Sports

/

ArcaMax

Mike Sielski: Ben Simmons pens farewell letter to the Sixers and Philly, just like Zach Ertz -- but not really

Mike Sielski, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

PHILADELPHIA — After the Eagles traded tight end Zach Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals last week, he bid farewell to Philadelphia, the Eagles, and fans of the team in a letter that The Philadelphia Inquirer published Tuesday. Since it’s a foregone conclusion that the Sixers’ Ben Simmons eventually will be heading elsewhere, too, we took the liberty of writing his farewell letter for him. You’re welcome, Ben.

———

I would just like to start by saying that running onto the court every night at the Wells Fargo Center truly changed my life. You tried to inspire me to push my limits each and every day to make sure I left no stone unturned in my pursuit to represent you the way you thought you deserved. It just didn’t work. It was because of the pressure that you placed on me to be great and the demands that you made of me to improve my game that I knew I needed to get out of here as fast as possible.

In 2016, I was drafted to this city, away from my family and friends. So I brought them with me so they could pretend they were teaching me how to shoot a jump shot. The Philly family immediately wanted to adopt me, but I wasn’t interested. I came away with one goal, not to help win the first NBA championship in this city since 1983, but to step to the free-throw line without being reduced to 6 feet and 10 inches worth of room-temperature Jell-O. We didn’t achieve either of those goals, but the 76ers did agree to give me $177.2 million. Suckers.

That is something I will never forget, not because of all the hardware I could buy with that money, but because of the journey that took place. The players on this team are brothers to me. Well, cousins, actually. Second cousins. Distant cousins. Once or twice removed.

The grit, work, determination, and focus that each player provided was incredible compared to my unwillingness to take a shot from farther than five feet out, and it was solely to provide me with what I deserved: star treatment despite my sub-star caliber of play. This culminated in the worst experience I have ever had: the revelation that Daryl Morey was close to trading me to the Houston Rockets for James Harden. To know that I, the great Ben Simmons, was regarded as expendable in my job, just like millions of you, was the most humiliating thing I have ever experienced in my basketball career ... next to Game 7 against the Hawks, of course. The resentment and entitlement within my heart was tangible, and all I can say is that you guys deserved to be exposed to every single bit of that!!

There are so many people that I am angry at, and I know that I can’t snub everyone, but it wouldn’t be accurate if I acted like the slow and steady disintegration of my reputation in this city was solely a product of my own doing. Thank you to my family for always telling me that I was already the best son and brother and basketball player in the world and didn’t need to do anything to mature as a person or athlete. Thank you to the training staff for doing everything you could to get me ready to stand along the baseline and pray that no one passed me the ball. Thank you to the equipment staff for making sure my shorts had pockets deep enough to hold anything I might want to keep in them during practice.

Thank you to some of the hardest working people in the building who helped me on a daily basis, especially all the media-relations staffers who had to fend off all those awful reporters who wanted to ask me questions. Thank you to Bryan Colangelo for believing in me all these years, in the real world and on Twitter (wink, wink). Thank you to Mr. Harris for building such a chaotic organization and one that has always been surrounded by odd controversies every single second of my time here. Thank you to my big Instagram crew for literally everything, including fooling people every summer into believing I was challenging myself to diversify my game.

 

Lastly, thank you to all of my teammates over the years. You guys were the reason that Coach Brown and the other dude who doesn’t know if I could be a point guard on a championship team could keep me in games, even though opposing teams knew I wasn’t going to shoot the ball and it was like we were playing four-on-five on offense. You wanted me to leave every single thing that I had on that basketball court. But I never really understood that to become truly great, you have to be willing to grow, to put yourself in uncomfortable situations. I still don’t.

I especially want to thank Joel, who never deferred to me, never wanted to babysit me, never liked me, and threw me under the bus after Game 7. Have fun trying to win a championship without me before your body falls apart like a Jenga puzzle, you jerk.

Now comes the easiest part for me: saying goodbye to the city that I never connected with. The city that wanted to adopt a young rookie and watched that same rookie develop into the kind of veteran who would walk out of practice rather than carry out a simple defensive drill. The city that allowed me to show future Sixers that this city will push, inspire, and settle for nothing less than your absolute best — but if you pout and hold your breath, you can still escape. The city that gives me no credit for showing up at a Drexel game with my famous former girlfriend. (Wasn’t that just as good as Joel playing tennis or dunking on some schlub in a pickup game?) The city that truly changed my life through the interactions with my agents — interactions that led me to my holdout and trade demands. I will leave here with unbelievable memories that no other city could provide. Then I’ll forget them as soon as I end up somewhere else.

From the moment I arrived, this city had high expectations for me and expected me to live up to them. At the very least, you wanted me to make a good-faith effort, and you wanted me to show that I appreciated you in return. You acknowledged that I played excellent defense and had elite court vision and told me I could be a Hall of Famer if I just took a few more elbow jumpers. To which I said: Nah, I’m good. From the moment I arrived, I never treated this city like it was a place where I could spend my entire career. That’s why in the summer of 2021, I decided to make Morey follow through on his previous plan to trade me. Through your booing and lack of support, I will be able to make a tangible difference in my personal happiness.

All of this has culminated in the House of Ben project, which I’ll be breaking ground on in the next few weeks, once I find out what my new team is and where I’ll be living. I’ll be buying a new mansion in a place far away from Philadelphia, far from a team that signed me to a max contract and then refused to kowtow to me afterward, far from a fan base that expected me to perform one of the most basic skills in basketball and got frustrated with me when I didn’t. I’ll be going to a safe place that will shower me with all the love and support I need and that will honor the wonderfulness of me. It is truly through your turning against me — not understanding me — and failing to accept me that my legacy here will live on forever.

From the bottom of my heart, I am eternally grateful that I never have to play another game for the Sixers again. I came here as a spoiled kid and leave here as the same spoiled kid, forever committed to myself and myself alone. Philly, we were never world champions. Oh, well. This was not home. Philadelphia was never home.

I dislike you guys with all my heart. Leaving is a wide-open slam dunk. Go, Lakers. Or Warriors. Or even Timberwolves.

©2021 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.