Ben Simmons has a lot to prove. He was the consensus number one high school player in the country both his junior and senior years, and the first overall pick selected in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers following a brief stint at LSU that left much to be desired by his critics.
The Australian-born point forward is looking to finally make a statement in his debut NBA season in October, after a fractured bone in his foot forced him to sit out what would have been his rookie year. Many say that the injury was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed Simmons an entire year to work on his game, enhance his strengths, and improve on his weaknesses, all while still traveling with the team and learning what it’s like to be a professional basketball player.
At the premiere event announcing the NBA’s official partnership with NIKE in Los Angeles, we spoke with Simmons about what he expects in the upcoming season, his thoughts on the brand new jerseys NIKE has created for each of the 30 teams, and what it’s like living in a city that is super passionate about its sports teams.
CASSIUS: What were your initial thoughts on NIKE’s new Sixers jerseys?
Ben Simmons: I like them a lot, you can really see and notice the detail that was put into them. They also fit lighter. NIKE did a good job of asking players what they liked and didn’t like about past versions of what we wear on the court. For me, I like how the back of the jerseys are cut— they allow more freedom and movement in my arms and shoulders. The designs are sick, they really represent Philly with the colorway: the red, white, and blue. They really pay homage to the franchise and the great teams and players of the past.
C.: One thing that often isn’t asked to players is their choice of accessories, why they wear the arm sleeves or the headbands and the compression pants. What is it that goes into what you like to wear on the court, is it all function, fashion, or something in the middle??
B.S.: For me it’s all about comfort. When you feel the best on the court, you play the best. Obviously some style comes into play. You don’t want to look like the guy with all the gear, but as long as it makes me feel comfortable, I’ll go with it. The arm sleeves, like the compression pants, offer a level of protection for me on the court, and I feel like I’m missing something if I’m playing without them. NIKE did a good job of bringing the slightest improvements to the accessories, making a world of difference.
C.: Taking things to the court now, you had that injury that set you back last season. How are you feeling and how do you think you’ve grown as a player since?
B.S.: I feel great, and I’ll be ready to go for the season. While I did have to take a year off, it definitely allowed me the opportunity that a lot of people don’t have in refining things that I wanted to work on. I feel like I’m worlds away from the player that I was when I got drafted, and I can’t wait to get this season started.
C.: With the addition of Markelle Fultz in this year’s draft, and the talent around you with Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, one of the words around the 76ers this season is “promise.” What will you guys have to do as a team to be ready this season?
B.S.: Day and night, we gotta be working. And just be together. That’s what we gotta do. We have the talent here in Philly, and I know we have the city behind us. We got to be together, play together, and not allow individual goals to cloud what it is we’re working for. We’re a pretty level-headed group of guys, especially for a group that’s so young. This city and this team have been through a lot the last couple of years, and we all realize that. We also know that we can change that, so it’s time to put the work in and show the world what we know we can do.
To me, the phrase “Trust The Process” means a lot. You just don’t win rings overnight simply by showing up, and that’s what our goal is: to bring this team and this city rings. It’s just gonna take time, and working for it.
C.: This season, the Sixers will play the New York Knicks in the first game of the NBA’s marquee Christmas Day schedule, which is a huge deal from the franchise. What are you looking forward to most?
B.S.: Oh man, I’m excited. It’s gonna be my first time playing on a national stage like that at this level, and everyone wants to play on Christmas Day. It’s great to see that the NBA has faith in us this season to put us on that stage, and I know the fans are just as excited as we are.
C.: How has the city of Philadelphia has embraced you personally?
B.S.: I love the city, man. They’ve shown me nothing but love since I got here, the fans are great. They’re a tough group at times, but you gotta like that, you know? It shows that they’re true fans. But the energy of the city is unmatched, and I think that’s gonna pay off for us feeding off the fans this season.
C.: Favorite cheesesteak spot?
B.S.: Oh, I go to Ishkabibbles.
C.: My man, that’s it!
B.S.: That’s the real, that’s your spot, too? Yeah, I love steaks from there.
C.: Do you get the Gremlin?
B.S.: The Gremlin is fire, I don’t drink it all the time, but it’s really good.
C.: You mentioned earlier that you know that the city of Philly has been through a lot in recent memory with the Sixers.For many, the phrase “Trust The Process” became more than just a slogan, it became a way of life and a mantra for both the team and its fans to stand behind. What does “Trust the Process” mean to you?
B.S.: To me, the phrase “trust the process” means a lot. It’s about having the faith in progress, working for it, and really building toward something. You just don’t win rings overnight simply by showing up, and that’s what our goal is: to bring this team and this city rings. It’s just gonna take time, and working for it.