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LeBron James told Ben Simmons he has 'opportunity to be better than me'

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Ben Simmons has lived up to the hype so far during his rookie season with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 6-foot-10 point guard leads all rookies in points (18.7), rebounds (9.5), assists (7.2) and steals (2.1). His size, vision and calm demeanor have caused many to compare his game to LeBron James.

James sees the potential, too, according to a feature story on Simmons from Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

“You have an opportunity,” James told Simmons early on, “to be better than me. But you can’t skip steps. You have to do the work.” Those words helped sustain [Simmons] when he stumbled at LSU and helped fuel him as he rehabbed in Philadelphia. “Is this really going to happen?” he asked himself. He knew, even if others wavered, that it would. Because LeBron said so, and for a prospect of Simmons’s vintage, no endorsement means more. “Part of his greatness,” Simmons says, “is that he wants others to be just as great.”

As a 19-year-old rookie in 2003-04, James averaged 20.9 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He shot 41.7 percent from the field, compared to 51.0 percent for the 21-year-old Simmons.

Simmons, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 NBA Draft, has a long road ahead before reaching the level of James. But early signs are positive, and it’s difficult to deny the similarities between their games.