After 16 NBA seasons, two All-Star Games, a Rookie of the Year Award, being the College Player of the Year award, and $167 million, why would Elton Brand come back to the NBA on it’s clearly worst team?
Brand is honest in a must-read piece he wrote for The Cauldron at Sports Illustrated — he wasn’t ready to leave the NBA. It’s not the money, it’s certainly not to chase a ring, it’s about legacy.
The truth is, my decision to return to the NBA isn’t about money, and it isn’t about rings. It isn’t even about me, really, although every athlete would like to go out on his or her own terms. It’s about repaying what’s owed, about making sure that the young men who follow in my footsteps get what they’re entitled to (and what I haven’t always given them).
It’s not so much that I failed the guys I was tasked with mentoring over the years; it’s that I barely even tried. I never took the time to share the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s writing with them. I never sincerely answered their questions about what David West was trying to warn them about during NBPA meetings. I didn’t tell them why they should be reading Etan Thomas’ essays….
You might’ve noticed we’ve got a pretty talented kid on the roster in Jahlil Okafor, someone I happen to share some things in common with. Despite how he’s been portrayed, I know Jahlil. He’s a good kid with a good heart. He’s not unlike most 20-year-olds you probably know, and he’s definitely not at all different than most of his fellow players. Hell, if camera phones were around when Brad Miller, Ron Artest, and I were Jahlil’s age, we might’ve been banned from the league altogether, never mind suspended for a few games.
It is about legacy for Brand, and it is about his adopted hometown.
With Jerry Colangelo calling the shots now, the Sixers have talked about having a more mature, veteran voice in the locker room. Someone who could guide the young players on the team. Would that have kept Okafor off TMZ? Probably not the first time, but what about the second time?
Young players need a role model to follow, someone to show them what it takes to be a professional in the NBA in the locker room. Coaches and agents can only do so much, peer pressure matters. Okafor can bring that to a team in need of it.
Most importantly, he’s eager to do it.