NBA team’s ugly feud with Oscar winner

After falling out with beloved player Charles Oakley, the New York Knicks are now in a public feud with superfan Spike Lee.

The filmmaker is at odds with the team he’s been a season ticketholder for almost 30 years after a clash with security at a recent game at Madison Square Garden.

A video circulating social media shows Lee arguing about being denied entry through a door used by Knicks employees and the media.

“No one told me. No one told me. Are you going to treat me like Charles Oakley?’’ he can be heard yelling.

The Knicks attempted to cool the situation by announcing midgame Lee was never ejected and was no longer angry. But that wasn’t the case.

The Oscar winner appeared on ESPN after the story broke and called the Knicks’ explanation during the game “Garden spin” and said he’s “being harassed by (Knicks owner) James Dolan and I don’t know why.”

“I never said I was thrown out of the arena. I don’t know how that got in there. This is all Garden spin,” Lee said. “Look, it was a terrible experience. When I went home, in the cab I said I’m gonna let it chill.

“Then my son read me the statement by the Garden, I said, ‘nah. It’s a lie. It’s spin’.”

The Knicks called Lee’s criticism of the team and James Dolan “laughable”.

“The idea that Spike Lee is a victim because we have repeatedly asked him to not use our employee entrance and instead use a dedicated VIP entrance — which is used by every other celebrity who enters The Garden — is laughable,” the Knicks said in a statement.

“It’s disappointing that Spike would create this false controversy to perpetuate drama. He is welcome to come to The Garden anytime via the VIP or general entrance; just not through our employee entrance, which is what he and Jim agreed to (Monday) night when they shook hands.”

The Knicks tweeted out two photos along with their statement. One photo included Dolan and Lee shaking hands, and another was a photo of the Garden entrance at 8 Penn Plaza, which says, “Entrance for employees, media and patrons with disabilities only”.

New York Knicks Statement on Spike Lee

Lee, who was in his customary courtside seat by game time, argued that he’s used that same employee entrance on 33rd Street for nearly 30 years as a season ticket-holder and wasn’t informed of any policy change.

He said he arrived at the employee entrance, as usual, and had his ticket scanned before a security guard asked him to step off the elevator that takes people from the first floor to the event level on the fifth floor.

“I go up to 5, and security was waiting for me like I just ran out of Macy’s stealing something,” Lee said. “The security guy says, and this comes from the top, ‘Mr. Lee, you have to leave Madison Square Garden.’ They wanted me to leave and walk outside, out to the 33rd Street entrance that I came in and come back on 31st Street (at the VIP entrance). I said, ‘I’m not doing that’.

“First of all, you scanned my ticket, you can’t scan it twice. And I know once you leave a sporting event, you can’t come back in. I don’t trust these guys, so I’m not going for the okey-doke. So I said I’m not leaving. ‘We want you to leave the Garden’. So I put my hands behind my back and I said arrest me like my brother Charles Oakley.”

Oakley has been banned form the Garden since a February 2017 incident in which he was tossed out of MSG and arrested after an altercation with arena security.

Director Spike Lee, left, gestures in a hallway on the event level at Madison Square Garden while arguing with security officers who didn’t want to permit him to access his court side seat. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)Source:AP

Asked in the second segment of the interview by Stephen A. Smith if he plans to attend any more games this season, Lee replied: “Not this year. No. No. I’m coming back next year. But I’m done for the season. Done.”

Smith said Lee’s friend, actor Al Palagonia, told him Lee’s courtside tickets cost $3400 per ticket per game, totalling $299,000 this season for two tickets for 41 home games, plus pre-season games.

Co-host Max Kellerman estimated Lee had spent the equivalent of $10 million dollars on season tickets over nearly three decades on Celebrity Row.

“I look stupid now,” Lee said, cackling. “I’m gonna use my Martin Scorsese (quote), I look like a mamaluke.”


Asked why something like this never has happened to celebrity fans of other NBA teams, such as Jack Nicholson with the Lakers, Lee shouted. “No! Doesn’t happen to Drake. You go down the line, Jimmy Buffett in Miami, nowhere! You got ask Mr. Dolan.

“I have to say I’ve never asked for any celebrity extra,” Lee continued. “I come there, I don’t try to get on the Jumobtron, I just come there to enjoy myself. My father started taking me to the old Madison Square Garden in 1967-68. I was in the Garden May 8, 1973 for the Willis Reed game, I was 13 years old. I was in the building.

“In my heart, I’m still the kid from Brooklyn that was sneaking in the Garden. I love the Knicks, those are my guys. I grew up with Willis Reed, Red Holzman, Dick Barnett, Cazzie Russell. Dave Stallworth. Nate Bowman. Bill Bradley. Those are my guys. It’s a shame, I look up at the roof and you see the banner from 72-73? That’s the last time they had a banner. I‘m thinking am I gonna die before we win another championship? Is my son, whose 24, gonna die before another championship?”

NBA reporter Chris Mannix was stunned by the developments. “First Charles Oakley, now Spike Lee. These are INSANE fights to be picking,” he tweeted.

“This is not real life. I don’t even blame Knicks PR. There has not been a PR person born dumb enough to think pushing back like this is a good idea.”

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