Sixers: Ben Simmons speaks on passed-up dunk in Hawks series

Ben Simmons, Sixers Hawks trade (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons, Sixers Hawks trade (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Ben Simmons finally spoke publicly about the passed-up dunk in Game 7 between the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks in the 2021 Eastern Conference Semifinals. For everyone that forgot this moment, which I imagine is literally no one in the Philadelphia city limits, let me recap it for you.

On June 20th, 2021, the Sixers were hosting the Atlanta Hawks in South Philly for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. There was 3:30 left in the 4th quarter and the 76ers trailed the Hawks 88-86. Ben Simmons spun baseline where Trae Young was rotating on defense, inches from the rim. Instead of Simmons rising up and dunking the ball over the much smaller Young, he passed up the wide-open basket and passed to a cutting Matisse Thybulle who was fouled and missed a much more contested shot.

Anyone watching the game, even at full speed in live time, knew Simmons should have and could have dunked the ball easily. Joel Embiid was clearly upset at the top of the key, and just as confused as the entire city of Philadelphia as to why Ben passed the ball. The overwhelming assumption was that Simmons was afraid of being fouled and going to the foul line, where he was shooting a historic low free throw percentage in the playoffs.

Simmons was a guest on J.J. Redick’s podcast The Old Man and the Three on Thursday and here is what he had to say regarding this exact play.

Ben Simmons blames passed-up dunk in Sixers’ loss to Hawks on lack of court awareness

Simmons excuse for passing up on the dunk was it was a bang-bang play coming off of a spin move where he was unsure who on the Hawks would be waiting for him at the rim. Let us revisit the video of this play as it may be beneficial to watch it as you listen to Simmons describe it.

And here is where I call BS. It is well known that Simmons has an incredibly high basketball IQ; he even boasts about it himself earlier in the podcast with J.J. In the video above you can as Simmons backs down Gallinari, he has an unobstructed view of the entire floor and knows where each of the Hawks’ defenders are, including includes Trae Young. Young is the only player available help side if Simmons gets past Gallinari and he knows that. For him to say otherwise is just irresponsible and untrue.

I have frequently been on the record expressing my dislike for Ben Simmons, however in the spirit of fairness, I need to be able to compliment him when necessary. Simmons was very real on this podcast and addressed every issue the public had wanted him to talk about. Sure, some of his answers were self-aggrandizing and he often deflected responsibility, but it was far from his worst public appearance.

So why not just admit at the end of the interview that you were afraid of shooting the free throws and you were not in a good spot mentally. His mental health was notably at an all-time low and he had a mental lapse on the court and made the wrong decision. That is all his coaches, teammates and Philly fans ever wanted to hear. We wanted to hear him be human and take accountability rather than avoid the situation and then provide this unsatisfying, false excuse a year and a half late.

No explanation from Ben will be able to remedy the situation or bring any comfort to Philly fans for losing that series to the Atlanta Hawks. What might bring comfort to those fans though is the ability to rain down boos on him on November 22nd, when the Brooklyn Nets visit South Philly for his first return to play at the Wells Fargo Center, since that fateful night of July 20, 2021. It will be a night Simmons never forgets, for better or more likely worse.

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