Emeka Okafor

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Emeka Okafor
Emeka Okafor Washington at Orlando 002.jpg
Okafor playing with the Wizards in 2012
No. 50 – Phoenix Suns
PositionCenter / Power forward
LeagueNBA
Personal information
Born(1982-09-28) September 28, 1982 (age 31)
Houston, Texas
NationalityAmerican
Listed height6 ft 10 in (208 cm)
Listed weight255 lb (116 kg)
Career information
High schoolBellaire (Bellaire, Texas)
CollegeConnecticut (2001–2004)
NBA draft2004 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall
Selected by the Charlotte Bobcats
Pro playing career2004–present
Career history
20042009Charlotte Bobcats
20092012New Orleans Hornets
2012–2013Washington Wizards
2013–presentPhoenix Suns
Career highlights and awards
 
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Emeka Okafor
Emeka Okafor Washington at Orlando 002.jpg
Okafor playing with the Wizards in 2012
No. 50 – Phoenix Suns
PositionCenter / Power forward
LeagueNBA
Personal information
Born(1982-09-28) September 28, 1982 (age 31)
Houston, Texas
NationalityAmerican
Listed height6 ft 10 in (208 cm)
Listed weight255 lb (116 kg)
Career information
High schoolBellaire (Bellaire, Texas)
CollegeConnecticut (2001–2004)
NBA draft2004 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall
Selected by the Charlotte Bobcats
Pro playing career2004–present
Career history
20042009Charlotte Bobcats
20092012New Orleans Hornets
2012–2013Washington Wizards
2013–presentPhoenix Suns
Career highlights and awards

Chukwuemeka Ndubuisi "Emeka" Okafor (born September 28, 1982) is an American professional basketball player who currently plays for the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Prior to the NBA, Okafor attended Houston's Bellaire High School and the University of Connecticut.

Early life[edit]

Okafor was born in Houston, Texas. Both of his parents are natives of Nigeria, and Emeka was the first member of his family born in the United States.[1] His father, Pius Okafor, is a member of the Igbo ethnic group.[2] Okafor's family moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma when he was young because his father worked for Phillips Petroleum Company, headquartered in Bartlesville. While in Bartlesville, Emeka's father Pius took his son to the Bartlesville YMCA to learn the game of basketball.[3] As a child growing up in the Houston area, Okafor idolized Houston Rockets shooting guard Clyde Drexler. He models his game, however, after Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon.[4]

High school career[edit]

Okafor played at Bellaire High School with future Oklahoma State star John Lucas III. Okafor averaged 22 points, 16 rebounds and 7 blocks in his senior season. Bellaire was 26–5 in that season, losing 56–42 in the third round of the 2001 UIL state playoffs, to Willowridge High School and future Texas standout T. J. Ford. This game is particularly notable, however, because it featured five players who would go on to play in an NCAA Final Four (Bellaire had Lucas and Okafor, while Willowridge featured Ford, Oklahoma State's Ivan McFarlin and Duke's Daniel Ewing). All five of these players would eventually go on to play at least a season in the NBA.

Okafor flew under the recruiting radar for much of his high school career, but by the end of his senior year Okafor was receiving late interest from top programs and chose to accept a scholarship at the University of Connecticut, choosing the Huskies over Arkansas and Vanderbilt.[5]

College career[edit]

He is notable for being a forward/center on the University of Connecticut men's basketball team from 2001–04 where he was teammates with Charlie Villanueva, Marcus Williams, Ben Gordon, Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone, who all went on to play in the NBA. Okafor, the son of Nigerian immigrants, is known for not only being a good basketball player but also for being an elite student. His major at UConn was finance, and he graduated with honors after three years in May 2004 with a 3.8 GPA. Okafor was named the Academic All-American of the Year in 2004 for his work on and off the court.

The 6'10" (2.08 m) Okafor is noted for his impressive defensive ability, especially his shot-blocking. Although he was plagued by back problems for most of the 2003–04 season, Okafor led UConn to the program's second national title in six seasons. He was crowned as the NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

In addition, Okafor led the nation in blocks that season and was also named National Defensive Player of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He also received the Big East Player of the Year award. Okafor graduated as Connecticut's leader in blocked shots with 441.[6] In light of his collegiate achievements, Okafor was made a member of the 2004 U.S. National Men's Basketball Team which represented the U.S. at the Olympics in Athens.

