There is a lot of pressure that goes with being the number one NBA pick but Philadelphia 76ers recruit Ben Simmons insisted he can handle it.
After months of speculation, the 76ers unsurprisingly used the top pick to select Australian Simmons at the NBA Draft in Brooklyn on Thursday.
Already compared to four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, who guided the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first championship last week, pressure is now on Simmons to help the lowly 76ers back up the standings.
But the 19-year-old from LSU said he is ready to lead the rebuilding 76ers.
“I’m ready to just put in the work. As long as I’m working as hard as I can, that’s all I can really ask of myself,” Simmons said. “I’m happy to be part of the family now. It’s a weight off my chest.
“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a while, so I’m glad I’ve made history, not only for myself but my family and Australian basketball.”
Simmons added: “It feels amazing, honestly. My legs were shaking when I was on stage. Anything you want to do, you can do, honestly. I’ve been wanting to do that since I was five, six, seven, and I’ve finally accomplished that.”
Thursday’s draft was the first time the 76ers had the number one pick in two decades.
In 1996, the 76ers selected Hall of Fame guard Allan Iverson, someone Simmons looked up to.
“A lot of people don’t know that I actually had a poster of AI when I was young in my room. I was a big diamond-cut poster of him with the braids,” Simmons told reporters.
“I just remember him being one of those point guards, a smaller guy with braids and corn rows and the headbands. I remember I used to have the corn rows when I was younger. He was one of those players that fought every day.”
Fellow Australian Thon Maker was also drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with pick 10 but Simmons is relishing the opportunity to renew his rivalry with childhood friend Dante Exam of the Utah Jazz.
With the likes of Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles already playing in the NBA, Simmons was asked which Australian matchup he was most excited about.
“Dante,” Simmons said. “I’m definitely going at him when we play. We’ve had rivalries since we were like seven years old. It’s kind of weird seeing that relationship change from playing in the backyard to now we’re going to be playing in the NBA.”