Sixers Reveal Strategy for Containing Lakers’ LeBron James

LeBron James and Ben Simmons

Getty LeBron James and Ben Simmons

No one can stop LeBron James. You can only hope to contain him. Blah, blah, blah.

When the Sixers host the Western Conference-leading Lakers on Saturday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, it will be a battle of wills and maybe a preview of the passing of the torch.

Ben Simmons will draw the toughest matchup in sports as he attempts to stop arguably the best player in the world in James. The two struck up an impromptu friendship back in 2015 at a Nike basketball camp at LSU. Simmons and James battled on the court and kept in close contact before establishing a mentor-student type of relationship.

“You have an opportunity,” James told Simmons back then, via Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, “to be better than me. But you can’t skip steps. You have to do the work.”

Today, they even share the same representation in superstar agent Rich Paul. On Saturday, it will be Simmons’ job to slow the four-time NBA MVP and three-time world champion.

Can he do it? Sixers coach Brett Brown shed some light after Friday’s practice.

“Time and time again (Simmons) is guarding five-men, point guards, and (making) steals and rebounds, that is the type of stuff he is doing,” Brown told reporters, via The Inquirer’s Marc Narducci. “To have the challenge of (guarding) arguably the game’s greatest player and I say that with complete, sincerity, what a challenge again, what a further test.”

Simmons vs. James: The Game Within the Game

Ben Simmons and LeBron James have battled each other on five different occasions dating back to 2017. All those meetings came in the regular season and Simmons holds a surprising 3-2 edge.

It hasn’t always been pretty for the Sixers’ point guard, though. Last February, James held Simmons to just 3-of-13 shooting from the floor with a predictable (yet unstoppable) gameplan.

Simply put, the Lakers star sagged off on the defensive end and forced Simmons from getting an easy path to the hoop. He made him shoot. It worked as Simmons finished with eight points versus 18 for James. The recipe has been memorized and repeated ever since.

That game was the first between the two players in the renewed Sixers-Lakers rivalry. The other four games came when James was still in Cleveland. James averaged 33.5 points in those four contests while limiting Simmons to 17.2 points. Cleveland and Philadelphia split those four games.

James Jokes About Simmons’ Max Contract

As noted above, LeBron James and Ben Simmons share a friendly rivalry and mutual admiration for one another. Remember, James was one of the first people to congratulate Simmons when he inked his max deal with the Sixers on July 15.

The Sixers guard signed a five-year, $170 million contract that will keep him in Philadelphia through 2025.

“Ben Simmons is an important piece of our core and he is one of the NBA’s most dynamic and talented young players,” Sixers GM Elton Brand said after signing Simmons. “It was a priority for our organization that we finalize a contract extension with Ben this summer.”

“He was Rookie of the Year in his first season, an All-Star in his second and we expect him to continue grow and succeed for seasons to come,” Brand continued. “Ben positively impacts the game in so many ways and we look forward to continuing our championship pursuits with him as one of our leaders.”

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