It is the end of Ben Simmons’ career in Philadelphia as a member of the 76ers. This of course comes from the news that he has be traded to Brooklyn for James Harden. While things ended as terribly as one could have imagined, there was also a point in time where Simmons was one of the most beloved athletes in Philadelphia.


The Good

When Ben Simmons was drafted first overall in 2016, he was touted as the closest thing we have ever seen to LeBron James. After getting hurt before his rookie year even started, he had to sit out the entire 2016-17 season. Even when he was sitting out, he became beloved by Philadelphia fans by joining in on the #raisethecat phenomenon.


Ben Simmons joining in on the #raisethecat twitter trend while injured during the 2016-17 season. 76ers fans on twitter would post themselves raising their cat after a Sixers victory.  – Photo via USA Today

Rookie Year

Then came his rookie year, or as some may call it, his rookie* year. His first season was spectacular, averaging 15.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 8.2 apg, and 1.7 spg. He was head to head with the Utah Jazz’ Donovan Mitchell for the Rookie of the Year race. Simmons would end up beating Mitchell out for the award. The race was a huge debate topic due to Simmons’ controversial status of being considered a rookie, and the social media feud fueled by Simmons’ brand Nike and Mitchell’s rival brand Adidas.

To finish Simmons’ rookie year, the 76ers were without Joel Embiid for the last eight games of the season. They also had been on an eight game winning streak prior to Embiid getting injured. Simmons led the Sixers to eight more wins, to complete the season on a 16 game win streak. This win streak propelled the 76ers to the third seed in the Eastern Conference. This was after missing the playoffs five straight seasons, and being the 10th seed at a 14-18 record on December 23rd heading into Christmas.


All-Star Years

The next three seasons Simmons would go on to to make the All-Star game, evolving into one of the best defenders in the league, and a constant triple double threat. In his third season he would make All-NBA Third-Team and his first all-defensive first-team selection.

How can you forget his iconic three-pointers as well. While shooting might have been what drove the fans crazy in a bad way, there were a couple of shots that drove fans crazy in a good way. The first being his first career three-pointer in the preseason. This came against a professional Chinese basketball team the Guangzhou Long-Lions. This also happened at the very hight of the Daryl Morey controversy involving the NBA and China. Perhaps foreshadowing the future.

After hitting the preseason three in October of 2019, he would hit his first actual three in an NBA game a couple months later. On November 20th of 2019, in a 76ers win against the New York Knicks, Simmons would hit his first career three-pointer. This would be the first of just five threes he would make in Philadelphia.

In his final season playing for Philadelphia, Simmons was in a heated award race with a member of the Utah Jazz again, this time being Rudy Gobert in the Defensive Player of the Year race. Gobert would end up beating Simmons out for the award, but there were many memorable moments that summarized Simmons’ time in Philadelphia. The most memorable being Simmons’ 42 points against the Jazz and Gobert, without Embiid. While it came in a loss, it gave one of the many great quotes from Simmons.

Simmons said Gobert is “great down there in the paint, but he’s not guarding everybody.” “He guarded me in Utah,” the three-time All-Star said. “And I had 42. And apparently, I’m not a scorer, so it is what it is.”


The Bad

Everybody and their mother knows what Simmons’ weakness is, his jumpshot, and lack thereof one. When he was a rookie, it was definitely a concern, but he had lots of time to improve it. Right? His offensive game first got exposed in the second round of the playoffs in 2018. To make matters worse, it was against Philadelphia’s biggest rival, the Boston Celtics.

The Sixers would end up losing that series in five games, and in game two, Simmons had his infamous 1 point playoff game. Outside of that game however that postseason, Simmons statistically was not that bad. He had at least 16 points in every other game that postseason, but the 1 point game was certainly a sign of things to come.

Then the next year would come. The hype of seeing offseason training videos of him draining threes were getting Philadelphia fans going crazy with how good they knew Simmons could be if he played to his potential. Then the postseason hit again, and it was the same story. The Sixers even went all in and traded for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Simmons was exposed even further by the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the playoffs again.

A series that came down to one of the luckiest and memorable shots in NBA history, of course talking about Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer beating quadruple bouncing three pointer in game seven (Trust me, do NOT click the link if you are a 76ers fan). In such a close series, it made it that much more painful to watch Simmons average just 11.6 points per game that series. Of course adding insult to injury, the Raptors would go on to be the NBA Champions.

Fast forward to 2021. The number one seed, fans did not expect Simmons to even attempt threes anymore, yet he still performed well below expectations when it mattered most, hitting his all time low in the series against the Atlanta Hawks, in, you guessed it, the second round. Averaging 9.86 points per game, and going 15/45 from the free throw line that series, good enough for just a 33.3% ft percentage. The Hawks would intentionally foul Simmons late in the games to send him to the line, that is how embarrassing it got. That would be the last Philadelphia would ever see of Simmons.


The Ugly

If there was a singular play to some up Ben Simmons’ career in Philadelphia, it would be this one. The famous pass to Matisse Thybulle when Simmons had a wide open slam dunk was the straw that broke the camels back for not only Philadelphia fans, but for the 76ers organization as well. After the game, head coach Doc Rivers and Embiid both had things to say about Simmons following their early playoff exit.

It seemed like this, and the growing tension between Simmons and fans, and the organization as a whole led to him wanting out. On August 31st 2021, it was announced officially that Simmons would not report to camp, and was done with the Sixers. This would lead to Simmons refusing to show up to camp, until his money started to get put on the line.


Fines and Holdout

There was a glimmer of hope that maybe Simmons was going to return to Philadelphia, and he even did but for a super short period. Simmons lasted two days at practice, right before the season started before he was kicked out by Doc Rivers.

 

 

 

 

After that, Simmons mysteriously got a “back injury“.  The Sixers had him come in, they cleared him to play, then he left the facility. When that did not work, Simmons then immediately changed his tune, and said it was not his back, but he was not mentally ready to play. Keep in mind that the reports that he had a back injury, then was cleared to play, then was claiming he was not mentally ready to play all came out on the same day.

So then Simmons started to not show up to games because the season had started. So the Sixers started fining him his game checks. The 76ers invited Simmons to see their team’s own mental health experts and he initially refused. So Philadelphia kept fining him for missing games. He then finally agreed to meet with the Sixers’ specialists, who cleared him as able to play. Despite that, he refused to play.

Simmons missed 54 games before he was traded, and was fined a grand total of $17 million for refusing to play. Meanwhile the 76ers would go 32-22 without him, as Tyrese Maxey emerged as a future star filling in for Simmons as the point guard.


Photos via: Jose F. Moreno - Bill Streicher - Nick Wass

There was the good with Ben Simmons, watching him grow into an NBA All-Star. The bad with Ben Simmons, his shooting woes. And the ending was the ugly with Ben Simmons, refusing to play for the team. Whether you wish to remember the good, the bad, or the ugly in regards to Simmons, his days in Philadelphia are over.

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