CHICAGO – Growing up here, Bobby Simmons had his doubts about whether he’d make it out to fulfill his NBA dream, facing the negative lure of drugs, violence and gangs. Ten NBA seasons later, Simmons feels grateful to have a voice when he returns to events in the city – this time, the second annual Peace Tournament in the south side on Saturday.
Simmons, for his part, has maintained his basketball training while managing his business ventures in Chicago. The 6-foot-6 forward carved a decade-long career providing size on the wing and an outside presence, averaging nine points on nearly 40 percent shooting three-point shooting after being a second round draft pick in 2001. He latched on with the Los Angeles Clippers late in the 2011-12 season and sat out last year.
At 33 now, Simmons still believes he has basketball left to offer a team in the NBA.
“Of course I can help a team, but it’s a business of basketball,” Simmons told RealGM. “Just finding that right fit, having the opportunity. I’m still training. I just do my job and stay in the gym. I’m always ready.”
Simmons appeared at the St. Sabina church gym over the weekend as part of a panel of current and former NBA players including Joakim Noah, Isiah Thomas, Antoine Walker, Ben Gordon, Jannero Pargo, Theo Ratliff and Will Bynum. Simmons and other Chicagoans shared similar messages in a group sitdown with gang members: The scene of drugs and violence, gangs and shootings, could have brought them down as kids too, but they persevered, became leaders and stuck to a dream in basketball.
“For me it was the same things that affect our kids today,” Simmons said. “Everybody doesn’t make it out, but some guys are fortunate enough to have opportunities. I’m trying to use my opportunity through basketball to support and get the kids in the neighborhood together, show them that they can care about each other.
“It’s been very important. Being from Chicago, we’re all affected by it. A person of my caliber as an NBA player, I’m a guy these guys in the neighborhood look up to. I decide to come back, support and do as much as I can do to help out.”