Jahlil Okafor has yet to win an NBA game. On the other hand, he has had a gun pointed to his head in Old City, flattened a heckler outside a Boston bar, and got caught rocketing his car across the Ben Franklin Bridge at 108 mph.
It’s been that kind of season.
While the destruction of a once-proud Sixers franchise moves through its third year, Okafor is a breathing example of why the Joshua Harris-Sam Hinkie science experiment is doomed.
Hmmm, what happens if you take an immature 19-year-old, place him in a world without adult supervision and subject him to humiliation night after night? You think something bad might come out of that toxic mix?
Let’s point out that Okafor is most accountable for his screw-ups. Teenage boys are prone to dumb decisions, but Okafor must understand he doesn’t have a typical young man’s luxury of irresponsibility. You sacrifice that when you sign a $3.8 million annual contract.
But it spreads beyond that. The Sixers active roster doesn’t include a single player over age 24. While that may push Hinkie’s 0-82 dream closer to reality, it provides the team’s young players with no veteran guidance – on or off the court. Brett Brown may be a father figure, but who’s the big brother teaching how a pro is supposed to conduct himself? Who’s the old head explaining that you walk past bar hecklers, rather than sparking a confrontation that could leave you with a broken hand, an arrest record or a bullet hole?
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The malfeasance of this organization is stunning. After three incidents, Okafor should have been suspended for a game or two. Hinkie should have publicly vowed this is not what his organization stands for. At minimum, the Sixers (or Okafor’s family, which should be even more concerned), must hire a $75,000 babysitter to protect their multi-million investment from his own poor instincts.
You assume another teenager flying over the bridge at 63 miles above the speed limit would have wound up in a jail cell. That’s for the cops to explain. But, since forever, the world has excused foolish behavior by celebrities. Thus, the headline on CSNPhilly.com Monday morning read: “Embattled Jahlil Okafor still having fun playing basketball.”
Whew. At least we needn’t worry about that.
For what it’s worth, he can’t be having fun. I’ve seen the memes of Okafor slumped against the exit ramp wall after yet another blown fourth-quarter lead. The biggest flaw in Sam the Sham’s master plan is that he can subject these young men to losing several hundred games and then – by dint of a lucky lottery ball – turn that locomotive to hell on a dime and start winning. As if all these humiliations will have no effect on their psyche.
Harris and Hinkie don’t seem to regard players as humans, so much as, to use their word, “assets.” But they are young men, and thus, they need guidance.
Jahlil Okafor is clearly screaming out for some of that.