Philadelphia 76ers fans remember the play quite well.
With three and a half minutes remaining in Game 7 against the Atlanta Hawks, Ben Simmons spun past his defender in the lane and inexplicably passed the ball to Matisse Thybulle instead of finishing the easy dunk. The Sixers went on to lose the game and the series, and Simmons never suited up for the team again.
Now with the Brooklyn Nets, Simmons finally reflected on the infamous play more than a year later, but his explanation won’t make Sixers fans feel any better.
Ben Simmons’ passed-up dunk marked the beginning of the end
The lasting image of Simmons as a 76er will always be the wide-open dunk he passed up in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Hawks in 2021.
With the Sixers down two points and time running out in the fourth quarter, Simmons maneuvered his way into the paint for what should’ve been an easy dunk to tie the game. Instead, he didn’t even look at the rim and dumped the ball off to a cutting Thybulle.
It wasn’t just the waste of two points that irked Sixers fans in the moment. It was the fact that Simmons had grown so diffident as a shooter that he wasn’t even looking at the rim when he had the ball in his hands. After the series loss, fans started piling on Simmons saying he can’t be a part of Philadelphia’s future if he doesn’t change his gun-shy offensive approach.
Simmons’ relationship with the team and fan base deteriorated after that, and he eventually forced his way out of town.
Simmons’ excuse for the passed-up dunk won’t help 76ers fans cope
It’s been more than a year since the infamous no-dunk that led to Simmons’ departure, but he’s finally spoken out about the play. His explanation won’t help Sixers fans forgive him, though.
“In the moment I just spun and I’m assuming Trae [Young] is going to come over quicker,” Simmons explained on the most recent episode of JJ Redick’s The Old Man and the Three podcast. “So I’m thinking he’s going to come full-blown and I see Matisse going — you know, Matisse is athletic, can get up. So I’m thinking quick pass he’s going to flush it, not knowing how much space there was.
“It happened so quick, that you just make a read. And in the playoffs, you need to make the right decisions a majority of the time. It happened and I was like, ‘Ok. F***. Now we’ve got to go make another play.’ That’s what I’m thinking. Then I didn’t realize how, you know, everyone was posting like — it was that big?”
But he didn’t stop without one more excuse.
“Also, I’m guarding the f***ing best player on the other team the whole game.”
Well, that explains it.
Simmons refused to own up to his mistakes then, and he’s still sticking with that strategy today.