The Injury That Made Former NBA Rookie of the Year Emeka Okafor Miss Three Straight Seasons

Emeka Okafor had a successful college basketball career. He won numerous awards playing at the University of Connecticut and also won a national championship. He is one of the best college basketball players in NCAA history.

After his college career, Okafor declared for the NBA draft and was one of the top prospects going into the draft. Okafor got off to a hot start during his NBA career. Things would turn for the worse later in his career due to an injury he suffered.

Taking a look at Emeka Okafor’s NBA career

During the 2004 NBA draft, the Charlotte Bobcats selected Okafor with the second overall pick. Okafor was the first-ever draft pick by the Bobcats. Going into his first season in the NBA, Okafor had a lot of success. He averaged 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds. Those numbers would allow him to win the Rookie of the Year award. During that season, he had 19 straight double-doubles.

Okafor had the same success in his rookie season that he had in college. He was one of the top players for the Bobcats. His career was heading in the right direction after a successful rookie season. Okafor spent his first five seasons in Charlotte and averaged a double-double each of those years. Over those years, he led the Bobcats in blocks and rebounds per game. He worked on his game during the offseason when he first entered the league, and NBA Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon helped him a lot. Working with him allowed Okafor to lose weight and become more flexible as an NBA player.

After having success in Charlotte, Okafor was traded to the New Orleans Hornets. In his first season with the Hornets, Okafor played and started in all 82 games and averaged 10.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Okafor saw his production decrease during the 2011-12 season with the Hornets. He was traded again to the Washington Wizards in 2012. After the 2012-13 season, he suffered an injury that would have him sidelined for a while.

Emeka Okafor’s neck injury

In September of 2013, it was discovered that he had a herniated disc in his neck, which forced him to miss three consecutive seasons. Okafor, who once had success during his time in the NBA was forced to miss a substantial time due to his injury.

Even though he missed a lot of time, Okafor was determined to get back to the league and play at a high level. It’s not easy for a professional athlete to miss that much time and try to get back to where they once were. He was determined to make a comeback, and he was not going to let anything stop him.

Emeka Okafor’s return to basketball

In May of 2017, Okafor was cleared to play basketball. He signed with the Philadelphia 76ers in September of 2017 but was released before the regular season started. Okafor ended up joining the Delaware 87ers of the NBA G League in October of 2017.

The next year he signed a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. He played in 26 games during the 2017-18 season, starting in 19 of them and averaged 4.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. That was the last time Okafor played in the NBA. In November of 2019, he was added to the Ulsan Hyundai Mobis Phoebus of the Korean Basketball League, where he is still a member of the team. Despite dealing with an injury that took him away from the game, Okafor found himself back playing the sport he loves.