NBA: James Dolan’s Terrible Run With the Knicks Isn’t Why He’s Being Sued

Nothing screams scandal like a lawsuit, and for many New York Knicks fans, this isn’t the first time they’ve watched James Dolan drop the ball when it comes to managing the team. Dolan has a fair share of negative press to his name, and now he’s being sued by shareholders of the New York Knicks along with their parental partner The Madison Square Garden Company. However, the Knicks’ six straight sub-.500 seasons aren’t why James Dolan is being sued.

James Dolan, absentee CEO?

James Dolan critics often point to his arrogant view of team ownership and how he alienates fans. He even banned one attendee from Madison Square Garden following some innocent, “Garden”-variety heckling. Meanwhile, lawyers are alleging the complete opposite is true since it’s his absence from Madison Square Gardens that’s problematic in this case.

The real root of the suit are complaints stemming from Dolan’s lackluster loyalty not only to the Knicks but also to more than a dozen other entities assigned under his care claiming they aren’t being managed properly including:

  • The New York Rangers
  • The Westchester Knicks
  • The Rockettes
  • Radio City Music Hall
James Dolan getting sued has nothing to do with his disastrous stint leading the New York Knicks.
Investors claim James Dolan makes too much money relative to how much work he puts in. | Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Lawyers claim his $75 million salary is excessive for someone who spends more time performing with his band, JD & the Straight Shot. Those suing Dolan call that figure less-than-fair compared to other executives in similar roles averaging $17 million in their annual earnings.

In Dolan’s defense, his base salary is $1 million per year, and the rest came from a one-time payout for the performance of his company. Stock prices have also risen by 37% since 2017, and windfalls from Dolan’s investments help line his pockets. So there are definitely two sides to the story, and it could make for an intriguing case if it ever makes it to a courtroom.

Rocky performances all over the map

Some say any success James Dolan achieves with the Knicks comes in spite of him. On the flipside, there hasn’t been a ton of success in New York since Dolan took the helm in 1999. He hired NBA legend Isaiah Thomas in 2003 to run the team, and the team never finished higher than third in the division. Later, he brought in coaching great Phil Jackson to run the show. There were so many blunders Jackson made when he was in charge of the Knicks — such as falling asleep during one player’s pre-draft workout — that it’s hard to keep them all straight.

James Dolan getting sued has nothing to do with his disastrous stint leading the New York Knicks.
Hiring Phil Jackson was one of many missteps by James Dolan (left). | Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

But at least Jackson wasn’t moonlighting on the sidelines since the suit alleges Dolan was playing the role of a celebrity rock star for the better part of 2017 and his band is still touring. Part of the lawsuit points to an excessive amount of time and attention he pays to JD & The Straight Shot. During the year in question, his band toured in six countries, forty-one cities throughout the United States, totaling fifty performances overall making him unavailable to perform his CEO duties in NYC.

Missing the mark

The Knicks have just six playoff appearances since 2000, and they were one-and-done in four of them. They haven’t won an NBA championship since 1973, nearly fifty years ago when Phil Jackson was playing on the team. Jackson was also wearing a Knicks jersey in 1970 which was the only other time the Knicks took home the title.

It almost goes without saying under the more recent leadership of both Jackson and Dolan, the Knicks have failed to win the treasured trophy for being the best team playing in the league. Not only that, but they’re nearly irrelevant in the NBA.

Back on top with new blood

Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have high hopes for the Knicks taking a top spot in the NBA for the 2019-20 season giving them a 16-1 shot at taking the title. With plenty of salary cap space to lure pending free agents, speculation is that Kevin Durant could be wearing a Knicks jersey next season.

Others are pointing to the possibility of the Knicks acquiring Anthony Davis after his trade request fell through during the 2018-19 season. Both Boston and the Lakers have interest in the talented Davis joining their teams.
There’s also the draft to consider and the potential talent available there. The Knicks could win the lottery and pick generational talent Zion Willamson, which would immediately improve their fortunes.