76ers

Michael Ojo taking next step in basketball career thanks to size 21 shoes

Michael Ojo taking next step in basketball career thanks to size 21 shoes

Imagine trying to play basketball while cramming your feet into sneakers two sizes too small. 

That was the challenge 7-foot-1, 304-pound center Michael Ojo faced until he was months into his freshman year at Florida State. 

Ojo wore the biggest shoes he could find, a "big 18 or 19." His actual size is a 21. Not to mention, he is flat-footed and requires a wide width. 

It wasn't until his coach at Florida State connected with Nike that the brand reportedly invested in a $15,000 machine to create a shoe to properly fit Ojo.

"That was the turnaround," Ojo said. "It was a life-changing moment for me. Just being able to wear comfortable shoes, and then to play basketball, it makes everything a lot easier for me. I don't have to think about my feet, my toes getting injured. The shoes fit perfectly well."

Ojo worked out for the Sixers on Monday. The big man averaged 4.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in 12.2 minutes per game in his final collegiate season, improving from 38.6 percent at the free throw line to 80.6 percent. He graduated with an undergraduate and master's degree in international affairs this spring. 

Ojo is not projected to be drafted, but could be the type of player the Sixers eye for summer league or their G-League affiliate. His stature and strength are intriguing given the fact he is still a relatively raw talent. Ojo, who grew up in Nigeria, did not start playing basketball until he was a teenager.

"He's a specimen, without question," Sixers vice president of basketball administration and 87ers general manager Brandon Williams said. "He's clearly a challenge from an offensive standpoint. I think he gives you a physical presence, and I'd hate to be a guy he's got to take a foul on. … I think he's trying to learn our pace of play, he's trying to learn the game. I'm sure he would be a long-term development project."

Ojo considers his strengths to be clogging the paint, setting screens and boxing out. He also credits his quick foot movement to help guards defend ball screens. 

"My physical presence is a big addition I could bring to the Sixers," he said. "[I have an] ability to play solid defense on ball screens and [am] able to stay in the game in late-game situations because I can knock down the free throws."

Ojo doesn't know where he will continue his career. He is one step closer — literally — thanks to his shoes. 

"I want to thank my coach, thank Nike for the rest of my life just being able to do that for me as a basketball player," he said. 

Zoo's Views: Jonah Bolden's unique path to the Sixers

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Zoo's Views: Jonah Bolden's unique path to the Sixers

On this edition of Zoo's Views, Marc Zumoff talks with Jonah Bolden, Sixers rookie forward. The two discuss what opening night was like for the rookie.

Bolden also talks about how he fell in love with basketball, why he decided to leave UCLA after only playing there one year, what it was like playing overseas and having to adjust to the language barrier playing in a non-English speaking country.

Also, his experience being a "draft-and-stash" player.

1:30 - Thoughts on his NBA debut on opening night.
4:00 - Knowing Ben Simmons in Australia.
9:00 - His father got him into basketball.
14:00 - His time at UCLA and leaving UCLA.
18:00 - Experience playing overseas in a non-English speaking country.
24:00 - Who does he compare to?

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Joel Embiid has colorful thoughts on dating in the NBA, being a rocket scientist, more

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USA Today Images

Joel Embiid has colorful thoughts on dating in the NBA, being a rocket scientist, more

There are a few high notes any profile on Joel Embiid hits: his tall tale about killing a lion as a youngster; learning to shoot from watching white people on YouTube; his love of Shirley Temples; his many social media exploits.

Clay Skipper’s piece on Embiid for GQ’s first digital cover treads all of that familiar territory. But it also explores some other interesting areas of Embiid’s life.

For instance, Embiid had this to say about dating in the NBA:

"You gotta do your background check,' he says. 'You don't want to be that guy marrying a girl that someone else in the NBA has been with.... I'm sure some guys end up getting married to women that have been around. And maybe on the court they also get told' — here he lowers his voice to a whisper — 'Hey, I f—ed your wife.'

A highlight of the piece for Sixers fans will be Embiid’s insistence that he wants to be with the Sixers for the rest of his career, even if Skipper sounds skeptical of Embiid’s love for Philly.

Skipper writes, “Asked what happens to the Process nickname if he goes to another team, Embiid says, ‘I want to be in Philly for the rest of my life,’ which seems like something only somebody who has been in Philly for less than five years might say.”

Oh, and apparently Embiid still hasn’t given up on his childhood dream of being an astronaut. According to Skipper, even though he learned on a trip to NASA last year that he’s way too big to fit into a spaceship, Embiid thinks it would be “easy” to pick up rocket science once his NBA career is over.

There are a number of other good nuggets in the profile, from Embiid’s despair at reading Twitter comments calling him a “bust” to details about his oversized diet.

You can read the full piece here

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More on the Sixers