Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons will enter his rookie season with high expectations. He’s the No. 1 pick in the draft, and he’s expected to play a huge role in reviving a franchise that has spent the last three seasons tanking in order to acquire players like him.
One thing he doesn’t need, then, is even more pressure. Like, say, a comparison to one of the best players of all-time … made by one of the best players of all-time.
Last week, Shaquille O’Neal directly compared Simmons to LeBron James, via CSN Philly’s Jessica Camerato:
“He’s a LeBron-type player,” O’Neal said. “What I mean by that, LeBron does a nice job of making everybody else around him better — passing the ball, doing the small things — and Ben is that type of player.”
“He took a lot of flack, especially at LSU with not really taking over games,” O’Neal said. “But he’s young. He’ll get to that.”
O’Neal, who also played his college basketball at LSU, isn’t exactly wrong. Simmons’ passing ability has almost never been seen from a player his size. His vision can remind you of players like Jason Kidd and, yes, James. When James came into the league, he played a fair bit of point guard, and I’d go so far as to say that Simmons is an even better passer today than James has ever been. It’s also worth noting that James has raved about Simmons, share an agent and the two of them even worked out together this summer.
This connection means that Simmons-James comparisons are probably inevitable, even if they’re misguided. It’s obviously not fair to Simmons to expect him to be a LeBron-type player because there aren’t really “LeBron-type players.” James is a weird cross between Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and he is both one of the most physically dominant and one of the smartest players in history. He is one of a kind.
Simmons does not need to live up to this sort of comparison in order to have a successful career. There are many reasons to be excited about him, but let’s wait until he plays an NBA game (and improves his jump shot) before burdening him with this kind of thing.
Source: CBS Sports / Shaquille O’Neal considers rookie Ben Simmons ‘a LeBron-type player’