Sports | October 14, 2017 5:00 am

How a First-Round NBA Draft Pick Got Chewed Up and Spit Out

In the face of public criticism, 76ers' Jhalil Okafor finds himself in a strange holding pattern.

For such a high-profile NBA star, Jhalil Okafor keeps a pretty low profile. So much so that he wonders aloud, in a recent SB Nation feature, whether he’s even still part of the Philadelphia 76ers team that drafted him No. 3 in the 2015 draft.

Why might he feel this way? As a rookie, Okafor ran into some trouble, as a few stories leaked out painting him in a negative light. One involved him being pulled over for doing 108 mph, another with a man pulling a gun on him. He had also been involved in an altercation that was caught on video.

He was roundly criticized for his actions, and when it got personal, it really affected Okafor. “I was embarrassed, to say the least,” he told SB Nation of the incidents. “They started criticizing the way my dad raised me. And that was the biggest thing that hit me, because I know when my mom passed, he did everything he could to put me in the best situation.”

He was literally so embarrassed that he didn’t even want to go out on the court.

Then another video of Okafor went viral—but this time, showing his lack of defensive prowess on the court. He was again roundly criticized for it, and it made him burrow further into himself.

Now that Joel Embiid is back, it’s made for an overabundance of talent at the center position on the squad—and brought on some trade rumors. But finding a deal for the center could prove difficult for the Sixers. As SB Nation explains, “[Okafor] represents an increasingly irrelevant NBA archetype: the back-to-the-basket center. As the NBA hurtles into the pace-and-space era, teams are searching for big men who shoot well enough to spread the floor and move well enough to contain ball screens and protect the rim.”

He’s since become a vegan, dropped 20 pounds, and is no longer experiencing the knee issues he did that have kept him off the court (and shortened his rookie campaign).