Emeka Okafor last appeared in an NBA game on April 17th, 2013. On Monday night, the 35-year-old Okafor completed his long comeback journey when he checked into a game for the New Orleans Pelicans.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) February 6, 2018
Okafor had played for New Orleans from 2009 to 2012, but that was way back when they were the Hornets. The big man was drafted 2nd overall in 2004 by the Charlotte Bobcats out of the University of Connecticut and played for nine seasons before his long break from the NBA.
After the 2012-2013 season, Okafor was traded to the Phoenix Suns and subsequently missed the entire next season due to a herniated disc in his neck. Okafor became a free agent after the 2013-2014 season and didn’t sign another contract with a team until September 25th of 2017. On that day, the former Huskie signed with the Philadelphia 76ers, but only played for their G-League affiliate. When the season ended, Okafor hit the open market once again.
The big man never gave up hope and over the past weekend on February 3rd, Okafor signed a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. NOLA is hoping he could be an unexpected fill in for DeMarcus Cousins, lost for the season due to injury last week.
The reaction was predictably positive, both in the arena and online:
Emeka Okafor’s playing NBA basketball, five years later, and that’s pretty cool.
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) February 6, 2018
Very cool to see Emeka Okafor make it back to the NBA.
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) February 6, 2018
Emeka Okafor still sets a mean screen
— Chris Barnewall (@ChrisBarnewall) February 6, 2018
AW everyone just cheered when Emeka Okafor checked in pic.twitter.com/8770O4sQvS
— Ticktock6 (@ticktock6) February 6, 2018
Gerald Wallace’s ghost just got shook by that Okafor screen
— Kevin Barrios (@kevinbforbounce) February 6, 2018
He's back. pic.twitter.com/DF2KtmbsA3
— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) February 6, 2018
Whether Okafor can stick around longer than his 10-day remains to be seen, but he was already doing Emeka Okafor things:
Emeka Okafor on the floor for the first time in an official #NBA game since April 15, 2013. Immediately keeps a possession alive by tapping a rebound back to guards. Utah 29-22 late 1Q
— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) February 6, 2018
That bodes well.