To be a young player in the NBA and immediately begin hearing comparisons to a sure-fire Hall of Famer like LeBron James is no small thing. That’s exactly what’s been happening for Ben Simmons since he first entered the league, but a few years back he heard it directly from the horse’s mouth.
After a matchup at the end of November between King James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and Simmons’ Philadelphia 76ers, Simmons revealed that James apparently had some extremely encouraging words for the young star.
According to Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, four years ago, when Simmons was attending the LeBron James Skills Academy, he was told by the superstar that he could one day exceed his legacy if he did all the right things.
“You have an opportunity to be better than me. But you can’t skip steps. You have to do the work,” Simmons said James told him. And that’s no shortage of a confidence boost.
After missing out on all of his first season with an injury, the 21-year-old is bouncing back with a very impressive season thus far. He’s currently averaging 18.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 2.1 steals per game.
These are all pretty similar number to those that James was putting up in his rookie season, as he averaged 20.9 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals as a 19-year-old.
Simmons is also currently the leading Rookie of the Year candidate so far this season. If he can stay healthy and continue to put forth his best effort on the court, there’s almost no doubt that he can secure that title by season’s end.
Thanks to his play, the 76ers are back to competing in the Eastern conference, and that’s largely thanks to Simmons’ contributions on the court.