What are the odds that two players from Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School (enrollment: 700) would be playing in the NBA at the same time?
The more notable of the two is desperately trying to lead his team to the Finals for the fifth consecutive season. Conversely, there's a good chance that the other is in the midst of an impromptu "SpongeBob SquarePants" marathon on Hulu.
According to JaKarr's @StJohnsBBall bio, if he could have dinner with anyone living or dead, it'd be Michael Jordan & SpongeBob SquarePants.— Max Rappaport (@MaxRappaport) January 29, 2015
On a Philadelphia 76ers' team whose players are rich enough to buy a Tesla but too young to legally rent one, JaKarr Sampson was the lowest man on the totem pole last season. The 6'9", 214-pound rookie was the one who had his car wrapped in aluminum foil, the one tasked to perform random duties for the team's "veterans", despite the fact that Sampson is actually 13 months older than Nerlens Noel.
Sampson - to his credit - took it all in stride, just as he accepted every assignment thrown his way over the past seven months. Although he was listed as a small forward, Sampson literally played every position for the Sixers during the 2014-15 season while averaging 5.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. For a spell, #PointKarr was an actual thing. A man who hadn't been his team's primary playmaker since middle school was bringing the ball up the court for a professional basketball team. On purpose. By design. Because his coach wanted him to.
National media and anti-tanking advocates alike poked fun at the Sixers' stop-gap, gap-toothed "point guard", and many were puzzled by the simple fact that Brett Brown was giving 15-20 minutes a night to someone of Sampson's caliber. But then came a January 28 contest against Detroit that served as a coming-out party sorts: 13 points, eight rebounds and two steals in 23-plus minutes of action. Sixers Twitter lit up that night, and it's a good thing that the social media user base skews young, or else we all would have been bombarded with Sampson/K.A.R.R. memes. After that Pistons game, nothing was the same.
Shortly after that performance, Grantland's Ben Detrick wrote the following:
Back when hot-take artisans were suggesting the Sixers would be manhandled by the Delmarva CYO traveling team, JaKarr Sampson was sometimes singled out as evidence of the franchise's alleged dedication to tanking.
But Sixers GM Sam Hinkie has a type: long-limbed, capable of springing into the stratosphere, and liable to dent low-flying aircraft with ricocheting jumpers. JaKarr fits the profile. Nicknamed SpongeBob Sampson, he streaks down the hardwood in a scuttle of twitching appendages, kind of like a 6-foot-9 tarantula who dunks violently.
Although his minutes vacillate, Sampson is another Sixer emerging as an intriguing bundle of chaos.
They call Sampson "Mr. Pickles", but he's more of a roundball Tazmanian Devil: a whirling dervish who flies around the court with arms and legs akimbo. It's clear that he (mostly) intends to do the right thing, but so far, Sampson hasn't been able to translate that into a consistent (or highly productive) level of play.
In February, Jake Pavorsky wrote that Sampson is "awkward yet effective", and while that works on the current iteration of the Sixers, the current iteration of JaKarr Sampson would never unsnap his warmup pants for a playoff-caliber team. He's not particularly skilled offensively (9.4 PER), and his defensive successes can be attributed more to heart and hustle than to actual talent.
But every so often, Sampson would break out a Vine-worthy chase-down block or ridiculous post-practice dunk this past season that made it hard to completely dismiss him. If Brett Brown can find a way to harness and focus Sampson's energy, the former St. John's standout could ultimately develop into a solid rotation player. If nothing else, Sampson showed more than enough promise for Sam Hinkie to swipe right on the young fella and keep him around for another year.