The Ben Simmons era, one filled with as many valleys as peaks, has come to an end in Philadelphia. Sixers fans will certainly find solace in Simmons now being Brooklyn’s problem in the aftermath of how the three-time All-Star’s tenure burned out here.
“The best-laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry...”
The dreams of Simmons and Joel Embiid, arm in arm, on a parade float down Broad Street have evaporated in front of our eyes. Perhaps it was a marriage that was doomed from the start, but it will go down as one of the many, many memorable teams in NBA History that never reached the promised land.
How did we get here though?
What went wrong?
I’ve detailed a rough timeline of the big moments during Simmons’ years in Philadelphia that culminated in the blockbuster trade that brought James Harden to the Sixers.
Farewell to the weirdest, most polarizing athlete to ever play in this city.
NBA Draft Lottery: May 16, 2016
I remember being at the Rights to Ricky Sanchez lottery party at Xfinity Live!. The Sixers, with the worst record in the NBA, had the best chance at the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. I waited in agony as Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum opened envelopes of teams as the lottery progressed. The Sixers made it into the top three. The commercial break for that unveiling was absolute torture. When the Lakers’ card was shown for the second-overall pick, the whole bar exploded as if the Eagles had just won a playoff game. I ran and jumped on a table and went wild before a (rightfully) angry worker told my ass to get off there.
Still, Simmons was ours. Sixers fans had a generational prospect on their hands, one who could pair with Joel Embiid and Dario Šarić and bring The Process to fruition.
Fractures Right Foot: September 30, 2016
Well, there went that hope for an electric rookie year pairing of Simmons and Embiid. In a team practice, Simmons fractured his right foot, necessitating surgery. In the aftermath of the surgery, Simmons didn’t suit up for the remainder of the year. Maybe he could’ve played, but with no real hopes of playoff contention out there, Simmons chose to heal up and sit out the season. I had zero qualms with that. The 2017-18 campaign was going to be the Sixers’ coming out party.
First Triple-Double: October 23, 2017
In his fourth pro game, Simmons recorded the first of his many triple-doubles. He put up 21-12-10 while shooting 72.7 percent from the field as the Sixers beat the Pistons 97-86. Simmons had all the potential in the world. Could he be LeBron James? Could he be Magic Johnson? Could he be Jason Kidd? Sixers fans’ minds were right to spiral out of control with excitement.
Out-Dueling the King: April 6, 2018
This. This was the moment where the Sixes’ future felt unlimited. The team was arriving ahead of schedule and they were letting the best player on the planet know that they meant business. With Embiid sidelined and in what felt like the most important Sixers regular season game in nearly two decades, Simmons got the best of LeBron James in a 132-130 win at the Wells Fargo Center. Simmons put up gaudy numbers with a 27-15-13-4 stat line. Not only did he undoubtedly have The Passing Gene, but he looked better as a scorer and defender than anyone could’ve imagined as a rookie. The Sixers had two future stars they would rely on for the next decade. Life was good.
Just One Point: May 3, 2018
Life wasn’t so good.
Entering a second-round series with the Celtics in which they were betting favorites, the Sixers fell to the hated Boston squad in embarrassing five-game fashion. This was the night that Sixers fans saw The Ghost of Playoff Future. In a five-point loss in Game 2, Simmons scored just a single point while missing “all” four shots he took from the field. More than three years later, his no-show fourth quarters against the Hawks in the 2021 postseason could be traced back to this matchup with the Celtics.
As Modest Mouse would say, we were dead before the ship even sank.
Drown Out the Boos: April 14, 2019
In a playoff contest with the Nets, Simmons entered the never-ending Philly fans booing discourse. In the opening playoff game against Brooklyn, the Nets upset the Sixers 111-102 in Philly. Sixers fans, understandably, and I’m including myself here, were freaking out. Simmons needed to step up. He had just nine points and three assists in Game 1. It was ugly and the Philly faithful booed and let him know it. Obviously, the internet went into a frenzy about how bad it is to boo a player and all that nonsense.
You know what I say to that? Booing works.
Simmons came out in Game 2 on fire. The Sixers scored 145 in a 22-point win. Simmons put up 18-10-12-2 while being aggressive as all hell in the first quarter. Was Simmons turning the corner in the postseason? Was this the moment he was taking a leap? Given the team’s loss to the Raptors in the next round of the postseason, that sadly wasn’t the case.
Better than the Lake Show: January 25, 2020
January 2020. New year, new Ben. The Sixers had a nationally televised game on ABC. I remember I had a ton of people over my apartment for this. In a way, it was the last moment of pre-pandemic joy I’d ever have. Once again facing off with King James, Simmons balled out. He had 28-10-8-4 as the Sixers beat the Lakers by 17. This was incredible. Everyone in my apartment was going wild. Was Simmons finally turning the corner? Would those playoff demons be eradicated come the summer?
No Bubble Playoffs: August 5, 2020
Well, the pandemic and quarantine got in the way of it a bit to say the least.
When the NBA season resumed, Simmons injured his knee in a game against the Wizards. Simmons missed the entirety of the 2020 Mickey Mouse Bubble Playoffs. We can skip over the part where the Celtics swept the Sixers in the first round of this fake postseason, right? Anyway, yes, another sad postseason ending for the Sixers. Life sucked!
42: February 15, 2021
Simmons... is a scoring machine?!?
Though it came in a road loss to the Jazz, Simmons went supernova and dropped 42 points to go along with nine rebounds and 12 assists. Did he just unlock himself? Did he stop giving a damn and realize he has the ability to take over a game offensively and went to task? Was this simply an aberration? Unfortunately for all parties, it was. This was the last high point of Simmons’ time as a Sixer, the last moment I had even the slightest thought he could be the true superstar we all envisioned five years back during the NBA lottery.
Hack-A-Ben: May 31, 2021
The Wizards staved off a first round sweep in the playoffs, as they resorted to a tactic that took them way too long to utilize: foul the crap out of Simmons and dare him to make his free throws. Well... he shot 5-11 from the charity stripe in an eight-point loss. The Sixers were the top seed in the East and sent Washington packing the next game, but it was right to now be worried about how far the Sixers could go if their second-best player was already displaying these playoff deficiencies against inferior competition.
On the Side of a Milk Carton: June 20, 2021
Five points, zero of them in the fourth quarter. He passed the ball. It’s a play I’ll never get over the rest of my life.
Simmons would never play another minute in a Sixers uniform. Good riddance.
It’s Over, February 10, 2022
The Brooklyn Nets are trading James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 10, 2022
Peace, man. See you on March 10!