Simmons was flattered, but said no thanks to LeBron: he wanted to compete against James and other superstars.
Jonathon Simmons wants to become an elite player in time. How much does Simmons want that? So much that he said he turned down an offseason recruiting pitch from someone he respects, LeBron James. Story: https://t.co/75J6gfb3ks.
— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) November 15, 2017
The 28-year-old found what he craved in Orlando, playing a large role for the Magic.
Per the Orlando Sentinel:
“That’s just a part about me: improving and wanting to be better and having a bigger role,” said Simmons, who left Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs in free agency this past summer in search of greater opportunities and a big payday.
“I expressed that to Pop. I said, ‘I can be good over here, but I can’t be great.’ I want to be able to go against the Kawhis night-in and night-out. I even talked to LeBron James over the phone, and he was like, ‘We want you in Cleveland.’ And I said, ‘No, I want to play against you.’ I want to be able to play against elite guys and be able to, in a couple of years down the line, be just where they are.”
That attitude — the desire to prove himself against the likes of Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and, yes, LeBron James — sparked him to rebuff the Cavaliers and James in free agency.
“Plus,” Simmons added, “it wasn’t enough money, anyway. I have a family. I expressed that to him, which he kind of already knew. He said, ‘I respect that and I’ll see you soon.’”