Jonathon Simmons’ improbable journey to the NBA has been well-documented.
After two years with the Austin Spurs in the NBA D-League, Simmons has played in many high-profile games in his young career with the NBA’s Spurs. That includes an opening-night contest against the Warriors, when Simmons tallied 20 points off the bench and made a statement with a massive, chasedown block on reigning MVP Stephen Curry in a blowout win.
But perhaps no stage was bigger than the one Simmons performed on Friday night.
Amongst the NBA’s top first and second-year players, Simmons put on a show in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, finishing with 19 points on 9-of-15 shooting in 21 minutes off the bench. He was Team USA’s third-leading scorer.
“It’s fun. You get up for the big games as a basketball player,” Simmons said Friday. “That’s what I’ve been doing all my life.
“It’s definitely a surreal feeling, something I’ll be able to talk about for the next few years.”
Although the USA lost 150-141 to the World Team, Simmons made his presence felt alongside some players already considered borderline All-Stars, such as Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic and Kristaps Porzingis.
Simmons’ performance featured a backwards, alley-oop jam and a chasedown block on Buddy Hield eerily similar to the one he had on Curry. The Houston product has made a habit of racing back on defense for emphatic rejections this season.
Chase down blocks are becoming a thing for Jonathon Simmons.
— NBA (@NBA) February 1, 2017
In Friday’s game, Simmons wore customized shoes that represent his journey to NBA success through the Austin Spurs. He says he will never forget the impact his NBA D-League tenure had on his current status as a rising star in the NBA.
“The Spurs organization is all about developing,” Simmons said. “The D-League was definitely a grind. But me loving the game like I do, and being able to block out a lot of the extra stuff that’s going on off the court, it just helped me.”
“You have to work hard in the D-League. Everybody calls it a grind, but you have to really know the definition of grinding.”
With Simmons playing 18 minutes per game, the Spurs have the second-best record in the NBA (43-13) and appear poised for another deep playoff run. So, while he’s already proven he can shine on the biggest stages, the spotlight will only continue to get brighter for the D-League alum.