CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The thought of being a forward in the NBA never entered Ben Simmons' mind.
No matter how tall he was going to grow up to be, he wanted to be a guard. If he didn't fit the conventional role, he would carve one out for himself.
"As soon as I was on the court, my dad told me to be creative and do what you want at a young age," Simmons said. "And he told me to dribble as soon as I got a rebound. That was just always on my mind. I never thought about being a big guy and going to the post."
The connection between Simmons' father, Dave, and the Sixers is well-known by now. Long before Simmons was born, Brett Brown coached his father in Australia, where he played professionally for over 10 years.
While Brown was very familiar with Dave Simmons' game, the younger Simmons' style would be anything but familiar to the NBA. Dave Simmons helped develop his son into a 6-foot-10, 250-pound point guard.
And the 2016 No. 1 pick at that.
"Him being a professional, he knew I was going to be athletic and tall," Simmons said of his father. "To give me the biggest advantage was to tell me to dribble and do things that guards would do because there wasn't anybody else really doing that in Australia."
Simmons often changed teams in Australia as his father sought out coaches that could foster his unique style and provide him the opportunity to experiment on the court. There was no blueprint for his game. He picked up crafty moves from AND1 mixtapes while harnessing the power of a post player.
"I watched Allen Iverson growing up and guys like that and 'Bron (LeBron James)," Simmons said. "So the way I play is just who I've watched."
Now the global basketball world is watching Simmons. He is averaging 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.8 steals in his rookie season. His early numbers have tied him to Oscar Robertson and he has drawn comparisons to Magic Johnson.
There's no replica of Simmons currently in the NBA. For now, he and oversized ball handlers like Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo are anomalies. But undoubtedly, there are talented young basketball players watching Simmons break traditional roles. Perhaps Simmons is just an early example of making non-traditional roles ... traditional.
"Maybe in a few years we'll see a lot of guys our height doing the same thing," Simmons said. "So it'll be normal."