When I was 19, I was cutting class at a local JC. I drove a 1986 Volvo and worked as a women’s shoe salesman. The point is that I didn’t/don’t understand the pressures of living spot-lit by fame. Such isn’t the case for 76ers rookie, Jahlil Okafor. A 19 year old man-child, dominating in his rookie season.
The former Duke star, has taken the reigns in a rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers franchise, and he’s succeeding. 17.5 points, 8.5 rebounds per night, proving he’s no second wheel or role guy. He’s the franchise face going forward.
The issue is that at 19, he’s like any kid. And now, adored by fans and by media, he’s learning to wade through life as a “role model.”
Yes, a role model. Something I don’t feel strongly about when it comes to pro athletes.
I am a father of two, my wife and I hard-working people. We are fully invested in our kids, spend quality time with them, and act as lead “role models” in their lives.
Yes, role models.
So many parents point fingers at athletes, as seen recently with Carolina Panther star Cam Newton. And that’s a bigger issue in my opinion than athletes being athletes.
Considering I spend more time with my kids than any musician, movie star or athlete, shouldn’t I be the example? The one instilling integrity, kindness, resiliency, vision and drive?
Look, I’m not saying Okafor’s off-court actions are shining splendor. Over the last three months, he’s been stopped by police for driving 108-mph on a Philadelphia bridge, had a gun pointed at him in a night club, and most recently, fought a heckling anti-fan in a Boston bar.
He’s definetely making poor, childish decision and needs help correcting those. Hence, the decision to have a full-time bodyguard accompany Okafor when he heads out on the town has been made.
A bodyguard is a wise move by 76ers ownership. The guard protects their investment and holds Okafor accountable for his actions.
Maybe fatherhood has softened me; helped me lay off young athletes in an attempt to understand their struggles. Unlike Jahlil, every mistake my kids make aren’t under a microscope. They can fall down and get back up with only a few people watching.
Jahlil doesn’t get that kind of grace. Everything he says or does, feeds fans and is spun by media. He’s a 6-foot-11, 271 pound target, with a bright red bulls eye on his back.
Let’s cut the kid some slack.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports