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An ode to Jahlil Okafor’s obscure free throw routine

The nonsense analysis you never knew you didn’t need until now.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at New Orleans Pelicans
Jahlil roars
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This New Orleans Pelicans season has been hijacked by nonsense.

What began as a reasonable campaign to build upon the first-round beating they gave the Portland Trail Blazers in last season’s playoff has devolved so drastically that the franchise’s most integral player went from five straight games of 30-plus points and 13-plus rebounds to becoming the first person to go to Walt Disney World only to use it as a prop to express your desire to be somewhere else — it’s a great ride, but still: nonsense!

With the All-Star break officially over as of Thursday night, real NBA basketball is finally back after what felt like an eternity but was actually, according to Gregorian sources, just seven days. Alas, we should have known that more NBA just means more nonsense for this year’s Pelicans. I, the critical thinker that I am, figured that the best way to counteract all of this negative nonsense would be to focus on some neutral or perhaps even positive nonsense.

With that said, it is time to finally talk about Jahlil Okafor’s free throw routine.

Exhibit A

Watching Okafor in extended minutes since the middle of December has been delightful. In his 25 games since December 19, 2018, when he played an efficient 13 minutes in the Pelicans loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, he has averaged 20 minutes on the court. In his last 11 games played, 10 starts have helped bump that minutes average up to 30, a rise that has been mirrored by his points (16.7), rebounds (9.4) and blocks (1.6) per game.

That trip to Milwaukee kick-started a run of rock-solid efficiency, but it also marks the moment I made one of my most inconsequential observations of the season. Observe here, as Okafor takes his first free throw of the evening:

Mechanically, the shot is fine: the ball leaves his right hand quite gracefully. He has not been a machine at the stripe when it comes to efficiency (68.6% for his career), but the form is not nearly as jarring as that of some of his fellow NBA big men.

But take a look now at his second shot of the trip, and focus on what he does before the shot, his “standard” pre-shot dribbles:

Dribbling to collect oneself at the free throw line is par-for-the-course. But Okafor takes these dribbles with his non-shooting hand (his left) before putting the shot up with his right.

What?!

Here, take an extra sentence to collect yourself after that mind-boggling revelation.

I have no idea how a player could ever get into the routine of doing this. Not that Jason Kidd kissing the ball was normal, nor was Omer Asik trying to help it escape by pounding it through the floor a million times only to inevitably clank it off of the rim, but this is just different.

I always viewed these pre-shot routines as a way for the player to get their body and, most importantly, their shooting motion warm and in rhythm before putting the shot up. What Okafor is doing here seems like the equivalent of an NFL kicker stretching out his left leg but taking the kick with his right.

It’s no fluke either. Here is a last free throw from the Pelicans’ final game before the All-Star Break:

Congratulations, Jahlil Okafor. You are truly one of a kind.

To spend any more time analyzing this (assuming that “analyzing” is the right word for this and that any further analysis could actually be done) would be probably be an insult to everyone’s time, mine included. However, I will say that if the NBA nonsense is ever getting you down, remember that there is always an equal and opposite amount of NBA nonsense that can cancel it out. I think Isaac Newton said that once.