So as soon as Jahlil Okafor walked in for his predraft workout for the Lakers on Tuesday, he quickly noticed the No. 13 jersey of Wilt Chamberlain, No. 33 of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and No. 34 of Shaquille O’Neal.
It’s a tradition Okafor would try to live up to if the Lakers use their No. 2 pick in the NBA draft on the 6-foot-11 center out of Duke.
“I was very familiar with the big men that were here,” Okafor said after his workout. “Shaquille O’Neal was my favorite growing up, and then Kareem, the all-time [NBA] leading scorer. I would love to be here to have the opportunity to learn from all those guys. That would definitely be to my advantage.”
Okafor led Duke to the 2015 national championship as a freshman.
He averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 points, making him the first freshman to win the ACC player of the year award.
Okafor, 19, knows the influence Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar and O’Neal had on the game.
“Just how dominant they were,” Okafor said. “They were all about winning. And when they came here they won. If I did that, I would have some big shoes to step into. But I’m ready.”
Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns and Okafor are considered the best two big men available in the draft.
The presumption is that the Lakers will get one of them, giving them another dominant big man.
“We’ll have to see how that plays out,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said after Okafor had spoken to reporters. “We have a lot of photos in this building. A lot of those jerseys over there have a lot of big names that we’ve retired and we’ve had great success with.”