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Kawhi Leonard will face defensive monster he helped create in Ben Simmons

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Kawhi Leonard will face defensive monster he helped create in Ben Simmons

When Kawhi Leonard goes up against Ben Simmons Tuesday night as a Clipper, he’ll be facing a monster he helped create.

Then a Raptor, Leonard had a series for the ages in taking down the Sixers in seven games. Lost in the Finals MVP’s prolific scoring series and Game 7 dagger was the job Simmons did in defending him.

It’s part of what has led Simmons to putting himself in serious consideration for Defensive Player of the Year.

“Definitely,” Simmons said when asked if guarding Leonard had a lasting impact. “I think he kind of set the tone for me defensively. ... I just tried to carry that energy and consistency to now.”

Early on in that series, Brett Brown tried different players on Leonard. He wanted to show the star different looks and had the likes of Jimmy Butler to also match up. After Leonard scorched the Sixers early in the series, Brown made the decision to keep Simmons on him.

In those seven games, Leonard shot 53 percent (86 of 164). When guarded by Simmons, he shot 40 percent (20 of 50) and just 4 of 17 from three. When anyone not named Simmons guarded him, Leonard hit a scorching 58.7 percent (67 of 114).

While his final shot went down in Game 7, Leonard was held to just 16 of 39 that night. Unfortunately, one of those 16 ended the Sixers’ season.

“We didn't click initially,” Simmons said when asked about last year’s series against Toronto. “I think we all let each other down but at the same time we got to grow. I wouldn't say let each other down. We played hard, we fought. We took them to Game 7 in Toronto, which is tough, especially for a young team. It was a great learning experience and we're just trying to get better.”

Simmons truly has taken that into this season. 

When you look at some of the players Simmons has guarded, it’s a murderer’s row. Guys like Butler, Jayson Tatum, Pascal Siakam, Bradley Beal — and Simmons has more than held his own. He also leads the NBA in steals, defensive loose balls recovered and is tied for second in deflections.

On Tuesday, Simmons will be charged with guarding the likes of Leonard and perhaps his new superstar teammate Paul George. Simmons could even be asked to check the super dangerous Lou Williams or relentless Montrezl Harrell. 

Whichever player Simmons guards, he understands the importance of trying to get a win against one of the West’s best before the All-Star Break.

“We got to get a win,” Simmons said. “I think it's gonna give us a lot of confidence coming back. To get that mental break, it's like a restart button, refresh button. So that's going to be a tough challenge. We love to compete against the best so we're looking forward to it.”

Competing against the best is what’s helped Simmons become one of the best defenders in the NBA.

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Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford has donated $500,000 to support coronavirus relief in the Dominican Republic, as well as in each region of the United States where he's played for a team, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Horford’s father Tito was the first Dominican-born NBA player, and Al was born in the country. The family later moved to Michigan, where Horford attended Grand Ledge High School. He went to the University of Florida and has played for three NBA cities — Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia. 

Several other members of the Sixers organization have also made charitable donations during the coronavirus pandemic. Joel Embiid has pledged to donate $500,000 to COV-19 medical relief efforts. Ben Simmons launched “The Philly Pledge,” an initiative which encourages donations to Philabundance and the PHL COVID-19 Fund that’s received support from a wide range of Philadelphia athletes, among them teammates Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Norvel Pelle and Marial Shayok. 

Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer have made several donations related to coronavirus relief, including to Philabundance and to CHOP and Cooper Hospital.

Limited partner Michael Rubin aims to have his company Fanatics produce a million masks and gowns for hospital and emergency healthcare workers. 

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Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

There's a lot of home schooling going on right now, so why not use some of this time to learn more about the history of your favorite teams? In this edition of Sixers Home School, we look back at the night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan.

In a vacuum, rookie Allen Iverson crossing over the legendary Michael Jordan on March 12, 1997, at what was then known as the CoreStates Center was impressive enough.

Putting it into context makes you understand just how big of a deal it was at the time.

The 21-year-old Iverson was having a strong rookie campaign after the Sixers drafted him No. 1 overall. He was still a month away from setting an NBA rookie record with five straight games of 40-plus points. He wasn’t sporting what would become his trademark cornrows — though he did rock them when he won MVP of the Schick Rookie Game. 

This night was when he began to really put a bow on what would turn into a Rookie of the Year season.

As for Jordan and the Bulls, they were ho humming their way to a 69-win season and their fifth title in seven years. Jordan was 33, and though his game had evolved, he was as dominant as ever. Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman provided all the help he would need.

But on this night, it wasn’t about the Bulls, who celebrated receiving their championship ring ceremony by trouncing the Sixers and shutting down Iverson earlier in the season.

This was about the kid from Hampton, Virginia. The six-foot guard from Georgetown that grew up idolizing His Airness, but also told a coach back in high school that he was good enough to take him. 

“I remember the first time I played against him,” Iverson said in his Hall of Fame speech. “I walked out on the court and I looked at him, and for the first time in my life a human being didn’t look real to me.”

Though the first time the two actually talked was not necessarily cordial.

“The first time I ever talked to him was that year playing in the Rookie Game,” Iverson said in an interview with Complex. “I’ll never forget it because he said, ‘What’s up, you little b----?’ I’ll never forget it.”

Whether the moment provided extra motivation or what, Iverson was at times the best player on the court — which, given who was on the court, is a hell of a statement.

Iverson would finish with a game-high 37 points and foul out in a four-point loss. No, the Sixers didn’t win that night, but the fact that Iverson nearly willed a team full of guys like Scott Williams, Mark Davis and Rex Chapman to a victory over that juggernaut was remarkable.

But over the course of time, nobody remembers — or really cares — who won that game. It was the moment A.I. crossed over M.J. It wasn’t quite a torch-passing moment as Jordan would go on to win another MVP and championship, but it was a clear indication that Philadelphia had drafted a star.

That highlight dominated every sportscast the following day and had Sixers fans' imaginations running wild.

The legend of Iverson only continued to grow from there as he became one Philadelphia’s most celebrated athletes and joined his idol in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Years later, he spoke to Jordan about the moment he got him with his legendary crossover.

“I went to a Charlotte game and I was telling him how much he meant to me and how I rocked with him,” Iverson went on to say in the interview with Complex. “He was like, ‘Man, you don’t rock with me like that because you wouldn’t have crossed me like that.’”

For as much as Iverson had idolized Jordan, his desire to beat him and be the best outweighed that.

“I always knew that once I got to the league, I was going to try my move on the best,” Iverson said, “so he was just a victim that night.”

That night, a star was born and a legacy was just beginning.

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