Charles Oakley has been in the news lately for various reasons, from his foray into a uniform for the Big 3 Tournament to his contentious relationship with New York Knicks ownership.
For one Chicago high school basketball team, at least, Oakley is first and foremost a generous man of his word. Shia Kapos of the Chicago Sun-Times tells the story.
Last winter, as Kapos tells it, Oakley and a buddy – Chicago businessman John Kelly – promised to buy Air Jordans for the Orr Academy basketball team if it won an Illinois state championship. Orr held up its end of the bargain, beating Mount Carmel for the 2A title in March.
On Wednesday, Oakley and Kelly paid up — with an assist from Oakley’s friend and former Chicago Bulls teammate, Michael Jordan. Jordan’s alma mater, Laney (Wilmington, N.C.), won’t be the only one that got a helping hand from His Airness.
Oakley and Kelly told Kapos that they unofficially adopted the team after reading a Sun-Times series about Orr being at the center of violence in the city. Since then, they’ve spent time with the boys and even took them to Bulls games.
“These are kids who love basketball who had never seen the Bulls play live; that’s a tragedy,” Kelly, owner and president of lobbying firm All-Circo, Inc., told the Sun-Times.
Kelly and Oakley surprise them with the Air Jordan 5 Premium shoes, which Jordan himself donated. He threw in some jerseys, too.
Oakley feels a kinship with the students, having grown up in a struggling neighborhood in Cleveland. He’s also familiar with the crime-ridden neighborhood that Orr calls home. A favorite barbershop is Ellis Price Barber Shop on Madison Street, not far from the school.
“I know what they’re going through,” Oakley, who grew up in a tough neighborhood in Cleveland, told the Sun-Times.
Orr coach Lou Adams praised Kelly, Oakley and Jordan for their generosity. After the original Sun-Times stories ran, Adams told Kapos, “A lot of people said, ‘What can we do? What can we do?’ But these guys said they’d do it, and they did. It means a lot.”