CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was no surprise that Ben Simmons was chosen to play in the Rising Stars Challenge as part of the NBA All-Star Weekend.
What is somewhat surprising is that the 76ers point guard will actually take part in Friday night’s game, which pits 10 first- and second-year NBA players from the United States against 10 first- and second-year international players from the league.
The Australia native is much more than one of the NBA’s top international players — he is an NBA All-Star, period. And he’ll compete in Sunday’s All-Star Game.
Because of that, no one would hold it against him for backing out of the Rising Stars event.
So why play?
“I want to win,” said Simmons, who is averaging 16.8 points, 9 rebounds and 7.9 assists. “I like to compete, and I think it’s going to be a fun opportunity to play with these guys.”
Simmons sees the Rising Stars game as another platform for players to showcase their skills. He also loves being a part of the World team.
“That’s one of those things where I love coming to an event like this," he said, "and playing with guys who are over, and then finally being able to team up with them.”
He and this season’s rookie of the year front-runner, the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, are the headliners of the World team for the 9 p.m. game.
The World team has won two straight and three of four overall since the event went to a U.S.-vs.-the-world format in 2015.
Simmons had a huge hand in the World team’s 155-124 win last season in Los Angeles. He had 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting, a game-high 13 assists, six rebounds, four steals, and four turnovers in 22 minutes, 45 seconds.
Simmons acknowledged that it’s a sense of pride for the World team to beat the U.S. squad.
“I think for us, we just like to compete,” he said. “A lot of international players know how to play the game the right way. We did that last year, too.”
Former 76ers Bobby Jones and Chris Webber are among 13 finalists selected Friday for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The 2019 Hall of Fame inductees will be announced in April at the NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis. The Class of 2019 will be enshrined during Hall of Fame festivities in Springfield, Mass., in September.
Jones is recognized for being the standout sixth man on the Sixers’ 1983 NBA championship team. He was an eight-time NBA All-Defensive first-team selection. The winner of the 1983 Sixth Man award was also a four-time All-Star.
The Charlotte native played four seasons with the Denver Nuggets of the ABA and NBA before being traded to the Sixers on Aug. 16, 1978.
He averaged 15.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.7 blocks during his eight seasons with the Sixers.
Webber became a five-time All-Star and winner of the 1994 Rookie of the Year award in his 15 NBA seasons. The Sixers acquired him in a trade from the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 23, 2005. They waived him on Jan. 11, 2007. Webber averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals in three seasons in Philadelphia.
Webber also played for the Golden State Warriors, the Washington Bullets/Wizards, and Detroit Pistons during his career.
Marques Johnson, Jack Sikma, Ben Wallace and Paul Westphal are this year’s four first-time finalists.