Benjamin David Simmons (born 20 July 1996) is an Australian professional basketball player for the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In his playoff debut, in Game 1 of the 76ers' first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat, Simmons had 17 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in a 130–103 win. In Game 4, Simmons helped the 76ers take a 3–1 lead in the series with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a 106–102 win. He became the first rookie since Magic Johnson in 1980 to have a playoff triple-double, and became the fifth rookie with a triple-double in the playoffs, joining Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry Lucas and Tom Gola. Simmons helped the 76ers move on to the second round of the playoffs with a 4–1 defeat of the Heat, as he recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds in a 104–91 win in Game 5. The 76ers went on to lose in five games to the Boston Celtics in the second round, with Simmons recording 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a 114–112 loss in Game 5. At the season's end, Simmons was named the NBA Rookie of the Year and earned NBA All-Rookie First Team honours.
Simmons was born in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy, to American-born father Dave Simmons and Australian mother Julie. He was raised with his 5 brothers and sisters—Melissa, Emily, Liam, Sean, and Olivia—the first four from his mother's previous marriage. His father played college basketball for Oklahoma City University before turning professional with the Melbourne Tigers in Australia's National Basketball League in 1989, and later becoming a naturalised citizen.
On 13 November 2015, Simmons made his college debut in LSU's season opener, recording a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds as a starter in a win over McNeese State. He helped LSU start the season 3–0 before recording 21 points, 20 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals in a loss to Marquette on 23 November. On 2 December, he helped LSU break a three-game losing streak by recording 43 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals and 3 blocks in a 119–108 win over North Florida. His 43 points were the most for a Tigers player since Shaquille O'Neal had 43 against Northern Arizona on 28 December 1991. After recording 14 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Kentucky on 5 January 2016, Simmons was dubbed the best all-round player since LeBron James by NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. On 11 February, he was named to the 35-man midseason watchlist for the Naismith Trophy. Nine days later, Simmons came off the bench for the first time after being removed from LSU's starting line-up for their game against Tennessee due to academic reasons. Following the conclusion of the regular season, Simmons was named first-team All-Southeastern Conference and the league's Freshman of the Year on the 2016 Coaches SEC voting. He was also named to the eight-player All-SEC Freshman team.
In the week leading up to the 2016 NBA draft, Simmons' attitude and character were questioned by a number of NBA media analysts. Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown, former Australian national team coach and a friend of the Simmons family, repudiated the claims being made and was content with Simmons' pre-draft behaviour. On 23 June, he was selected by Brown and the 76ers with the number one overall pick in the 2016 draft, becoming the third Melbourne-born number one overall pick in 11 years (Andrew Bogut in 2005 and Kyrie Irving in 2011). He was also the first college player in the modern era to be selected with the first overall pick despite never playing in the NCAA Tournament.
On 28 January 2015, Simmons was named as a starter for the East team to compete in the 38th annual McDonald's All-American Game. On 10 March 2015, he was named the Morgan Wootten Award winner, given annually to the best male McDonald's All-American player who exemplifies outstanding character, exhibits leadership, and embodies the values of being a student-athlete in the classroom and in the community. In doing so, he became just the second player from a Florida high school to win the award behind Austin Rivers in 2011. He was then named the Naismith Prep Player of the Year on 12 March and the Gatorade National Player of the Year on 24 March after leading the Eagles to a 28–1 record and a berth in the High School National Tournament for the third straight year. In 29 regular season games, he averaged 28.0 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.6 steals per game while shooting 70.7 percent from the field and recording 24 double-doubles.
In Year 9, at the age of 15, Simmons played basketball for Box Hill Senior Secondary College at the 2011 Australian Schools Championships before taking up a scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport in 2012. Later that year, Simmons made his first appearance in the United States at the renowned Pangos All-American Camp for basketball prospects. Despite being only 15 years old, he was chosen to represent Australia at the 2012 FIBA Under-17 World Championship, where he helped his team win the silver medal. Simmons' tournament highlights included a 26-point, 10-rebound, 5-steal outing against the Czech Republic.
