On Monday night, Ben Simmons finally claimed his NBA Rookie of the Year award after a standout season that helped push the Sixers into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
As my colleague Keith Pompey wrote, Simmons recorded 12 triple-doubles in the regular season, the second-most by a rookie in NBA history, behind onlynOscar Robertson. He also averaged 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 8.2 assists. Simmons garnered Eastern Conference rookie-of-the-month honors for October/November, January, February and March/April.
But despite his standout season, a quick look at the vote breakdown reveals that one of the 101 voters weighing in actually gave Simmons a third-place vote.
That vote came from New York Post writer Marc Berman, the newspaper's longtime New York Knicks reporter. Not surprisingly, Berman was quickly attacked online by Sixers fans for picking Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and small forward Jayson Tatum ahead of Simmons.
"I'm happy my vote created another conversation about the NBA's policy on rookie of the year eligibility," Berman told the Inquirer and Daily News. "Ben Simmons collected more than $5 million from the Sixers during his rookie year of 2016-17. Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum are terrific players."
Berman's argument echoes the complaints made by Mitchell during the season, saying (primarily through messages printed on various hoodies) that Simmons had an unfair advantage after having sat out a year with a broken foot.
"I'll put it in perspective for people who obviously don't play in the NBA and don't know the life of the NBA. So, let's say you have an exam to take on June 1 and you have a whole year to study for that exam, you're going to get a pretty good grade on it, aren't you?" Mitchell said back in April. "But some people may not have all that time to prepare for that exam."
Mitchell and his main sponsor, Adidas, doubled down on their trolling of Simmons ahead of Monday's award by pulling up in a black van with, "Rookie?" printed on the side. Nike, Simmons' main sponsor, shot back with a comeback that shows why the footwear and apparel company is among the most popular brands on the planet.
Mitchell wasn't the only NBA player to speak out against Simmons' eligibility. Last month, Phoenix Suns rookie Josh Jackson said he didn't think Simmons deserved the award during an appearance on the Scoop B Radio Podcast.
"Sitting out and then playing the next year, I think that does absolutely give you an advantage," Jackson said.
Berman's beef isn't with Simmons, it's with the NBA's rules, which allows players who sat out their true rookie season to remain eligible for the Rookie of the Year award the following year. It's been a rule Berman has been arguing against since 2011, when he abstained from voting for Blake Griffin after the five-time NBA All-Star sat out his entire first year due to a broken kneecap.
"Griffin, No. 1 pick of the 2009 Draft, had a depressing rookie campaign, one in which he still earned all of his $5,357,289 rookie wage," Berman wrote. "Congrats to Blake for a terrific comeback in his second NBA season. He would have gotten my vote for Most Improved Player."
According to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the league has no plans to change its eligibility rules
"We've had that rule in place for some time," Silver told ESPN earlier this month. "We had a great rookie class playing an exciting brand of basketball. I'm always open to changes, but that's not something that's on the table."
The only question facing Simmons at the moment is whether the team will actually let him design a new uniform for next season, which Sixers president Chris Heck promised to do in a tweet last November.