Jahlil Okafor is the latest athlete to tell his story on the Player’s Tribune. It’s a lengthy and interesting read.
For context, you probably know that the athletes don’t actually write these stories. They do a lengthy interview, which is more of a conversation, and a ghostwriter puts everything together. John Boruk mentioned this a while back and got blasted into the high heavens for it. I’m not sure what was up with that. I think Flyers fans feel like Boruk has something against Shayne Gostisbehere, hence the backlash.
Anyhow, Jah’s story is called, “Jahlil Okafor should be on your radar RIGHT NOW!!!,” a reference to the emails his father wrote to college athletic directors back in 2009.
He talks about the emotional loss of his mother at age nine and his ensuing move to Chicago’s South Side. He describes playing his dad one-on-one and the attention he received as a six foot tall fifth grader. There are a lot of detailed personal moments in the write up.
Jahlil also explains his tumultuous exit from the Sixers in a way that shows understanding, yet disappointment with how it all went down:
I just wanted to play basketball — that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. But I didn’t fit into Philly’s plans. And I totally understood why Coach couldn’t play me. They’re trying to build those guys into a playoff contender — and I wasn’t going to be there when that happened. So it didn’t make sense for them to have me in the rotation.
But, man, it’s still tough. And you still want to play.
It was like everybody knew I was gone … and we were all just waiting for it to happen.
Okafor admits that he needed to improve his defense and rebounding, two areas identified by the coaching staff and fan base as areas of concern.
He also talks about the gut-wrenching feeling of sitting on the bench while the rest of teammates were energetic and enthusiastic about the present and future:
Those guys, they’re getting hyped up to play some big nationally televised game. And I’m sitting there in a suit … dying inside. Dying to throw a jersey on. Dying to lace up a pair. Dying to have a basketball back in my hands. Because all of these years later, still, being on that court playing ball … whether it’s our driveway in Oklahoma, or the open gym at Rosemont Elementary, or an NBA arena … that’s still my sanctuary. Ever since I was nine years old, you know, that’s … where I go.
And then it all gets taken away, and, man — what can you do?
Check it out. It’s worth a read.
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) January 8, 2018