As if being the first overall pick in this year’s NBA draft wasn’t pressure enough for Ben Simmons, now he has to live up to Shaq’s career projections.
The Big Aristotle was asked about Simmons’ potential while in Springfield, Massachusetts, for his Hall of Fame Induction. He offered up a comparison to LeBron James without hedging, per CSNPhilly.com’s Jessica Camerato:
“I don’t know all of them, but I know my guy’s going to be pretty good, Ben Simmons,” O’Neal said last week in Springfield, Mass.
O’Neal said he has paid attention to only the top two picks, Simmons and Brandon Ingram. He got to know Simmons’ game before he was drafted by the Sixers when Simmons attended his alma mater, LSU.
O’Neal recognized Simmons’ multidimensional skillset, from scoring to ball handling to rebounding, which sets him apart as a 6-foot-10 point-forward. Even though Simmons played just one season in college, that was enough time for O’Neal to draw comparisons between him and one of the most talented in the NBA.
“He’s a LeBron-type player,” Shaq 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.”
This comparison to LeBron isn’t especially new. Simmons has been mentioned in the same breath as him, Draymond Green, even a taller version of Jason Kidd. This is what we do with inbound prospects. We pit them against established pros, past and present.
But while this isn’t anything new for Simmons, that doesn’t make it any easier for him to live up to these expectations.
Players often talk about how they don’t want to be the next LeBron James or Michael Jordan or someone else. They want to carve out their own path. In this case, Simmons might say he wants to be “The first Ben Simmons” or “The best Ben Simmons.” That’s all well and dandy, but these corollaries have to mean something to youngsters like Simmons, even if they don’t mean everything.
So, you know, no pressure, Ben.