Hours after the Philadelphia 76ers paid tribute to Hall of Famer Julius Erving by unveiling a sculpture of him outside their practice facility, the two-time NBA MVP was heaping praise on current Sixer Ben Simmons.
Simmons, who has posted 11 triple-doubles in his first season, has caught the attention of many, and Erving took the praise to a new level prior to the Sixers' 121-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night.
"Once-in-a-decade, maybe once-in-a-lifetime-type player," Erving said. "He's able to make everybody better immediately each and every time down the floor, guys are spotting up or looking to cut or keying off of triggers that come out of his handling skills."
Simmons had 15 points and 12 rebounds against the Nets, giving him 36 double-doubles on the season. He's averaging a triple-double over his past 12 games. Simmons and Oscar Robertson are the only players to have 600 rebounds and 600 assists in their rookie seasons.
"Sometimes it looks like he's got eyes in the back of his head," Erving said, "because he sees and feels one of his guys making a run to the hoop or spotting up at certain positions. That's just a gifted player that we are very fortunate to have on our team."
Simmons was taken aback when told of Erving's assessment of his rookie campaign.
"He pretty much built this team up, the name of the Sixers based on the way he played," Simmons said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It's amazing [that Erving praised him]. Amazing to hear that."