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Grand entrance: Why are the Knicks picking on Spike Lee?

Spike Lee

(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Is there any doubt the New York Knicks are the most dysfunctional franchise in the four major sports leagues in this great nation? No there isn’t.

Not only have the Knicks sucked for two decades, spitting out coaches and team presidents and squandering big money contracts on fraudulent players, but they are a public relations disaster.

Their owner, James Dolan, is a knucklehead. He might have more money than Oprah, but he is crass and socially inept. He always says the wrong things at the wrong time – when he speaks publicly, which is not often. And he continues to piss off people.

Like Spike Lee.

The diminutive Oscar-winning film director is as close to a team mascot as you can get without actually being stuffed with fluff. He has been an institution at Madison Square Garden for over 25 years, the Knicks most famous fan through good times and bad, sitting in his court side seat, wearing the team colors, bantering with players and irritating officials.

So on Monday night, Spike shows up at the Garden just like always for the Knicks-Rockets game and walks into the Garden through the employee entrance that abuts New York City’s Penn Station. It’s also the entrance the media uses to get into the building.

Only this time, things didn’t go as they usually do. For some reason, Lee was stopped by security guards and told he had to leave the building and re-enter through a dedicated VIP entrance that was two blocks away.

Lee refused, claiming his ticket had already been scanned, wanting to know why Monday was different than all the other days over all the other years. When security persisted, it led to a heated exchange. Apparently, the Knicks are claiming they’d told Lee many times he could no longer access the building through the employee entrance.

“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 V.I.P. entrance — which is used by every other celebrity who enters The Garden — is laughable,” the Knicks said in a statement released on Tuesday. “It’s disappointing that Spike would create this controversy to perpetuate drama.”

While we’d agree Lee was wrong going diva on the security guards, we’d also point out the Knicks picked a fight when there was no fight to pick.

After all that Lee has endured with this franchise, who really cares if he feels more comfortable entering the Garden through the employee entrance? It’s just one swing of the turnstile that makes life easier for the team’s top fan.

“What’s laughable is how the Knicks are the laughingstock of the league,” Lee told the New York Times.

“This press release, which is upsetting me, is an unmitigated, bald-faced lie. Capital letters. On my late mother and my late brother’s grave, this is a lie. That they say that they had repeatedly asked me not to use the employee entrance. That is a lie.”

Lee then told the Times, just like he had told ESPN earlier Tuesday morning, that Dolan was “harassing” him.

Here’s the thing: Lee eventually did get himself into the Garden. And there is a photo – which the Knicks tweeted out – showing him shaking hands with Dolan. But the Knicks also chose to twist a knife into Lee.

“He is welcome to come to The Garden anytime via the V.I.P. entrance; just not through our employee entrance, which is what he and Jim agreed to last night when they shook hands,” was the Garden’s caption to the photo.

“At halftime, Mr. Dolan comes to my seat and says, ‘We need to talk.’ And I said, ‘Talk about what?’ ‘We need to talk.’ I said, ‘Mr. Dolan, no one told me. I’ve not been informed by texts, emails, phone calls that there’s a new policy on using the employee entrance. No one told me,’” Lee told The Times.

To add to the fun, the Brooklyn Nets, who have no signature fans, reached out to Lee to attend their home games.

“I’m not going to let anybody take away my love for the orange and blue skies,” Lee said. “It’s not happening. I wish the Nets luck. But that ain’t happening.”

Spike Lee

(Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

If you’ve been keeping score, you know the Knicks are missing the playoffs for the seventh straight year. According to The Times, its New York’s longest postseason drought  since the 1960s when they regularly wilted at the feet of the Boston Celtics.

The thing is, the fans are still jamming the Garden every night. It remains one of the hardest tickets to get in the NBA, with resale prices regularly doubling and tripling face value.

But now, at least for the remainder of this season, they will have to forge ahead without Lee. He says he will not be back at the Garden this season.

“I mean, this man’s been buying tickets for 28 years, over $10 million, and you curse him out if he comes in this door or that door?” former Knicks forward Charles Oakley, who has also had big problems with Dolan, told ESPN on Wednesday.

As for Lee, it seems his content to lay low for a while and wait for better times to come.

“I went to bed last night. You know what I was thinking about? Am I going to go to the grave without another banner being raised in the world’s most famous arena?” Lee said.