Ben Simmons isn't feeding into the comparisons between him and LeBron James. The difference between the rookie and the three-time champion, four-time MVP, 13-time All-Star (and so on, and so on) was evident in their first meeting.
"It's nothing close," Simmons said before the Sixers' 113-91 loss to the Cavaliers (see observations). "He's a Hall of Famer, if not the greatest ever to play the game."
The Sixers started Simmons against James to test their similarities in stature, style and skills: the 6-foot-10, 230-pound point guard Simmons versus the 6-foot-8, 250-pound do-all James. Then James showed why he's a future Hall of Famer and Simmons, 21, has years to grow.
James did just about whatever he wanted to do from tipoff. He made his high-scoring intentions clear by attacking the basket, as Simmons has done early in his career, to start the game. James 15 points in a span of only seven minutes. That domination continued for 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes.
Simmons, on the other hand, struggled in contrast to usual triple-double-tempting performances. Over 35 minutes he scored 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and only dished two assists as he wasn't as effective as he usually is in finding his teammates.
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Simmons had to leave the game early after suffering a sprained right ankle in the fourth quarter. X-ray results were negative and he will be re-evaluated on Tuesday, the day before the Sixers' next game against the Wizards.
"Everybody wants to be their own player but there's going to be comparisons," Simmons, who was receiving treatment on his ankle after the game, said earlier in the night. "LeBron, I don't think you can compare anybody to him."
Simmons and James have a unique relationship in that they are linked together by their agency. They both are represented by Klutch Sports Group, and through that have spent time together in the offseason. Simmons reaches out to James when he has a question or needs advice, tapping into 15 years of Hall of Fame-caliber NBA experience. James is happy to reply.
"I'm honored that a young, gifted kid like himself would allow me to even be a part of his life and be able to mentor him and be like a big brother to him," James said after the game. "So I'm honored by that and I will continue to do that as long as he would like me to."
The comparisons are only going to become more frequent as Simmons continues in his career. He already is averaging 18.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and has 11 double-doubles and two triple-doubles through 18 games played. The ceiling is sky high for the versatile rookie, who has shown he can take over games at a rapid pace.
Still, Simmons is saying hold off on the comparisons. He has a lot of work to do first.
"You shouldn't compare me to somebody like that," Simmons said. "Not yet."