Charles Oakley is one of the OG hardmen of the NBA. But his opinions of Zion Williamson are making us question how partisan he is.
Oakley last played in the NBA back in 2004, which was the final year when ‘hand-checking’ was legally permitted. His 19 years in the NBA were some of the most physical in league history, and with good reason.
This was an era when behemoth centers were considered franchise pieces a lot more than today. The game was more interior-oriented and players’ shooting range didn’t extend to the 3-point line for the most part.
This obviously doesn’t mean that they didn’t play a great brand of basketball, it just means that the shooting skill as a league-average wasn’t at the place that it is today.
But old heads are unwilling to concede that not everything ‘back in their day’ was all that great. A part of their projection is onto modern-day stars, many of whom they genuinely believe to be inferior to the stars of their era.
Charles Oakley calls Zion Williamson overrated
Oakley made his name as a low-post defender for the New York Knicks in the 90s. They were one of the most physical teams of that era, led by Patrick Ewing shepherding their paint region.
Charles Oakley understands that the game is different today, but he believes that post defenders are making it way too easy for Zion Williamson to score. In fact, he’s willing to throw Zion and his skillset under the bridge in order to criticize the young brigade:
“(Zion) ain’t doing nothing special. He’s just putting the ball down, guys they don’t slide no more. They reach in and then look behind like, ‘Oh, I thought I had help.’ There ain’t no help. Keep him in front for 2-3 dribbles, you might have help.”
Charles Oakley to SiriusXM: “(Zion) ain’t doing nothing special. He’s just putting the ball down, guys they don’t slide no more. They reach in and then look behind like, ‘Oh, I thought I had help.’ There ain’t no help. Keep him in front for 2-3 dribbles, you might have help.”
— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) April 26, 2021
If this is indeed Oakley’s line of thinking, he’s pretty damn wrong about it. Zion is a pretty terrible defender, but his physique and athleticism would allow him to put up buckets in any era. He became the first player in 35 years to reach 2000 career points before 80 NBA games.