How Ben Simmons went from Philly’s Next Big Thing to an outcast

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PHiladelphia woke up on Monday to the grim news of yet another homicide, this one being the shooting death of a nurse in a hospital. The shooting brought the city’s homicide toll to 418, the highest at this point in the year since 1986. Philadelphia, in short, has far more important things to fear than its status as the city where Ben Simmons shoots. , or refuse. to shoot, a basketball.

And yet, it makes the headlines. The 25-year-old Philadelphia 76ers full-back doesn’t report to the team until he’s traded – and notoriously passionate Philadelphia fans aren’t happy. Just two years ago, he signed a five-year, $ 177 million contract extension, tweeting at the time, “Philly means so much to me. “

It’s unclear exactly why Simmons changed his mind and now wants to come out because he hasn’t officially spoken about it. But reports say he’s unhappy with the lack of support the Sixers showed him after fans and the media criticized his game’s shortcomings, and there is also friction between Simmons and the other superstar (and most popular) of the team, Joel Embiid.

Sport means so much to Philly, maybe too much at times. The city comes to a halt for an Eagles game. People wear Philadelphia (and absoutely not New York) team hats and T-shirts at the store or on walks in the beautiful parks. Philly fans get ripped off for being too fanatical, but they’re fiercely loyal, especially to athletes who perform well and play hard.

The rebuilding Eagles lost at home to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and first-year coach Nick Sirianni was booed for odd picks on attacking plays, but fans appeared to give the young quarterback a bit of slack. -rear Jalen Hurts. He generally played well and said afterwards, “There are no moral victories. Simmons contrasts sharply with Hurts.

Simmons, the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year, is a terrible free throw and three-point shooter and doesn’t care about shooting the ball late in the game – notoriously dropping a dunk in a playoff loss to Atlanta. By demanding a trade his value has clearly diminished which is a problem for the Sixers, who still believe he is worth roughly what they were going to pay him.

It is a real dead end, a real mess. Last week, Simmons was due to pay the second 25% of his $ 33 million payroll for the 2021-22 season – over $ 8 million – but the Sixers reportedly refused to pay because he effectively decided to quit play for them.

His agents, through media leaks, blame the Sixers for not getting rid of him when he made it clear this summer that he wanted to leave. Embiid, the center and focal point of the Sixers, said repeatedly in an interview last week that the team obviously wouldn’t be as good without Simmons, but also called his teammate’s resistance “weird, disappointing, to the limit of disrespect ”.

What makes Simmons’ decision to walk away shocking is that his father, a player with much more modest skills than his son, fought for any kind of basketball career. Dave Simmons did it the hard way. He was from the South Bronx and was recruited into the playgrounds by a school called the Oklahoma Baptist. He played for a year, transferred to a nearby junior college for a year to improve his grades, then returned to Oklahoma Baptist. He later transferred to the University of Oklahoma City, where he played for the colorful Abe Lemons. Then, he traveled half the globe to Australia to create professional basketball there for 13 years. He was a league all-star and his jersey number, 25 (the same as his son’s), was eventually withdrawn by the Melbourne Tigers.

Dave Simmons loved Australia, marrying an Australian who already had four children and would have two more with him, including Ben. Unlike his father, Ben’s rise was easy: he was a prodigy, having only played a year at Louisiana State University before turning pro. He was considered a generational talent and the Sixers took him with the No.1 draft pick – even though there were red flags.

“His body language bothered me at times,” Stu Jackson, an analyst who played and was an NBA executive, told SI.com in 2016. to be a little hesitant to take it # 1.

Still, Simmons was compared favorably to LeBron James. He missed his first NBA season with a broken foot, but he was formidable the following season. At the end of his second full season in 2018-19, the Sixers granted him a giant contract extension because, as general manager Elton Brand said at the time, “Ben is having a positive impact on the game. in many ways “.

The problem with giant contracts, of course, is that they often make it difficult to take out a player who is perceived fail to live up to expectations. It has become the perception in Philadelphia. Sixers fans had patiently (and somewhat unusual) endured what team officials called “The Process” of rebuilding. Now they wanted a competitor. As Embiid prospered, Simmons shrank and many criticized him for a disappointing exit from the playoffs last season after finishing top in the Eastern Conference. Simmons was reportedly upset that the Sixers were seen as “Embiid’s team.”

The situation could also drag on forever. The Sixers won’t take anyone in a trade just to get rid of Simmons and his expensive contract, although Embiid would need more help. Progress will be measured in increments, as appropriate, until an agreement is reached. The Sixers could just hang in there and let Simmons sit in limbo for a year or two, but they would devalue their investment even more.

Simmons was such an obvious player to take first in the 2016 Draft, even though the Sixers knew he might not be made to play here if the going got tough – tough, in this case, which means he and his team would be considered underachieving. There are much bigger issues in Philly right now, but the Simmons debacle strikes at the very heart of a city that values ​​hard work and loyalty.

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