Academy Award winning director Spike Lee is worth an estimated $40 million. By his own account he’s spent in the neighborhood of $10 million on New York Knicks basketball tickets in the last 28 years, a staggering amount on a team that hasn’t won a title since 1973.
With that kind of loyalty (and cash) comes certain perks, like the use of an employee entrance that Lee says he was granted for decades. That access was inexplicably denied Monday night ahead of the Knicks’ home game against the Houston Rockets, leading to an altercation with Madison Square Garden security.
The 62-year-old Lee told ESPN’s ‘First Take’ Tuesday morning, “I’m coming back next year, but I’m done for the season. I’m done.”
The Knicks responded in a statement suggesting Spike created “a false controversy to perpetuate drama” adding
“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 VIP entrance — which is used by every other celebrity who enters The Garden — is laughable.”
Spike for his part swore “on his mother’s grave” that the Knicks had not told him to use another entrance.
Is Lee an entitled celebrity? Undoubtedly. Shelling out eight-figures to watch a laughable sub-.500 basketball team for seven of the last ten seasons however is incomprehensible for most of us. Not Spike, he’s right there rocking a Knicks jersey virtually every night, despite two 17-win seasons in the last five years, seven coaches in the last decade, and despite this debacle, he will be back next year for another rebuild under new team President Leon Rose.
Spike is well aware a more desirable team is being built thirty minutes away in Brooklyn where two of the NBA’s best players, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, have teamed up on the Nets. Despite an olive branch from the Nets, Spike is not switching his allegiance.
The question moving forward is will the Knicks change their ways? It’s not their first flare-up involving a famous fan. Three years ago team legend Charles Oakley was arrested at Madison Square Garden after an altercation with arena security. While Oakley certainly shared in the blame, it’s just another example of a contemptuous relationship between team owner James Dolan and a passionate New York fan base.
In the first game following the dust-up with Lee, the Knicks measured their smallest crowd in 13 years, and saw their record fall to a woeful 19-and-43. Despite the on and off-court struggles, the Knicks are worth an estimated $4.6 billion according to Forbes, one of the highest in the league for the fifth straight season.
And despite the deep pockets, Dolan has proven incapable of improving the team’s standing. The least he could do is take a note from Spike Lee’s most famous film, and “Do the Right Thing” by their loyal fan base.