The debate can finally be put to rest. Ben Simmons is a rookie, and he has the hardware to prove it.
Simmons was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year during the league’s annual awards show on Monday night. Simmons beat out Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Boston’s Jayson Tatum for the award.
“Wow. I’d like to thank my family to start off with. Family, friends, you know I wouldn’t be here without them,” Simmons said. “My teammates, of course, and my great coach. The city of Philadelphia for really embracing me and my family. Thank you.”
Simmons became the third Sixer to ever to receive the honor after Michael Carter-Williams (2013-14) and Allen Iverson (1996-97). He also became the first Australian to win the award in what turned out to be a landslide. Simmons received 90 of 101 first-place votes while Mitchell took the other 11. Simmons added 10 second-place votes and one third-place vote for 481 total points. That was far and beyond Mitchell's 323 total points and Tatum's 101.
Much to the chagrin of Jazz fans everywhere.
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) June 26, 2018
After sitting out last season with a broken foot, Simmons took the league by storm in 2017-18. The phenom averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals during the regular season. He also racked up 12 triple-doubles, second only to Oscar Robertson for a player in his rookie season.
“I am proud of the fact that two of the past five Rookies of the Year have come from our program’s development efforts, which are the bloodline of our culture,” Sixers head coach and interim general manager Brett Brown said in a statement. “Ben Simmons is so much an example of this fact. He had been a college four-man and transitioned into the NBA as a point guard; that, in itself, is an amazing story. This positional change and added responsibility only confirms how exciting his future is as a multi-dimensional player. His character and his talents will be a building block of our championship quest for many, many years. I am so proud to share in his award and so proud of his teammates for also helping him achieve this recognition.”
Simmons’ production was never in question throughout the season, but his standing as a rookie was a hot topic of debate.
Pundits asked whether Simmons should be considered a rookie since he had the benefit of working and learning in the Sixers’ program during his lost 2016-17 season.
Even Mitchell, who garnered the NBA players’ association Leader of the New School Award for top rookie, got in on the act. He openly said Simmons shouldn’t be considered a rookie and even went so far as wearing a hoodie with the definition of the word written across the chest (the definition actually helped Simmons’ case, stating it referenced someone “playing” in their first season).
Mitchell doubled down on that sentiment with his choice of vehicle for the NBA awards show.
To his credit, Simmons never let the noise get to him. The point guard simply went about his business to help the Sixers post a 24-win increase from a season ago and reach the playoffs for the first time in six season.
“If his argument is that I’m not a rookie, if that’s the only argument he has, I’m in pretty good shape,” Simmons said in April. “There’s a rule in the NBA for a reason. I’m not going to wear a sweatshirt tomorrow though.”
No need. Simmons can just glance at his trophy case now for validation.