Give Jahlil a Break

When I was 19 years old, I was speeding. When I was 19 years old I got into my first (and only) street fight. Many of my friends can say the same, and many of their friends can, as well. Simply put, when you’re 19 years old, you tend to do some stupid shit sometimes. I’m not encouraging such behavior, I’m merely stating that it happens. It’s not the worst thing in the world and kids grow up and learn from their mistakes.

That’s why we need to cut Jahlil Okafor a little slack in light of his recent mishaps. To catch you up to speed, here’s what happened.  On Thanksgiving day, TMZ released a video of Okafor getting into a bit of a scuffle one Boston night.  According to a witness and two separate reports filed by the Philadelphia Police Department and U.S. Park Rangers, Okafor tried to punch a heckler after the man said the 76ers sucked, or something along those lines. The confrontation occurred at 2 am outside of Old City nightclub, so we can probably assume some drinking was involved. The gun makes it all a scary situation but not something you can fault Okafor for. Throwing the dumb punch that led to it, that’s all on Jahlil.

And now there are reports of Okafor being arrested in early November after clocking in at 108 mph on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, a bridge that has a speed limit of 45 mph. 2fast, 2furious, but not 2troubling. At the end of the day, this isn’t the first time, nor the last time we’ll see a professional athlete speeding. Certainly not the last time we’ll see a teenager speeding, either.

While Okafor’s behavior isn’t ideal, it’s not exactly a problem…yet. It’s troubling to a certain degree, no doubt, and the 76ers should definitely make some kind of an effort to get this under control. But maybe – just maybe – this is what you get when you stick a very good rookie on a team that expects him to lose every. time. he. plays. To go from winning a National Championship at Duke to cellar dwelling and trusting the system in Philly is quite the culture change.

Okafor never seemed thrilled about being a 76er, remember the jersey drop…

It’s hard to believe that after 5, or 10, or now 18 straight losses, that this kid feels any better about his situation.  And what seems to be forgotten is that he’s playing some really great basketball through it all. Through the first 18 games, Okafor is averaging 17.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in 33 minutes. In other words, he leads all rookies in points and minutes, and is third in both blocks and rebounds behind Karl Anthony-Towns and Kristaps Porzingis (per Inside Hoops). There might be questions about him off the court, but come game time he’s been a bright spot on this 76ers team. There’s no debating that.

On Sunday (November 29th), Okafor took to Twitter to speak on everything that’s been popping up on the news this week. Read into it whatever you want, but at the end of the day, a 19 year old is going to make mistakes. A frustrated 19 year old is going to make mistakes. Here’s to less street fighting, less reckless driving, less scrutiny of a teenager, and more double-doubles in Philadelphia.