On February 5, 2007 he was inducted to the Husky Ring Of Honor at Gampel Pavilion on the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs during halftime of the men's basketball game against the Syracuse Orange as part of a ceremony which recognized personal accomplishments of 13 former players and 3 coaches.[7]

NBA career[edit]

Charlotte Bobcats (2004-2009)[edit]

On April 16, 2004, Okafor declared his eligibility for the 2004 NBA Draft, giving up his one remaining year of college athletic eligibility. He did however receive his undergraduate degree in Accounting/Finance in three academic years. On June 24, Okafor was selected second overall in the draft, becoming the first ever draft pick by the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.[8] The following day, he accepted an invitation to join the United States team for the 2004 Summer Olympics, which finished with the bronze medal in Athens.

The 2004–05 NBA season was a successful campaign as Okafor coped well with the pressures of being the star rookie on an expansion franchise. Highlights of the season included recording 19 straight double-doubles from November 21 through January 1, and finishing seventh among Eastern Conference forwards in NBA All-Star Game fan balloting with 408,082 votes, by far the highest number garnered by any rookie in 2005. At the end of the season, Okafor beat out his friend and former college teammate and roommate, Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon, to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.[9]

On June 24, 2005, the Bobcats picked up the option for the fourth year on Okafor's contract, as he has quickly established himself as the face of the franchise, and a solid player for years to come. Okafor finished his rookie season with 44.7% field goal percentage and per-game averages of 15.1 points, 10.9 rebounds (ranked 4th in the league[10]), and 1.7 blocks.

In the offseason between his rookie and second years, Okafor's weight increased from 260 to 280 lbs. It was this weight gain which he felt caused him to have trouble rehabbing his early season ankle injury and forced him to sit out most of the 2005–06 season with injuries to his ankle.[11] Nonetheless in the few games he played he was effective as he averaged a double-double for the second consecutive season. For the season he finished with averages of 13.2 ppg on 41.5% shooting, 10.0 rpg., and 1.9 bpg.

Okafor tipping-off against Rasheed Wallace.

During the offseason he continued his tutorials with Hakeem Olajuwon, which he took up after his rookie season,[11] and lost the 20 pounds which he had gained for his second season. Okafor feels this weight loss gives him more energy and mobility. He led the Bobcats in rebounds per game, blocks per game, and field goal percentage. On December 29, 2006, in a home game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Emeka would record 22 pts, 25 reb, and 4 blks in over 51 minutes of play, in an epic 133–124 triple overtime victory. He also had eight blocks in games against the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics. On January 12, 2007, he would record an NBA season high ten blocks in a game against the New York Knicks. His ten blocks were the most ever recorded in a single game at Madison Square Garden. In that game, he was one rebound away from recording the first ever triple-double in franchise history, finishing with 20 pts, 10 blks, 9 reb, and 3 stls. Later in the season he suffered an ankle injury which caused him to miss fifteen games. He finished the season averaging 14.4 pts 11.3 reb and 2.6 blks in 67 games.

Prior to the start of the 2007–2008 season, Okafor turned down a contract extension with the Charlotte Bobcats worth an estimated $60 million over five years. Despite turning down the contract, Okafor maintained that he indeed wanted to remain with the Bobcats. Despite feuding with head coach Sam Vincent throughout the season, Okafor still managed to average a double-double for the fourth consecutive season of his career. He also played in all 82 games of the regular season for the first time in his career. At the end of the season head coach Sam Vincent was fired by part-owner Michael Jordan saying in a statement: "The decision to remove Sam as head coach after just one season was difficult, but it was a decision that had to be made because my first obligation is to do what is in the best interest of our team."

During the off-season, the Bobcats' top priority was to re-sign Okafor. Through tough negotiations the Bobcats and Okafor eventually reached an agreement on a six-year, $72 million deal, the largest in franchise history. In a statement, Okafor voiced his pleasure with remaining in the organization: "The Bobcats and the entire Charlotte community embraced me from day one, and it's exciting to enter this season with a Hall of Fame coach and teammates who are committed to winning."

Okafor entered the 2008–09 season with active franchise-record streaks of 93 consecutive games played and 92 consecutive games started.

New Orleans Hornets (2009-2012)[edit]

On July 27, 2009, Okafor was traded to the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for Tyson Chandler.[12] During the 2010-11 NBA season, Okafor ended up making it to his first ever NBA playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. Ultimately, the Hornets would lose their first-round series 4-2, with Okafor having a decrease in points and rebounding averages throughout the six games he played with the series.