Entering his freshman year of college, Simmons began his career on a four-stop national tour in Australia with the LSU Tigers men's basketball team. Relishing the opportunity to show his teammates where it all began for him, Simmons made his debut for LSU on 15 August in an 89–75 win over the Newcastle All-Stars in the first game of LSU's preseason Australia trip. His double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds led the way for the Tigers, playing at the Newcastle Basketball Stadium where his father played professionally for the Newcastle Falcons in the late 1990s. The Tigers completed their five-game Australian tour with a 3–2 record, and over the five games, Simmons averaged 20 points and nine rebounds per game to lead the team in all major statistical categories. Upon returning to the United States, Simmons was featured on the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook 35th anniversary cover, was named the SEC's Preseason Player of the Year, and earned Associated Press preseason All-America team honours. His Preseason Player of the Year honour made him just the second freshman to earn the award, joining Kentucky's Julius Randle in 2013, and his All-America team honour made him just the fourth freshman to be honoured on the preseason team.
Simmons returned to Montverde Academy for his junior season in 2013–14. On the season, Simmons averaged 18.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 69 percent from the field and 77 percent from the free throw line. He recorded 88 blocks as well. Montverde finished the season with a 28–0 record, closing with a 71–62 victory over Oak Hill Academy in the High School National Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Simmons had 24 points and 12 rebounds as he earned MVP honours. Following the season, he was named America's top high school junior and was voted MVP at the National Basketball Players' Association Top 100 camp.
In January 2013, Simmons moved to the U.S. to compete against boys of comparable size and athleticism. He attended Montverde Academy in Montverde, Florida, where he immediately started playing. In April 2013, he helped Montverde rally from a 16-point deficit to beat New Jersey's St Benedict's 67–65 in the final of the High School National Tournament. After competing in the Jordan Brand Classic International Game, he returned to Melbourne where he joined the Bulleen Boomers of the Big V competition in June 2013. He played six games for Bulleen while averaging 12.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game.
In July 2014, Simmons was added to the Boomers extended squad for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. However, he was later cut from the squad as he did not make the final 12-man roster. In August 2015, Simmons signaled his intentions to represent Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympics and said he was aiming to win a medal. However, in April 2016, Simmons instead decided to not join the Boomers for the Rio Olympics in order to concentrate on preparing for his rookie season in the NBA. In October 2017, Simmons made clear his intentions to represent Australia at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. On 15 May 2019, Simmons confirmed he would represent Australia in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and multiple exhibition games against Canada and the United States.
On 12 November 2014, Simmons signed a National Letter of Intent to play college basketball for Louisiana State University (LSU).
Considered a five-star recruit by ESPN.com, Simmons was listed as the No. 1 power forward and the No. 1 player in the nation in 2015.
Following the announcement of the NCAA tournament field, with LSU failing to earn a bid, Tigers head coach Johnny Jones announced that the team would not play in any postseason tournament. On 21 March 2016, Simmons declared for the 2016 NBA draft, forgoing his final three years of college eligibility. He withdrew from school at the conclusion of the season with plans to move immediately to Phoenix, Arizona in advance of the NBA draft. He also signed with American sports agency Klutch Sports, which is primarily owned by Rich Paul.
In the summer of 2018, Simmons' brother Liam resigned his position as assistant coach at the University of California, Riverside to work with Simmons on improving his shooting game. The decision to hire his brother as his shooting coach was not without controversy or criticism. His sister Emily, a former member of the Washington State University women's rowing team who has worked for Klutch Sports since 2014, is the wife of NFL player Michael Bush. His godfather, David Patrick, was an assistant coach at LSU and was a part of his sole season there. A cousin of Simmons, who had attended the 2016 NBA draft, was killed in a hit-and-run on 25 June 2016 in New Jersey.
On 3 July 2016, Simmons signed his rookie scale contract with the 76ers and joined the team for the 2016 NBA Summer League. While he shot the ball poorly during his first three Summer League games, Simmons was praised for his court awareness and passing ability for a big man. He went on to be named in the All-Las Vegas Summer League First Team, and in six Summer League games, he averaged 10.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.
On 30 September 2016, Simmons rolled his right ankle during the 76ers' final training camp scrimmage. After receiving an X-ray and MRI of the foot and ankle, it was determined that Simmons had suffered a fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone of his right foot, and was estimated to miss three to four months. However, on 24 February 2017, he was ruled out for the entire 2016–17 season after tests revealed that his broken right foot had not fully healed.
In November 2016, Simmons was featured in the Showtime documentary film One & Done, providing an insight into his time as a one-and-done college player, as well as exploring his and his family's thoughts on the NCAA and the NBA's 'one and done' rule.
