The Charles Oakley-James Dolan fiasco was embarrassing for the Knicks organization but there were some beneficiaries from it. Knicks president Phil Jackson who for some reason decided to call upon his inner Trump and use Twitter to bash his star player, Carmelo Anthony, happily found himself off of the backpages.
The Brooklyn Nets, one of the worst teams in NBA history and suffering through yet another endless losing streak, were at least failing in anonymity thanks at least in some part to the Dolan-Oakley kerfuffle. Oakley, the sunglasses and sports apparel manufacturer that coincidentally shares a name and with the popular former Knicks forward, was an indirect recipient of free publicity.
The biggest winner however was undoubtedly ESPN Radio afternoon host Michael Kay whose show has always placed a distant second to WFAN’s Mike Francesa in the area of radio ratings. Dolan, the notoriously press-shy Madison Square Garden CEO, chose Kay’s show as a medium for addressing his side of the story.
Kay, and his co-host Don LaGreca, did a fine job asking JD tough questions but always remained respectful. This is the most publicity that Michael Kay’s ESPN show has ever received. There was a glimmer of good news last week for the Knicks. ESPN Magazine’s current issue features “Saturday Night Live” cast member and uber-Knicks fan Leslie Jones and Kristaps Porzingis on its cover.
The 37th annual Thurman Munson Dinner that benefits AHRC, a nonprofit that helps improve the lives of both adults and children with cognitive disabilities, was held last Tuesday.
Two of the late Yankee captain’s teammates, Graig Nettles and Bucky Dent, attended. Dent is best remembered of course for his three-run home run that gave a the Yankees a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the Red Sox in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park that clinched the 1978 AL East title for the Bronx Bombers.
For years Red Sox fans referred to Dent as Bucky “Bleeping” Dent. I asked Dent if Bostonians have mellowed and even laugh about that game now that their team has won a few World Series in recent years. “Nah! That generation will always be bitter!” he said with a hearty laugh.
Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was an honoree at the dinner along with Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez and Mets infielder Wilmer Flores. Victor acknowledged that there is a good chance that the Giants will release him because of team salary cap restraints and if that were to happen then he would be a free agent.
The personable Cruz admitted to me at last spring’s Sports Emmy Awards ceremony that playing in New York was a key to his ability to garner endorsement deals with a number of national brands.
I asked him on Tuesday if market size would play a part in his decision of where to play and he candidly said that would be a very important factor. It is refreshing to hear an athlete shy away from that hoary cliche about how getting a championship ring is the most important consideration.
Cruz was one of several Giants players who made that one-day trip to Miami the week before they were slated to play the Packers in a first-round playoff game in Green Bay. I asked him if the fact that the Giants would be playing in the NFL’s answer to the North Pole the first week of January was a factor in going to South Florida; a gift of warmth to even things out so to speak. “That’s a good theory but it wasn’t the reason we went there,” Victor answered with a smile.
Longtime Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira who retired at the end of last season will serve as a baseball analyst for ESPN. Tex was always accessible to the media as a player and he was a frequent guest on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike Show” morning show where he showed an unexpected sharp sense of humor.
Another first baseman who hung up his spikes last year, Prince Fielder, is entering the media through a different venue. He will be hosting a cooking show that will smartly be called “Fielder’s Choice” that will stream over both Netflix and Hulu.