Washington Wizards (2012-2013)[edit]

On June 20, 2012, Okafor was traded to the Washington Wizards along with Trevor Ariza in return for Rashard Lewis and the 46th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. The move was made as a purely financial cap clearing decision on the Hornets part, whereas the Wizards wanted to add more talent to complement John Wall.[13] During his time with the Wizards, he was nominated for the inaugural Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award for his contributions with the team on and off the court.

Phoenix Suns (2013-present)[edit]

On October 25, 2013, Okafor was traded with a 2014 protected first-round draft pick to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown, Malcolm Lee, and Kendall Marshall.[14] The trade was also considered a cost-related move, alongside a future move, on Phoenix's part since the Suns wanted to not only remove bad contracts from their team, but also increase their salary cap for the hopes of gaining a major free agent in 2014.

Career highlights[edit]

NBA career statistics[edit]

Legend
  GPGames played  GS Games started MPG Minutes per game
 FG% Field goal percentage 3P% 3-point field goal percentage FT% Free throw percentage
 RPG Rebounds per game APG Assists per game SPG Steals per game
 BPG Blocks per game PPG Points per game Bold Career high

Regular season[edit]

YearTeamGPGSMPGFG%3P%FT%RPGAPGSPGBPGPPG
2004–05Charlotte737335.6.447.000.60910.9.9.81.715.1
2005–06Charlotte262533.6.415.000.65610.01.2.81.913.2
2006–07Charlotte676534.8.532.000.59311.31.2.92.614.4
2007–08Charlotte828233.1.535.000.57010.7.9.81.713.8
2008–09Charlotte828132.8.561.000.59310.1.6.61.713.2
2009–10New Orleans828228.9.530.000.5629.0.7.71.510.4
2010–11New Orleans727231.8.573.000.5629.5.6.61.810.3
2011–12New Orleans272728.9.533.000.5147.9.9.61.09.9
2012–13Washington797726.0.477.000.5718.81.2.61.09.7
Career59058431.7.512.000.5849.9.9.71.712.3

Playoffs[edit]

YearTeamGPGSMPGFG%3P%FT%RPGAPGSPGBPGPPG
2011New Orleans6631.3.645.000.3645.5.01.01.07.3
Career6631.3.645.000.3645.5.01.01.07.3

Off the court[edit]

Okafor's first name, Chukwuemeka, means "God has done well" in the Igbo language.[1] He appeared on the cover of NCAA March Madness 2005 video game, and was the best overall rated player in NCAA March Madness 2004 with a 90 rating.[citation needed] Okafor appeared as himself in the second season of the TV show One Tree Hill.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Emeka Okafor Bio Page". NBA.com. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  2. ^ Longman, Jere (December 31, 2008). "2003 N.C.A.A. TOURNAMENT: TRUE STUDENT ATHLETE; Academics, And a Game To Back It Up". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2009-01-25. "Basketball has never been the top priority, said Pius Okafor, Emeka's father... Pius Okafor arrived in the United States in August 1976 from Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, rich in oil but wracked through the decades by colonialism, military dictatorship, ethnic strife and pervasive corruption. He carried $400 in his pocket and a student visa. Education was paramount in his Igbo ethnic group, he said, and to study overseas meant you were large." 
  3. ^ "Okafor Exemplifies Concept of 'Student-Athlete' :: UConn center is the best player in college basketball, an academic All-American and now a national champion". Cstv.com. 2004-04-06. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  4. ^ Inside the NBA, Turner Network Television, air date December 8, 2006.
  5. ^ Okafor to sign with Connecticut, television station reports,AP Wire Report, April 20, 2001
  6. ^ "NBA Players – Emeka Okafor". HoopsHype. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  7. ^ www.UConnHuskies.com Mens Basketball[dead link]
  8. ^ "CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: Bobcats Select Emeka Okafor As First-Ever Rookie Draft Pick". NBA.com. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  9. ^ "Emeka Okafor Named NBA Rookie of the Year". Scout.com. 2005-05-04. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  10. ^ Basketball-Reference.com. 2004–05 NBA Expanded Standings and Leaders
  11. ^ a b "Passing some hefty judgments". ESPN.com. 2006-11-26. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  12. ^ "Sources: Hornets set to get Okafor for Chandler". ESPN. 2009-07-28. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  13. ^ http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/8077486/sources-washington-wizards-get-new-orleans-hornets-emeka-okafor-trevor-ariza-rashard-lewis-pick
  14. ^ "Suns Acquire Okafor, First-Round Pick". NBA.com. Turner Sports Interactive, Inc. October 25, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2013. 

External links[edit]