Former NBA player Charles Oakley was known for his tough-guy persona throughout his career.
He was often referred to as an enforcer, especially during his days with the New York Knicks. Although Oakley admits to still being tough, he is showing a different side nowadays.
He teamed with Jayson Williams, also an ex-NBA standout, to put on the inaugural Rebound Celebrity Golf and Dinner Outing at Boca Grove Golf and Tennis Club.
The event raised money for Williams’ drug, alcohol and gambling rehabilitation center in Boca Raton, the Sun Sentinel reported.
“I’m still tough,” Oakley said. “There’s no [other] side to me. It’s just part of life. You’ve got to do things. You’ve got to be diverse in life.”
Oakley played 19 years in the NBA, for Chicago Bulls, NY Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets. Oakley spent 10 years with the NY Knicks. He played a total of 1282 games (started 1159), averaging 9.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg in 31.4 mpg.
Oakley led the NBA in total rebounds for 2 straight years in a row (1987, 1988), and was known to be one of the toughest forwards in the league. Oakley was named an NBA All-Star in 1994, while playing for the Knicks.
About 45 former NFL and NBA stars and celebrities were in attendance, including former NBA forward Larry Johnson former NBA point guard Rod Strickland. Actor Luis Guzman and boxer Antonio Tarver also made appearances.
“It’s two great guys,” Strickland said. “I’ve know them since my time in the league. I’m happy to come represent for them.”
A recovering alcoholic, Williams helped found the organization alongside developer Zvi Schwarzman when he moved to South Florida 15 months ago. Williams, who has since been sober, often drives to the Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach airport to pick up those dealing with addiction.
He then works with them for 30 days to help fight the disease. Kayaking, paddle-boarding and fishing are among the activities Williams utilizes to keep clients from thinking about relapsing.
“People think in treatment that I’m helping them because I get all these letters from parents and loved ones,” Williams said. “It’s the total opposite. If it wasn’t for somebody dropping somebody off for 30 days, then my mind wouldn’t be set with a goal. For 30 days, I know I have to be sober.”
Williams knows the struggle because he was in a similar situation. He served 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated assault in the death of limo driver Costas Chrristofi in 2002. During the eight-year legal battle, Williams drank heavily.
“We have a disease that tells us that we don’t have a disease,” Williams said. “… We’re trying to help other people stay sober.”
It was natural for Williams to team with Oakley. Despite playing for rival teams – Williams played with the then New Jersey Nets – they have been friends since entering the NBA. They first met when Williams went to visit former St. John’s teammate Mark Jackson, who was playing for the Knicks.
Oakley offered a $20,000 loan to Williams, who was in his senior season. The only catch was Williams would have to repay Oakley $25,000 when he was drafted.
“The day I got drafted he came up to me and snatched that check out of my hands, and we’ve been friends ever since,” Williams said.
Added Oakley: “He went through a lot in life, and so have I. We know how to talk and help one another out.”
The event began with a dinner at Butcher Block Grill and ended with Oakley hosting a barbecue before the golf tournament. Oakley, an aspiring chef, manned the grill throughout the day.
“Charles has the biggest heart,” Williams said. “He doesn’t say much and he’s very coy and standoffish. He warms up around the grill. He played hard, played strong but he has the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever known.”
Williams played 9 seasons in the NBA for Philadelphia Sixers and New Jersey Nets. A defensive-minded forward/center made an NBA All-Star team in 1998, when he averaged 13.6 rebounds per game, second in the league.
The same season, Williams lead the NBA in offensive rebounds (443). He holds career NBA averages of 7.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg in 20.6 minutes of playing time. He appeared in 475 NBA games, starting 158.