Philadelphia 76ers: Why is Ben Simmons so unpopular?
Despite a strong start to the 2019-20 Philadelphia 76ers season, Ben Simmons remains one of the least popular superstars in the NBA. That needs to change.
Through the first three games of the 2019-20 NBA season, Ben Simmons has been the Philadelphia 76ers‘ best player.
Returning to the court with some newfound confidence, an as of yet unused outside shot, and a more chiseled frame, the 6-foot-10 point guard has been a statistical marvel – amassing 50 points, 25 assists, 18 rebounds, and eight steals in 108 minutes of action.
Sure, Embiid put up 36 against Lloyd Pierce and the Atlanta Hawks. Still, the Sixers wouldn’t be the only undefeated team in the Eastern Conference (more on that here) if it wasn’t for Simmons’ on-court leadership, defensive versatility, and position flexibility.
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And yet, Simmons remains criminally unpopular in a city he should own.
Now don’t get me wrong, the City of Brotherly Love has always, and will probably always be a football town, and even an underachieving Eagles team will garner headlines over a championship-caliber basketball team, but Simmons isn’t even one of the most popular players on his own team.
Call it a byproduct of playing alongside the greatest showman in the NBA, but Simmons understated demeanor has become somewhat buried on a team filled with tough personalities. Even when Simmons earned other headlines for his relationships with high-profile influencers like Kendell Jenner and Tinashe, fans were more concerned with ‘Kardashian Curses’ than with the unicorn point guard’s generational talent.
Who knows, maybe it’s that very generational skill set that makes Simmons a hard player to identify with?
Conventional wisdom would have you believe that anyone can become the next Steph Curry with enough practice, but very, very few people on earth measure in at 6-foot-10, with even fewer possessing the passing prowess and impressive handle of the Fresh Prince. Toss in an aloofness for adding an outside shot to his game and a conspiracy theory that he shoots with the wrong hand and the market of potential Simmons stans shrinks to new aged basketball statheads (Hi), little kids, and diehards.
That stigma needs to change.
Through three professional seasons, Simmons has been far and away the best player from the 2016 NBA Draft class – outpacing Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray, and Caris LeVert. For that matter, Simmons has also been exponentially better than every player in the 2017 NBA Draft, as evidenced by his Rookie of the Year win after a season away from the game.
For all the talk about Donovan Mitchell two summers ago, it’s incredibly telling that his camp’s best argument against Simmons was over a technicality, not one court prowess; Simmons is the better player, and I guarantee the Jazz would do a player for player swap in a heartbeat.
While some initially gawked at the idea of running an offense through a 6-foot-10 point guard, Simmons has become an essential part of Brett Brown‘s system who just can’t be replaced with one player alone. Throughout a typical game, Simmons will play the point, shift over to power forward, and switch defensively off on anyone 1-5. Simmons has also moonlit as a center at times over the last two seasons, a lineup that has yet to really catch on, but remains incredibly intriguing.
To replace Simmons, you need an elite pass-first point guard, a super-sized wing defender, and a rim-running power forward – none of which the 76ers have on their bench.
So the next time you feel like throwing some shade at Ben Simmons for a perceived lack of effort, a smug interaction, or for passing up a jump shot for something safer inside, take a second to reflect on just how vital he is to the Philadelphia 76ers success both now and moving forward. Though he may be a maddening player at times, his absence would be sorely missed if he moved on to a more accepting fan base.