One of the key players of the Philadelphia 76ers is Ben Simmons; a six foot, ten inch, twenty-two-year-old point guard who is just as important to this roster as the man known as “The Process” himself, Joel Embiid.
One of the greatest players to ever play in the National Basketball Association is Earvin “Magic” Johnson; former Los Angeles Lakers point guard for thirteen NBA seasons, five-time NBA champion, three-time NBA most valuable player, twelve time NBA all-star, and the man who just resigned from his role as President of Basketball Operations with the Lakers to return to his role of NBA ambassador.
For both Simmons and the Sixers, that news could be pivotal. Why? It’s because just a few months ago, Johnson was completely written off as someone who would be able to aide in further developing the talent that Simmons already possesses. Now, it’s completely fair game.
Earlier this season, Philadelphia 76ers general manager, Elton Brand, spoke with Los Angeles Lakers general manager, Rob Pelinka, regarding Ben Simmons and his desire to speak with NBA Hall of Famers after this season. On his list of Hall of Famers was “Magic” Johnson. When Brand was originally asked for this authorization, he declined the offer. What was originally failed to be mentioned is that Pelinka was contacted at the urgency of both of Simmons’ brothers to speak to Brand. Simmons wanted the Sixers to help him connect with some of basketball’s all-time greats.
At the time this was happening, I wouldn’t have faulted Elton Brand for declining that offer either. Think about it. The last thing you want is for your franchise point guard to mix in with a team like the Los Angeles Lakers. Ben Simmons was already spending time in the offseason with Kendall Jenner and Los Angeles had its appeal. The Lakers collapse hadn’t begun yet, so the thought of LeBron James, Kyle Kuzuma, and Lonzo Ball teaming with Simmons didn’t seem like something completely out of reach. The biggest piece is that “Magic” Johnson was still the President of Basketball Operations, so it felt like this was more of an attempt to poach a big piece of the Philadelphia 76ers future. I agree with what Brand did. He protected the Sixers and showed exactly why he is a good general manager. I recall even thinking that Johnson needed to “stay in his lane.” In hindsight, I wouldn’t retreat on those words.
The downfall of the Los Angeles Lakers this season has been a trainwreck. Between the disconnect of the rest of the youth of the Lakers roster and LeBron James and all the way to the resigning of the role of President of Basketball Operations from “Magic” Johnson. We all saw players sitting away from LeBron on the bench. Slowly, but surely, the Lakers turned into “the LeBron’s” in the eyes of a lot of people. I have a strong feeling that Johnson decided to step down before the other shoe dropped in Los Angeles. If you are a Lakers fan, this has been a rough season to endure. Being a Sixers fan, most of what you were thinking about his how to gameplan for the Boston Celtics. Now that Johnson is free from any ties with the Lakers, I think Elton Brand should be picking up the communication between Ben Simmons and Johnson to make this work out.
Recently, “Magic” Johnson has cited that the personal restrictions with being the President of Basketball Operations, especially after failing to make the playoffs with LeBron James, was part of the reason for him to move on from the Los Angeles Lakers. He would much rather be completely available and free of any “tampering” label to mentor Ben Simmons. This being the scenario, point blank, I am all for it. It’s worth noting as well that Johnson is not the only player on the list for Simmons to learn from. Other notables were Julius Erving and Kobe Bryant, both from the Philadelphia Sixers or Lakers pedigree. Just as important, Simmons has gone on record before to correlate his commitment to the Sixers alongside post-season success in Philadelphia. If this mentoring between Simmons and Johnson can bring out a better player on this team, then this potentially means that Simmons could be in a Sixers jersey for a long time. Find me a person in Philadelphia who doesn’t want that and I’ll show you a liar.
On the flipside, when comparing the impact that “Magic” Johnson left on the Los Angeles Lakers and the impact Elton Brand left on the Philadelphia 76ers after one season, it’s a matter of night and day. Ultimately, and I think many people may disagree, the difference between the success of the two teams has to do with the strong team play of the Sixers without the signing of LeBron James and the constant making decisions through LeBron on the Lakers. Just a year ago, however, Bryan Colangelo was a thing and Brett Brown had to find an interim general manager, which he struck gold in Brand. During this suspect time where the Sixers had an interim general manager after the Colangelo ordeal, it seemed like Philadelphia wouldn’t be a place where superstars would want to play. LeBron made his ultimate decision to go to the Lakers and in hindsight, Philadelphia is thankful. Now the Lakers are where the Sixers were a year ago, with Johnson up and leaving without any real hint to Jeanie Buss. It’s safe to say that with the final act, “Magic” made the Lakers disappear. If you “Trust The Process” then I say you “Respect The Brand.”
Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports