Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Legends of Oak

Few peoples, save maybe the Canadians (but surely not those in Toronto) who love their maples, question the significance of the oak. The tree was the symbol of Zeus and was sacred to Thor. It was written that Merlin was born under an oak. To the Celts, it was the tree of doors and considered a portal to other dimensions. From the Charter Oak in Connecticut to Pugachov's Oak in Russia, there are oak trees of varying degrees of historical, mystical and spiritual importance around the globe.

In the National Basketball Association, the most important oak is none other than Charles Oakley.

Oak represents physical strength, personal pride, tirelessness and certitude. And rebounding. And knocking you down if you owed him money. And well-run car washes.

With these qualities increasingly rare in today's game, one of the most revered hoops elders has turned to Oakley for guidance. After the Los Angeles Lakers dropped a game to the Charlotte Bobcats, 98-83 on March 5, Phil Jackson pulled center Pau Gasol out of a scrum of reporters and put him in a room with Oakley.

"You guys done with Pau?" Jackson asked the assembled reporters before addressing his Spanish pivot. "Pau, I want you to meet a friend of mine."

Pau then met Oakley. According to Mike Breshnan of the LA Times the pair then spoke behind closed doors. With his ability (and willingness) to run the floor, impressive court vision, and unselfish play, I am a big fan of Pau. He's my second-favorite Laker. Right after DJ Mbenga. But the knock on him is the he doesn't knock down others.

Enter Oakley.

A few nights later, Gasol laid the wood on Suns player Luis Amundsen rather than surrender an easy layup during the fourth quarter. The Lakers won that game by six points and the foul was later upgraded to a flagrant. In other words, a few days after Oakley appears, Gasol is clotheslining dudes with ponytails rather than give up an easy look? Yup. Coincidence? I think not.