Emeka Okafor is an American basketball player of Nigerian descent who began playing in the NBA in 2004 after forgoing his senior season at Connecticut to be selected by the Charlotte Bobcats as the second overall pick that year. As a college student, Okafor won the National Defensive Player of the Year Award given to him by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and also earned the Big East Player of the Year Awards.
Emeka Okafor Biography
Okafor was born in Houston, Texas to Nigerian parents (Pius and Celestina Okafor) on the 28th day of September 1982, with the birth name Chukwuemeka Ndubuisi Okafor. His father is of the Igbo ethnic group and had immigrated to the U.S after the Nigerian civil war that left millions of people dead.
Pius Okafor worked in an oil company as an accountant back in Houston before moving his family to Bartlesville in Oklahoma when he began working for Phillips Petroleum Company. Now settled in Oklahoma, Okafor Sr. took Emeka to the Bartlesville YMCA to learn how to play the game of basketball and he went on to play high school basketball at the Bellaire High School.
As a senior, he made an average of twenty-two points, sixteen rebounds and seven blocks. At the end of his high school stint, he accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Connecticut after turning down offers from Vanderbilt and Arkansas. He played college basketball with the Huskies from 2001 to 2004. At the end of his collegiate career, he won the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, National Defensive Player of the Year awarded to him by the NABC, and the Big East Player of the Year award.
After spending three academic years at Connecticut and bagging a degree in Accounting/Finance Emeka Okafor, announced he is forgoing his final year of college athletic eligibility for the NBA and that was exactly what he did. He would be selected by the Charlotte Bobcats as the second overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft.
At the end of his rookie season, he won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, beating Bulls’ Ben Gordon to the award after garnering 10.9 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 15.1 points per game. Before the 2007/08 season began, he reportedly turned down a 5-year contract extension with the franchise worth a whopping US$60 million.
Despite turning down the offer, he continued playing with the team until the 2008 offseason when he signed a 7-year deal worth $72 million, this became the largest deal in the history of the franchise. In July 2009, he was traded to the New Orleans Hornets for Tyson Chandler. His stay with the team didn’t yield much as his points kept decreasing.
In June 2012, he was again traded, this time to the Washington Wizards alongside teammate Trevor Ariza in exchange for Rashard Lewis and a pick (46th) in the NBA Draft that year. At the end of his one season with the team, he emerged a finalist for the maiden Twyman–Stokes Teammate of the Year Award for his amazing contributions with the team, both on and off the court all through the season.
Prior to the start of the 2013/04 season, Emeka Okafor was traded to the Phoenix Suns alongside a future first-round pick in exchange for four players (Malcolm Lee, Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall, and Marcin Gortat) but he, unfortunately, missed the entire season as a result of a ruptured disc in his neck.
The injury would keep him away longer than expected as he remained away for the next three seasons (2014/15, 2015/16, and 2016/17). He was declared medically fit to play by the doctors in May 2017 and in September, he signed with the Philadelphia 76ers only to be waived the following month after playing in 5 preseason games.
Later that month, Okafor joined NBA G League’s Delaware 87ers, In February 2018, he signed a ten-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans which was renewed after ten days with another ten-day contract, at the expiration of the second ten-day contract, he signed a rest-of-season contract with the franchise.
Emeka Okafor was a part of the U.S. National Men’s Basketball Team which represented the country at the 2004 Olympics held in Athens. He is a cousin to another NBA player, Jahlil Okafor. In 2005, the center/power forward appeared on the cover of the NCAA March Madness video game. He also made a guest appearance on the American TV drama series One Tree Hill.
His Wife & Family
Okafor married his longtime girlfriend Ilana Nunn in 2012 and they are blessed with two lovely kids. Ilana graduated from the University of North Carolina.
She had worked at BDA Sports as Director of the Public Relations and has also served at the communication department of the NBA, as well as the WNBA.
His Height, Weight, And Body Measurements
The NBA star is 6 ft 8 in (2.08 m) in height and sports a fantastic athletic body that weighs 116 kg (256 pounds) to go with his intimidating frame.