In 2016, the Philadelphia 76ers scooped up Ben Simmons with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft.
There were plenty of questions surrounding his work ethic prior to the event, but it initially seemed like things were going to work out pretty well for everyone involved.
Simmons missed the entirety of what would’ve been his first season with the ankle injury he suffered during training camp, but he earned Rookie of the Year honors in his inaugural campaign. He kept that momentum going, as he was selected to the All-Star Game the following year and was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team at the end of the 2019-20 season.
Unfortunately, things eventually took a major turn for the worse.
There were concerns about Simmons’ shooting abilities as early as 2018, and he was reportedly the source of some internal friction that led to the 76ers exploring a trade the following year.
However, things really started to fall apart after Simmons passed up a wide-open shot at a crucial moment in Philly’s playoff series against Atlanta in 2021, which essentially marked the beginning of the end of his time with the 76ers.
Simmons voluntarily forfeited a boatload of money after refusing to suit up for the team the following season before he was ultimately shipped off to the Nets (a development that resulted in Joel Embiid posting one of the best reactions in the history of NBA Twitter).
That change of scenery didn’t do much to help him turn things around, as he’s been a shell of his former self in Brooklyn thanks in no small part to his refusal to even attempt the easiest baskets imaginable.
Simmons has never been a stellar free throw shooter—he hit 67% of his attempts while at LSU—but the man who posted a .598 percentage from the charity stripe over the course of his first four seasons has seen that number dip to an abysmal .439 this year.
Now, we may have some insight into why he’s struggled on that front courtesy of a story shared by an anonymous NBA coach who discussed what may have been the tipping point on that front during a recent conversation with Heavy.
Based on what they had to say, Simmons’ free throw woes could be traced back to what unfolded during a game between the 76ers and the Wizards in 2017 where he may have taken a psychological L he hasn’t been able to bounce back from:
“The first guy that started the Hack-a-Ben process was Scott Brooks with Washington. They’re playing Philly a few years ago and Philly’s up by around 20.
Brooks starts putting Simmons on the line in the fourth quarter, and the game is getting closer as Ben is stepping to the line and bricking more and more foul shots. So finally Bradley Beal had to foul him. Usually you don’t have your best player fouling, but at that point he did.
“When that happened, Ben and Beal had this sort of animated conversation. Ben said, ‘I’m tired of you motherf—kers fouling me on purpose, man. I’m going to step up here and knock these two down. Five thousand dollars says I will.’
To which Beal replied, ‘You wanna make it 20?’ And then he went up and bricked one. I don’t think he said another word.”