but not the kind he thinks he is!) and so off-putting… talks with his eyes closed half the time… making the viewing audience… hope someone comes on set and acts like it’s a Mafia funeral and sticks a needle in his leg to see if he’s really dead. So that’s the only experience I had with Frank Isola… until these written words… and I’m happy to say… he was just as intellectually stimulating and entertaining as he is on TV.
A great book!
P.S. If you’re an old-school player/fan… and tired of today’s cream-puffs… and their giant contracts… and their despicable “load-management” wussy-ism” two quotes for the road while you break the land speed record to buy this book…”I THINK THAT 20 PERCENT OF TODAY’S GUYS WOULD BE TOUGH ENOUGH TO PLAY IN OUR ERA. MAYBE NOT EVEN THAT MANY.” (AMEN BROTHER!!)… and… “IN THE NBA THE MONEY GOT BIGGER AND THE GAME GOT WEAKER.” (AMEN BROTHER!)
This book is at its best in the stories such as where Oaklay complains that the Knicks lost an advantage when the referees forced his teammate Xavier MAcdaniels to cut his fingernails in the post season for a playoff series. Really Charles? But the book needed more stories like that or how Tyrone Hills gambling debts starting affecting tram play and a coach had to tell him “pay up”.
Instead, the Oak talkstoo much about hanging with celebrities (dropping names) or telling about LeBron James - but the Oak is no longer playing so this part of the book is boring. One boring chapter details how the Oak was screwed by the Knicks idiot owner 20 years after his playing days are over. I think he was pissed he could not be the last enforcer to the Owner, and this chapter was uninspired. The last part of the book was not that interesting as a result.
A good autobiography needs to be more introspective or tell a bunch of entertaining stories, and this book did not hit the mark enough.
Charles Oakley was the heart of the Knicks. I always wondered how he got so many rebounds and had so much success when he was never the biggest or tallest or most "talented" on the court. This book gives a lot of insight into his success, toughness and mental state that led to those rebounds, those wins and that decade.
In his life he battles the inner city, tough circumstances and of course racism, prejudice and injustice. And that's off the court. On the court he battles everyone not on his team. He keeps score. He loves his friends, hates his enemies and is loyal to a fault, but is ready for physical violence when someone breaks his code. He is honest. Says what he thinks without a filter because that's who he is. No wonder people were scared of him.
Then there's the whole James Dolan thing. There are qualifications/standards for being an NBA player. Isn't it about time there are qualifications/standards for being an NBA owner? The man had Oakley publicly put in handcuffs simply because he could. Then he tried to lynch Oakley's reputation and future, all for the sin of coming to a Knick game. I don't care if he's recently laid low. He's got to go.
Back to the book. It's entertaining and goes fast but it seems quickly written and overly focused on just the game, settling scores and most exciting stories. Where's the heart? Oh - it's in the Acknowledgements! Come on Oak, you owe us another book where you lighten up and talk about those people in your life and how you cooked and danced with the stars. I gave this two extra stars for being about NYC and the Knicks.
Thank you Oak for coming to NYC, even though you didn't want to. Thanks for putting in the work and your loyalty. NYC appreciates you. We love a fighter. I never met you, but one day in the 90's on the West side Highway driving south I was passed on the right by a black Cadillac with New York plates . . it was going fast and I got the feeling the driver didn't want to run me over, but was willing to if necessary. the plates said "OAKLEY."
Heck, if you just like entertaining anecdotes of a simpler, better time, the book is for you.