Ben Simmons is backing himself to lift the struggling Philadelphia 76ers out of the doldrums after being taken with the No.1 pick on a red-letter day for Australian basketball at the NBA Draft.
Ben Simmons after securing the No.1 draft pick.
The 76ers, as expected, chose the 19-year-old first-up in Brooklyn on Friday, but the selection of giant centre Thon Maker as the No.10 pick to the Milwaukee Bucks was a surprise.It is the first time Australians have landed two spots in the top 10.
Simmons hugged parentsJulieand Dave after NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the selection inside the Barclays Center.
“It is a weight off my shoulders, honestly,” he said.”I’m relieved and happy to be a part of the organisation.”
Simmons moved to Newcastle from Melbourne when he was a toddler and stayed until the family moved back to Victoria when he was 10.
He started playing on the courts of Broadmeadow Basketball Stadium and represented Newcastle and Lake Macquarie in junior teams.
Dave Simmons, a former player and head coach for Newcastle in the NBL,told theHerald from New York that the family were “so excited”.
Ben Simmons’ new Foot Locker commercial Part 1“Julie and I are pretty overwhelmed,” he said.“This was just a fabulous moment for Ben and our family.”
Ben Simmons, who signed a $US20million ($26.30 million) deal with Nike and will earn $US15.42million over three years with the 76ers, faces a monumental task to turn Philadelphia around.
The 76ers were the worst team in the NBA last season with just 10 wins in 82 games.
Ben Simmons’ new Foot Locker commercial Part 2Pressure will be on Simmons to be the saviour, but he already has a close relationship with the coach, former Australian Boomers mentor Brett Brown.
“I think I can make an impact,” he said.”It is going to take a lot of work and everyone has to be on board, but we have a young team and I’m looking forward to getting there.I’ll get bumps and bruises, but that comes with being a rookie. It will be a new experience for me.”
Allen Iverson, who was picked No.1 by the 76ers 20 years ago and went on to become an 11-time All-Star, believes Simmons “can do it all” and “has a lot of young talent that can take us far”.
But he warned Philly fans were passionate and would accept him only if he gave100 per cent on the floor.
“There’s going to be some ups, and there’s going to be some downs, but these people will stick with you through your ups and your downs,” Iverson said.
“I’m the perfect example.”
Simmons is the third Australian-born player to be drafted No.1, after Bogut in 2005 and American Kyrie Irving in 2011.