Emeka Okafor (born September 28, 1982 in Houston, Texas), widely abbreviated as Emeka Okafor, is a professional basketball player playing at power forward for the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA. He is most famous for being a forward/center on the University of Connecticut men's basketball team from the 2001-2002 season through the 2003-2004 season, where he won the Big East Player of the Year Award in 2004. Prior to attending UConn, Okafor excelled athletically and academically at Houston's Bellaire High School.
Okafor, the son of Igbo Nigerian immigrants, is known for not only being a good basketball player but also for being an elite student. His major at UConn was finance, and he graduated with honors after three years in May 2004 with a 3.8 GPA. One of his last courses at UConn was an honors-level finance course where students were allowed to make investment decisions for a small portion of UConn's endowment. Okafor was named the Academic All-American of the Year in 2004 for his work on and off the court.
The 6'10" (2.08 m) Okafor is noted for his impressive defensive ability, especially his shot-blocking. Although he was plagued by back problems for most of the 2003-2004 season, Okafor led UConn to victory in the 2004 NCAA championship, where he was crowned the Most Outstanding Player for the 2004 NCAA Tournament. He led the nation in blocks that season and was also named National Defensive Player of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
On April 16, 2004, he declared his eligibility for the 2004 NBA Draft, giving up his one remaining year of college athletic eligibility. On June 24, Okafor was selected second overall in the draft, becoming the first ever draft pick by the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. The following day, he accepted an invitation to join the United States team for the 2004 Summer Olympics, which finished with the bronze medal in Athens.
The 2004-2005 NBA season was a successful campaign as Okafor coped well with the pressures of being the star rookie on an expansion franchise. Highlights of the season included recording 19 straight double-doubles from November 21 through January 1, and finishing seventh among Eastern Conference forwards in NBA All-Star Game fan balloting with 408,082 votes, by far the highest number garnered by any rookie in 2005. At the end of the season, Okafor beat out his friend and former college teammate, Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon, to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. On June 24, 2005, the Bobcats picked up the option for the fourth year on Okafor's contract, as he has quickly established himself as the face of the franchise, and a solid player for years to come.
Okafor sat out most of the 2005-06 season with injuries to his ankle.