It wasn’t that long ago that pieces penned by national basketball writers regarding the Sixers merely argued the brilliance or stupidity of “The Process.” There just wasn’t much to write, other than “these guys are fucking brutal, but this is smart,” or, “these guys are fucking brutal, and this is going nowhere.”
Those days are long gone, with the 76ers not only surviving, but thriving with a 12-9 record at the season’s quarter pole. We now get glowing, 3,000-word profiles on the superstars we’ve long suffered for, like this piece from Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins on Ben Simmons that covers everything from the rookie’s childhood to what seems to be his inevitable transformation into one of the game’s elite talents and brightest stars.
And with good reason. Look at this:
Poetry in motion.
— NBA (@NBA) December 1, 2017
Mmmmmm. So good.
There’s some good off-the-court anecdotes about Simmons, too, like this one about his trip to Eastern State Penitentiary just three days before the start of the season:
They huddled together, sidestepping ax murderers and deranged doctors in the darkened hallways. Near midnight, Simmons peered into a vaulted cell, where a possessed inmate with streaked makeup stared back through the metal bars. Between dying moans, the jailbird in the jumpsuit fell silent, momentarily breaking character. “Oh, s—!” he shrieked, loud enough for anyone on the cell block to hear. “It’s Ben Simmons!” Suddenly, the 76ers’ stretchy prodigy was being chased by chain saws and scythes, every struggling actor eager to impress as well as petrify.
The piece also explores Simmons’ relationship with and ability to follow LeBron James, who he met as a rising teenager at the LeBron James Skills Academy when he was 17-years-old.
“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.”
My favorite part is this note from Jenkins that sheds some light on Simmons’ relationship with Joel Embiid.
After the 76ers completed shootaround at Santa Monica High last month before a game against the Clippers, players strolled down Pico Boulevard to the Hotel Casa del Mar, Embiid juking palm tree trunks on the sidewalk. A man pedaled up Ocean Avenue on a cruiser and hollered, “Lonzo is going to kick your ass!” Embiid nearly charged into oncoming traffic.
Joel Embiid as Ben Simmons’ bodyguard? It sort of has an “I Love You, Man” feel about it. So, to recap:
- Ben Simmons is absolutely going to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.
- He’s got a great relationship with LeBron James, who will 100% percent be here next season. It’s a lock.
- Joel Embiid will fuck you up if you mess with his teammates.
- Jenkins didn’t actually write any of that, but these are my takeaways, and I’m absolutely sticking with them.