I’m probably not the most qualified person to write an advice column, especially to an NBA player who was selected third overall and is expected to be one of the game’s great young talents. For the record, I am a 24-year-old full-time blogger who lives with his mother.
But, in a way, I kind of do feel like I’m able to offer some tips to Jahlil Okafor, the 76er rookie who’s had a pretty tumultuous few months to start his professional career. Not only does his team suck a whole lot, but the 19-year-old Okafor has had several negative incidents off-court, too.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen Okafor get into at least two brawls in Boston (both of which were filmed and posted online), get caught trying to use a fake ID at a bar, and get pulled over for speeding at 118 mph over a bridge. For those keeping track at home, all of those are generally frowned upon for a professional athlete.
But, while I’m no NBA player, I also used to be very dumb. I spent a whole lot of time doing stupid things that I had no business doing from the time I was 16 up until – let’s say – around 22. If we’re being honest, I’m still pretty dumb. The difference is, though, I rarely got caught or got in trouble for the dumb things I’ve done, which is clearly something with which Okafor struggles.
Obviously, the main difference here is that, even if I did get caught doing dumb sh*t, nobody would really care outside of my family and close friends. I didn’t have to worry about making TMZ headlines every time I got blackout drunk and did something stupid. It’s a good thing too, because I would have made a lot of headlines.
With that being said, there are definitely some things that Okafor needs to work on if he doesn’t want to dig himself a reputation hole that he won’t be able to climb out of. Here is some advice from a 24-year-old (partially former) idiot to a 19-year-old.
Don’t Punch People
This is a pretty big one, Jahlil. You seem to really like punching people in the face, and you’re actually really good at it. We’ve seen that much in the two fight videos from the streets of Boston, where you knocked a couple dudes out cold before hopping in a cab and fleeing the scene.
I was never much of a fighter myself. Instead, I was such an *sshole that I made everyone want to fight me, and – since I’m worlds away from being nearly 7 feet tall like you – that rarely ended well for me.
And while I assume it’s much more fun and exhilarating to be on the winning side of a fight, you should probably find your thrills in some other fashion. You’re going to be dealing with hecklers in opposing cities your entire career (and even more so if they know they can get under your skin) so it would be best if you could stop trying to knock them all out. Being from Boston myself, I can recognize that there’s a very large population of intolerable douchebags and the two dudes who ate your fists hard probably deserved to do so.
But at some point, you’re going to do some real serious damage to one of these idiots. You’re either going to get arrested or sued and, well, neither of those sound fun. And god forbid you lose one of these fights or run into someone with a weapon, you’re risking the chance of putting your basketball career in jeopardy. I know playing for the Sixers is probably a depressing existence, but you’ve worked your entire life to make it to the Association. It will get better down the line. Probably.
With that being said, if you just can’t help yourself, you may want to pick a more private fight venue than the middle of a crowded street. Sure, there’s a lot of space to chase these morons around like a chicken with its head cut off, but – as you’ve probably discovered – there will also be bystanders filming it and, later, selling it to the highest bidder.
Also, it’s probably not a good idea to yell, “F**k yeah, I’m Jahlil Okafor!” as you chase down morons and beat their face in. Not only is that a really weird thing to yell during a fight, it’s also doesn’t really help your chances of getting away with it.
Stop Telling Everyone How Much Money You Have
Regardless of profession, bragging about how rich you are and throwing it in everyone else’s face as if it makes you better than them is the ultimate douchebag move. You’re an NBA player. You were a top three draft pick. We all know you have money, and it’s understandable that you’re excited to be a 19-year-old millionaire.
But using your money to put down other people and then calling everyone else “broke” is obnoxious as hell, man. Doing less of this also may limit the number of people who want to fight you in the street.
You Don’t Need A Fake ID
You denied the reports that you got turned away after trying to use a fake ID at a Philadelphia bar in October, but I’m just going to assume that you’ve got a fake ID anyway. You probably don’t need that, especially in Philly.
You’re a big dude, you’re famous, and you’re pretty recognizable. Most clubs and bars are going to let you in based on that alone, despite the fact that you’re underage, especially if you hit the city with some teammates. As you’ll recall, you are rich…and businesses like rich people.
I’ve used a few really terrible fake IDs in my time (it’s rather difficult to find someone who looks just like you and is also around 5-foot-6) and bars and clubs still let me in more often than not. If they actually thought I was some of the dudes I passed myself off as, I managed to find some of the dumbest people on earth.
So, while I’m pretty surprised that you got turned away with a fake – again, if that actually happened – you should probably just not even bother. There are places who are going to let you in regardless of you being underage and, if they don’t, at least you won’t end up making headlines for getting busted with a fake ID as a professional athlete. The trick is to find out which places don’t really care and make them your regular spots until you turn 21.
Be Careful Who You Hang Out With
I’m not quite sure who you’ve been hanging out with recently, Jahlil, but they certainly don’t seem to be doing you any favors. In that second fight video from Boston, you were so close to getting in the cab before all hell broke loose, but nobody stepped up to seal the deal. So close.
You really gotta find a couple of dudes who will always be sober enough to recognize what’s in your best interest and work on escaping and/or de-escalating any situation that might land you in trouble.
As someone who hung out with some real degenerates during my younger years, even when you’re not the one being an idiot, you can find that questionable situations are impossible to escape if you’re hanging out with the wrong people all the time. Just have someone to watch your back and make sure you don’t blow a gasket.
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If you follow these simple rules, there’s a good chance you’ll stop being TMZ’s rookie of the year. You managed to go an entire year at Duke being a boring-ass dude that never did or said anything stupid so, despite a tumultuous past few months, I have faith that you’re not as dumb as you’ve made yourself out to be.
And let’s be honest…we’ve all been young and stupid – and, to your credit, you’ve owned up to your mistakes — so don’t feel too bad about that. I feel like the 20-25 age range is one that sees maturity develop at a pretty rapid pace, so there’s a good chance you’re going to be a much smarter dude in a couple of years, especially with a few years of NBA experience under your belt. It’s just a matter of recognizing that you’re a star and people are always going to be waiting for you to slip and create headlines, especially now more than ever.
And seriously, for the love of god, stop punching people.