Some pundits doubted his strength, fitness and scoring prowess after a full season on the sidelines, with only an outside chance for rookie of the year. In his NBA debut on 18 October 2017, Simmons had 18 points and 10 rebounds in a 120–115 season-opening loss to the Washington Wizards. In his third game, on 21 October, Simmons recorded 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in a 128–94 loss to the Toronto Raptors, joining Oscar Robertson as the only players ever to post 10+ points, 10+ rebounds and 5+ assists in their first three NBA games. In his fourth game, on 23 October, Simmons recorded his first career triple-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a 97–86 win over the Detroit Pistons, becoming the third rookie after Robertson (1960) and Art Williams (1967) to record a triple-double in his first four games. He went on to become the only player in NBA history to begin a season with at least 170 points, 100 rebounds and 80 assists in his team's first 10 games. On 29 November, he had 31 points and a career-high 18 rebounds in a 118–113 win over the Wizards. On 22 February, he scored a career-high 32 points, making two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to complete Philadelphia's rally from five points down in the final minute, as the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 116–115. On 15 March against the New York Knicks, Simmons recorded his second consecutive triple-double and joined Robertson and Magic Johnson as the third rookie in NBA history to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. His triple-double against the Knicks was his eighth of the season, thus entering second place for most triple-doubles in a rookie season, trailing only Robertson (26). On 19 March against the Charlotte Hornets, Simmons recorded 11 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists, and became the third rookie to have 0 turnovers in a triple-double game. On 24 March, he recorded his 10th triple-double of the season with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists in a 120–108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. On 26 March, he had 11 assists in a 123–104 win over the Denver Nuggets, topping Allen Iverson (567) to set the team rookie record for assists. On 6 April, he had 27 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists in a 132–130 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, leading the 76ers to their 13th straight win. He was subsequently named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday 2 April to Sunday 8 April. In the 76ers' penultimate game of the regular season on 10 April, the 76ers set a franchise record with their 15th consecutive victory following a 121–113 win over the Atlanta Hawks, with Simmons recording 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. The 76ers finished the regular season with a 16th straight win to earn the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Their record of 52–30 set the best team mark since 2001, when they went 56–26. At the conclusion of the regular season, Simmons was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in March and April, earning the award for the third consecutive month and the fourth time overall.
In September 2018, Simmons announced that during the off-season he began working to improve his shooting with his brother Liam Tribe-Simmons, former assistant coach for University of California, Riverside Highlanders men's basketball team and Southwest Baptist Bearcats men's basketball team, and would continue to do so for the remainder of the season. In the 76ers' season opener on 16 October 2018, Simmons recorded 19 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in a 105–87 loss to the Boston Celtics. Two days later, he had a triple-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in a 127–108 win over the Chicago Bulls. He reached his 13th career triple-double with 2:34 left in the third and became the first Sixer to ever get one in a home opener. On 2 January, he scored 29 points in a 132–127 win over the Phoenix Suns. On 5 January, he recorded his sixth triple-double of the season with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in a 106–100 win over the Dallas Mavericks. On 11 January, he had 23 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in a 123–121 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Two days later, he had 20 points, 22 rebounds and nine assists in a 108–105 win over the New York Knicks. On 15 January, with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Simmons became the second fastest player in NBA history to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists, trailing only Oscar Robertson. Simmons reached this milestone in 125 games, which is 9 games faster than Magic Johnson and 33 games faster than LeBron James. On 23 January, he had 21 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in a 122–120 win over the San Antonio Spurs. On 31 January, he received his first All-Star selection as an Eastern Conference reserve, becoming the first Australian to receive the honour. On 28 February, he recorded his ninth triple-double of the season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in a 108–104 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Two days later, he had 25 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in a 120–117 loss to the Golden State Warriors. In game two of the 76ers' first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, Simmons had his second career postseason triple-double with 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to lead Philadelphia to a 145–123 win. In game three of the series, Simmons scored a postseason career-high 31 points on 11-of-13 shooting in a 131–115 win over the Nets, putting the 76ers up 2–1 in the series.
As a teenager, Simmons was torn between his two loves of basketball and Australian rules football, but eventually decided to focus on basketball. Simmons later revealed it was his football coach's decision to play him in the position of ruckman that swayed his decision to pursue basketball; he wanted to "play forward and kick goals" instead. Simmons claims to continue to support the Essendon Bombers in the Australian Football League, and describes the sport as "an amazing game". In August 2019, Simmons attended an Essendon home fixture at Marvel Stadium and reaffmired his support for the Bombers.