Michael Jordan Perfectly Predicted the Sixers’ Ben Simmons Disaster 16 Years Ago: ‘You’re Paying the Kid Off of Potential’

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player in NBA history. He may also be a fortune teller.

In 2005, Jordan and Charles Barkley were guests on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Chicago Bulls legend somehow perfectly and unintentionally predicted the Philadelphia 76ersBen Simmons disaster.

Michael Jordan said paying kids off of potential is a mistake

Jordan and Winfrey talked about the differences between being an NBA player and a rockstar. During the discussion, the six-time champion said basketball players were getting paid off of potential, and that was setting up a bad work ethic.

“In our sport, you get paid off of potential. A rockstar, you have to be good,” Jordan said. “If you come in now, most of our young kids we don’t know how good they’re gonna be, but yet they got five-year guarantees, millions of dollars, admirations of many. They get that before they play one game. You’re rolling the dice to see if this kid is ever gonna be good or not. So, in essence, you’re paying the kid off of potential that he may be great. I think it sets bad work ethic. When you get something so easily, you’re not gonna work as hard.”

What is fascinating about this quote from Jordan is that he’s basically summarizing the dilemma the Sixers are in with Simmons. The three-time All-Star was the 21st highest-paid player in the league in 2020-21 and will have made approximately $203 million in NBA money by 2025 despite being a liability on offense.

Ben Simmons hasn’t developed a jumper

Simmons has appeared in 275 games with the Sixers. He’s made only five 3-pointers and doesn’t have a mid-range jumper. Yet, the Sixers gave the LSU product a $177.2 million maximum contract in the summer of 2019 without any guarantees from Simmons that he would improve his jump shot. This is the exact situation Jordan talked about with Winfrey back in 2005.

The Sixers paid Simmons off of potential. They watched him win the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year Award and establish himself as an elite passer and defender and likely assumed he would eventually develop an outside game. However, Simmons has become a liability on offense since he can’t shoot free-throws. He was even scared to shoot the ball in the Sixers’ second-round matchup against the Atlanta Hawks. Simmons didn’t attempt a shot in the fourth quarter in five out of the seven games.

Jordan told Winfrey that all the money he made during his legendary career was earned. He wouldn’t have become the first player in NBA history to sign a contract worth over $20 million annually had he not produced on the court and won titles with the Bulls.

Several pundits have speculated that Simmons doesn’t work on his game in the offseason since he hasn’t developed a jump shot. Jordan warned Winfrey that if players get millions of dollars without accomplishing anything, their work ethic would be affected. It seems as if His Airness forecasted the Sixers and Simmons’ future 16 years ago.

Would Michael Jordan trade for Ben Simmons?

Jordan is the majority governor of the Charlotte Hornets. Would he have interest in trading for Simmons if the Sixers make the lefty available in trade talks? Of course, anything is possible in the NBA, and ESPN insider Zach Lowe did mention the Hornets as a possible trade partner with the Sixers on The Lowe Post podcast.

“These are not going to be popular. I went through them a little bit last week. I think you could make something with Gordon Hayward and something else from Charlotte,” Lowe said. “The problem is Charlotte may say, ‘Well, he’s not a great fit with LaMelo Ball.’ So that’s one.”

It will be interesting to see what the Sixers do with Simmons this offseason. Jordan and the Hornets have LaMelo Ball as their floor general, so they may not pursue a Simmons deal.

However, we have learned never to put anything past Jordan in his attempt to bring stars to Charlotte. After all, he did give Gordon Hayward $120 million despite the small forward being injury prone.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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