Ben Simmons' NBA career hasn't gone as planned by him or the Philadelphia 76ers. Ever since he made his debut in 2017, the point guard has regressed, losing the spark he brought to the court when he first entered the league.
This has become a major issue for fans in Philly, leading to Simmons demanding a trade from the franchise a couple of days ago due to all the criticism he's received in the past months. Following a tumultuous second-round exit in the 2021 NBA playoff, Ben is ready to move on and find a new home in the league.
Plenty of people still believe he can turn things around and be a key piece for the Sixers, but the player has made up his mind, trying to force his way out of the Wells Fargo Center.
Ben was considered a terrific prospect during his college days. Even LeBron James had big expectations for him, claiming he could be better than The King if he put in the work to achieve success. Back in 2017, Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated told a story of when Bron encouraged Ben to work hard to be great in the association.
Just 21, Simmons has been waiting almost a quarter of his life to play in the NBA. At 17, perched on the side of a high school gym in Las Vegas after a session at the LeBron James Skills Academy, he felt a meaty palm on his shoulder. “Tomorrow morning,” James told him, “6:30.” Simmons was dressed by four. As he did pull-ups in the fitness center at the Wynn hotel alongside James and Dwyane Wade, he kept FaceTime on his phone, so his best friend from home could watch. Simmons grew up wearing Wade’s Converse kicks, buying pairs in red, white and black. He studied James’s highlights on his iPad during class. He came of age with the Heat’s Big Three, who handed the rock to their 6'8", 250-pound kingpin and called it small ball.
“You have an opportunity,” James told Simmons early on, “to be better than me. But you can’t skip steps. You have to do the work.” Those words helped sustain him when he stumbled at LSU and helped fuel him as he rehabbed in Philadelphia. “Is this really going to happen?” he asked himself. He knew, even if others wavered, that it would. Because LeBron said so, and for a prospect of Simmons’s vintage, no endorsement means more. “Part of his greatness,” Simmons says, “is that he wants others to be just as great."
Four years after this story saw the light, Simmons is the most recurrent topic in the NBA and not precisely for the best reasons. He attempted and made jump shots during his rookie season, boasting tremendous confidence in front of the rim.
Now, that player seems to have vanished. Ben is scared to try, and the 76ers-Hawks series was the biggest example of that. The Australian struggled at the free-throw line and only attempted three field goals in the 4th quarters of that series.
Even if he's moved by the Sixers, Simmons will have to work on his game and show that the offseason workout can help him in actual games. He hasn't lived up to the expectations. Seeing how high LeBron James was on him, you know this man can do a lot better than he's done so far.