Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor on Media Day

2019-20 Off the Court: Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

Now in his second season with New Orleans, Jahlil Okafor often makes references to his family while discussing his background and what’s most important to him. His father Chukwudi is a huge supporter, perhaps best evidenced by a January 2019 game on national TV in Memphis in which fans thoroughly enjoyed seeing the elder Okafor vocally root for his son within view of TNT’s cameras. As Jahlil explains, he only has one tattoo, which honors his mother, who passed away when he was 9 years old. The 6-foot-10 Okafor became one of the nation’s best high school players, then helped lead Duke to the 2015 NCAA championship. Okafor discussed some of his interests and backstory with Pelicans.com:

Best moment as an athlete: “Winning a national championship at Duke. It was something I always dreamed of. I watched March Madness growing up. To win a championship was a dream come true.”

First job: “Working at a basketball camp in high school, if that counts.” [smiles]

Subjects he’s knowledgeable about besides basketball: “Animals and movies. My favorite movie of all time is the original Lion King. I have to make sure I say the original one.”

Nicknames: “Big Jah, Jah Jah, Jah Zilla, Zilla Man.”

Biggest lesson learned from basketball: “Never getting too high, never getting too low. Never get too happy to where you stop working, and never get too sad to where you stop believing in yourself.”

Favorite exercise besides basketball: “Hot yoga.”

Favorite sport besides basketball: “Football. I had the most fun playing it growing up. If I played, I think my position would be tight end.”

How he’s most likely to spend a day off during the season: “Taking my dog for a walk to the park. I have two dogs, but the one with me in New Orleans, she’s a Rottweiler.”

Favorite healthy food: “I don’t have a specific favorite, but there are a bunch I like at Whole Foods.”

Biggest mentor: “Elton Brand. He’s the general manager of the 76ers now, but when I was a rookie, we were actually teammates. He is someone I’ve always been able to lean on – he’s experienced so much, on and off the court – and always helped me go in the right direction.”

Favorite tattoo: “I only have one. It’s of my mother on my left leg. It’s a picture my dad took of her when they were in college. It took 11 hours to do. I got it in the summer of 2018.”

Person who made the biggest impact on his game: “My dad. He put the ball in my hand and always has the utmost belief in me – he believes that I’m the best basketball player to walk planet Earth.” [smiles]

Favorite Christmas gift: “It came from my mother. It was Hector, my first dog ever. That was a great day.”

Favorite musical artist: “Chance the Rapper.”

Favorite podcast: “JJ Redick’s podcast is my favorite.” [smiles]

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