After a half-decade of horrendous seasons and blatant tanking, the Philadelphia 76ers are a premier Eastern Conference force once again.
The aggressive, loss-friendly strategy, led by former GM Sam Hinkie, netted generational pillars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid — and a cast of other young talents like Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz and Robert Covington.
Parts of the foundation for this squad though, were laid decades earlier — well before the “Trust the Process” movement was ever imagined.
Part of the origins for this Philadelphia Sixers squad can be traced all the way back here, to Australia, over 30 years ago.
By now, many people know the history Brett Brown and Ben Simmons share. Brown served as an assistant coach with the Melbourne Tigers in 1988 while Simmons’ father, David, played for the team as an import. Brown’s close ties with the Simmons family allowed him opportunity with Ben — a relationship that has helped foster their success in the NBA.
With Aussie Jonah Bolden signing a four-year, $7 million dollar deal to officially become a member of the Sixers, the squad welcomes another unique, quirky NBL connection into the fold.
Jonah’s father, Bruce, an import who had an extended pro career in Australia, was, at one point, teammates with David Simmons — the father of Ben.
Father/sons at the same pro teams could not have happened too many times before 🤔 pic.twitter.com/AiS2nDw1zZ
— NBLfacts (@nblfacts) July 20, 2018
David and Bruce formed a formidable import duo with the Sydney Kings in 1998. Now, just as their fathers did 20 years ago, Ben and Jonah will team up on the same squad — on the other side of the world.
Like fathers, like sons.
Truth really is stranger than fiction, sometimes. The odds of something like this happening are hard to fathom. It’s difficult to even find a similar situation occurring in the AFL — and they have the Father-Son rule.
It speaks volumes to the NBL import pipeline that has been created in recent years. Simmons, Bolden, Dante Exum, even Kyrie Irving, are the sons of former NBL imports. With the recent addition of Bolden, the Sixers have benefited arguably the most out of anybody from this pipeline.
“We never played with each other,” Bolden told ESPN when asked about becoming Simmons’ teammate following the 2017 draft.
“It was always a rivalry.”
Sharing the same birth year, and having grown up in Melbourne, Simmons and Bolden certainly had their on-court battles growing up. Now though, Bolden is excited to finally play on the same side as his former childhood rival.
“I feel like I am a great fit for this team,” Bolden said after being selected 36th overall by Philly last year.
“Look at Ben, being a point guard at 6-11; that for me is already a great fit, knowing your point guard is as big and long as you.
“I feel I can provide shooting, length, defensive and offensive versatility, my ability to get the rebound and push the floor and create for others. I run the lane, I am a great teammate and I am very excited.”
On the floor, Simmons gets another weapon that can stretch the defence and get out in transition with him in Bolden. Off the floor, well, he finally gets a guy he can play kick-to-kick or markers up with after practice.
The Aussie duo of Simmons and Bolden is the latest pairing of Aussies to feature on the same NBA squad. Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova are teamed up in Milwaukee, while Dante Exum and Joe Ingles are together in Utah. That’s not forgetting Patty Mills and Aron Baynes, who were once teammates on the San Antonio Spurs.
Both Philly and Aussie fans are excited — as David Simmons and Bruce Bolden would surely be too. Though, unlike most others, David and Bruce would feel something more. They’d feel proud. Proud that their passion for basketball — one that led to them becoming teammates in Australia — has done the same for their sons in Philadelphia.