On draft night, the Philadelphia 76ers were lucky. The Los Angeles Lakers drafted guard D’Angelo Russell instead of drafting Duke big man Jahlil Okafor. That left the talented big man there for the 76ers to draft. And in their rebuilding process, they did not have a big man that could give them scoring consistently. Nerlens Noel is more of a defensive guy and we have yet to see last year’s draft pick, center Joel Embiid. The insertion of him immediately into the starting lineup was something that would help this team. And with his reputation off the court being good, the prevailing thoughts were that the team would have nothing to worry about there. Well, one month into the season and we are already hearing things about Okafor. He was caught on video punching out a heckling fan in Boston and he has had a gun pointed at him in an incident October with a separate heckler. And to add to that, a report recently came out that he was stopped for going 108 across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. To give you heads up, anything over 40 miles per hour on that bridge is considered reckless driving. Okafor has put out a few words on Twitter saying that he is not proud of his actions. But the fact remains that he was involved in those actions and they were potential dangerous situations.
One thing that we can all say is that we have had situations where we have gotten involved in as 19 year olds. And many times we can look at those situations and ask ourselves “what were we thinking?” Of course plenty of us would not have an answer as to what we were thinking because we were not. Jahlil was in a situation in regards to the gun and punching incident that he was not prepared for and just reacted. The hecklers took it to another level when talking to him and not respecting his face, but as you grow older, you grow wiser. In that scenario, he has to realize that he has more to lose than the people speaking to him. Unfortunately, he did not in that moment and he lost his cool. And the result may be a civil suit in one of the instances. Another thing he has to realize is that he puts himself in a dangerous situation responding to hecklers. People, especially fans, are always going to have something to say. And with them having nothing to lose, the situation could become more than just words. For example, the instance where he had a gun pulled on him by a heckler got to dangerous really quickly. Okafor could have gotten injured in that situation or even worse, he could have gotten killed. That would have been a horrible situation. All because a heckler could not control himself and Okafor responded to him. Sometimes it is better to just walk away and he will learn that as time goes on. The bad thing is he will not likely learn the ropes from any veterans on his team, as most of the players are not recognizable and have not been in this type of situation.
If the 76ers even cared about the development of their players on and off the field, they could help that by hiring one former player to help out. Allen Iverson is one of the greatest players in Philadelphia 76ers history. He had his share of flareups over time. Who can forget the “Practice” rant and the issues he had off the court? But all in all, he survived all those issues and had a productive NBA career. He may not have the cleancut image that some may want, but he is definitely a good teacher for some of these young 76ers because he lived through his mistakes and could serve as a warning through his experiences. And for Jahlil Okafor, he could really be a mentor to him because both have their lofty status in common and the fact that Iverson came to the 76ers as a losing team and helped them win. There is no indication that Iverson wants to be a coach at all. In fact, he has not said anything about coaching. But one thing that he may be open to is helping these young players develop and being a sounding board for them off the court about situation and how to handle them. A mentor/ambassador role would be something the city would love to see and Iverson would probably enjoy as well.
Okafor is a talented big man and he has many that are rooting for him to do well. But with these incidents all coming within his first month into his rookie season, there has to be some level of concern. But the good thing is he recognizes that he has not been making the greatest decisions and wants to do better going forward. Iverson would be someone that could guide him in the right direction because he lived the life of stardom that awaits Okafor and could guide him through it. Hopefully these incidents are just blips on the radar screen for Okafor and he can focus on getting better and trying to help the 76ers get better.