- Three-time gold medalist in FIBA play
- One-time state champion at Whitney Young High School in Chicago
- Co-MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game & Jordan Brand Classic
- NCAA Champion, consensus first team All-American, ACC Player of the Year and USBWA Freshman of the Year at Duke in 2014-15
Pretty impressive accolades for a 19 y/o, are they not? Unfortunately, being such a success on the court landed him with the Philadelphia 76ers as they drafted him number three overall in the 2015 NBA Draft.
As all basketball fans know, they Sixers are the laughing-stock of the NBA and have won a whopping 38 games over the past three seasons. Of course, the Sixers are looking to turn their fortunes around and drafted Okafor because he was, arguably, the best player in the most recent draft.
He started off the season very strong and has averaged over 17 points & eight rebounds a game thus far. However, Okafor has experienced some issues off the court in recent weeks, starting with a speeding violation in early November on the Benjamin Franklin bridge in Philly where Okafor was clocked at 108 MPH. In subsequent weeks, it was reported that Okafor was involved in a street fight in Boston on November 25th, followed by a video from TMZ that showed Okafor engaging in yet another street fight. His actions landed him a two game suspension which was identified by Coach Brett Brown as, “tough love.”
Why? What could provoke a kid like Jahlil, who’s been edified by Coach K as one of the best people who have graced our planet, to go out and act like this?
I believe it’s because of the culture that’s been created surrounding the 76ers. Not by the players or coaches, because they don’t have much say in the business decisions, but by the front office. They’ve created a culture of losing and that’s not something that Okafor is accustomed to. Through four years of high school and one year at Duke, Okafor’s teams have lost a combined 33 games. The Sixers are going to lose 33 games by the All-Star Break most likely. It’s very similar to what’s going on in Cleveland with Johnny Manziel (huge bandwagon fan of him, by the way) where he seems to be acting out to spite the organization.
Totally plausible. No one wants to play for the 76ers and they go out of their way to make sure that their teams have little chances in winning anything. They’ve traded away players like Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Andre Igoudala and Nikola Vucevic.
Secondly, there is no leadership in Philadelphia. In fact, Okafor was looked at to be the leader, whether by example or vocally, of the Sixers. Their team is remarkably young and the longest tenured player on the roster is Carl Landry who’s been around for eight years. I’ve never experienced it, but I imagine it’s tough for a 19 y/o to go out a lead in a place where very few people of his age are leaders.
I will give the Sixers players & coaching staff credit because they go out every night and play really hard, despite what goes on with everything else.
It’s been reported that Carmelo Anthony would love to reach out to Okafor because of the lack of veteran leadership in the Sixers locker room.
By no means is Jahlil Okafor a bad kid just because he had a few off-court issues. No one’s perfect. These are the first times that something like this has happened to Okafor and it’s because he landed in the wrong place at the wrong time. Luckily for him, he’s shown he can play and play really well. He’s a Rookie of the Year candidate with one of the best low-post games we’ve seen in a long time and this could lead to some trade interests from other teams. Knowing Sam Hinkie, he might consider trading away Okafor for whoever is presented to him.
*Featured image by “Jahlil Okafor 2015 Summer League” by Ed – AIMG_2162.*