76ers rookie center Jahlil Okafor was involved in a fight outside a Boston nightclub early Thursday morning, according to a video obtained and published by the website TMZ.com.
In the video, Okafor - who stands 6-foot-11, weighs 271 pounds, and turns 20 on Dec. 15 - is seen shouting at several individuals, then shoving a man to the ground. After at least one person tries to restrain him, Okafor punches a man who appears to be the same individual he had pushed, knocking him to the pavement again.
At the start of the video, Okafor can be heard shouting to someone, "We got money, you broke ass . . ." He utters a racial slur.
In an email to The Inquirer, a Sixers spokesman said: "We are aware of the report, and we are currently working to gather additional information. Until that time, we will have no further comment."
TMZ reported that the altercation took place outside Storyville Nightclub, located on Exeter Street in southwest Boston, just hours after the Sixers had lost, 84-80, to the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on Wednesday night. The loss dropped them to 0-16 this season and tied the NBA record for consecutive losses with 26.
Officer Rachel McGuire of the Boston Police Department said in a telephone interview that police received a 911 call at approximately 2 a.m. Thursday from an unknown woman who "didn't give much information." The caller did provide the name and address of the nightclub, McGuire said, but when officers arrived at the scene, "there was no one there."
A representative for Okafor, according to TMZ, said that Okafor was with a teammate who became engaged in a physical confrontation outside Storyville, and that Okafor "was being heckled from the moment he left the club and felt threatened because people swarmed him on the street." The teammate was rookie power forward Christian Wood, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Inquirer.
Citing a "source close to Okafor," ESPN.com reported that the altercation began when people outside the nightclub began mocking Okafor over the Sixers' poor play.
"Apparently, they said: 'The 76ers [stink], and you guys are all losers. You'll never win a game,' " the source told ESPN. "I was around the corner when it happened. I saw him a minute after he knocked the dude out. I think the guy was just talking [expletive], saying the Sixers [stink]."
Apart from the obvious - that Okafor, at age 19, and that Wood, at age 20, are not legally permitted to consume alcohol - the incident raises a number of troubling questions for the Sixers and for Okafor, whom the franchise selected with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's NBA draft out of Duke and who leads the team in scoring, averaging 18.4 points per game. If Okafor was indeed frustrated by ridicule over the Sixers' record, his reaction lends credence to the idea that the franchise's plan to withstand several losing seasons for the sake of acquiring high draft picks and rebuilding their roster may be having a corrosive effect on its players.
With an average age of 23.3, the Sixers are the youngest team in the NBA, and none of the nine players who saw action Wednesday night in Boston is more than 24 years old or has more than three years of experience as an NBA player. The Sixers' next game is Friday night in Houston against the Rockets. Yet the team chose to stay overnight in Boston instead of traveling to Texas immediately after the Celtics game - meaning a group of players with little veteran leadership and guidance had a night's worth of free time on their hands.
When asked what steps, if any, police would take to investigate the incident and Okafor's involvement in it, McGuire said that she had seen the video, but "as far as the Boston Police Department was concerned, there's not much we can pursue. Nobody was there when we arrived. We unfortunately don't have the identity of the alleged victim. But if the victim wants to come forward and file a police report, he or she is encouraged to do so."