PHILADELPHIA – One of the lasting memories from the 76ers’ summer league stint this month wasn’t necessarily a play or a game, but rather an interaction.
It was halftime of the Sixers’ July 12th MGM Resorts NBA Summer League match-up with the Los Angeles Lakers, an event that drew a decent-sized mid-week turnout, thanks, in part, to Lonzo Ball making his return to the Lakers’ line-up.
Arguably the most recognizable face in the crowd that evening, especially in the context of the professional basketball world, belonged to none other than LeBron James, who was taking in the tilt from a baseline seat. Up the sideline, just a few yards away from the four-time MVP, was highly-regarded up-and-comer Ben Simmons, like James, a former No. 1 draft pick.
Shortly after the intermission buzzer sounded, James and Simmons, along with San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray, spent some time chatting. The scene drew plenty of snappers, both professional and amateur.
That James had a moment to spare for Simmons came as no surprise. As the latter has gone about readying for his NBA career, the former has served a mentor, of sorts. There are, after all, a handful of parallels between the two.
Both were consensus top prospects coming out of high school, and feature relatively comparable physical profiles. In the same vein as James, the 6-foot-10, 245-pound Simmons – boasting the body type often associated with a forward – has shown a diverse skill set for someone of his size.
James and Simmons have a few more things in common, too. They share Rich Paul, of Klutch Sports Group, as an agent, and can say Lloyd Pierce has helped coach them at some point in their respective lives.
Pierce broke into the NBA ranks as an assistant in 2007, in the midst of James’ first run with Cleveland. Later, in 2013, Pierce joined Brett Brown’s staff with the Sixers, assuming the role of the club’s defensive coordinator.
“Obviously, they’re with the same agent, so it’s a tight-knit group,” said Pierce, following the James-Simmons meet up at the Lakers’ game last week.
That Simmons has already drawn comparisons to James without even playing in an NBA game yet “in a lot of ways, it’s unfair,” said Pierce. “But, it’s also an honor.”
Pierce added, “I know Ben has spent time with him and communicated with him, so any time you can get information and knowledge from someone that great, someone that talented, it’s only going to beneficial to his career.”
The day prior to the Sixers’ summer league outing with the Lakers, Simmons posted on his Instagram account his own picture of himself and James. The photo was apparently taken following a joint workout the two had together in Las Vegas.
“I’ve been knowing the kid for quite a while now, ever since his sophomore year in high school,” James said of Simmons last November, before the Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Sixers at The Center.
At the time, James called Simmons “a little brother of mine,” and that the city of Philadelphia should be “excited” to have the Australian as part of the Sixers’ growing young core.
“He has a great family,” said James. “Kid grew up well-rounded, and that’s a big part of the reason why he became the number one pick, other than his ability to play the game.
“He’s a great young talent, but he’s a much better person than he is basketball player.”
Along with being a guy who keeps pretty heady company.