What can a person get with 150 dollars? In today’s economy, 150 smackers is not considered a large chunk of money. You can buy about thirteen basketballs, a pair of decent shoes to hoop in, a deluxe edition of a video game that’s going to underwhelm or some nosebleed seats to the Staple Center.
Essentially, 150 dollars is not going to change anyone’s life.
That is, unless you’re Jonathon Simmons. This is the story of how a man used a meager amount of cash and a ton of heart to become a mainstay in the best basketball league in the world.
Or, to put in more ridiculous terms. How he used the same amount of loot it would cost you to purchase a light grocery order in order to become a millionaire. That’s right… that gallon of milk is holding you back!
Simmons started his basketball career in Houston. In his second year of high school, he stood 5’7. Even Isaiah Thomas would have to look down to meet the young Simmons’ gaze. But Simmons got the growth spurt he needed, and was 6’3 by the time he graduated.
While he had real talent on the court, Simmons was not known for his academic ability. He came close to dropping out of high school multiple times, and school struggles meant he would have to start his career at a Junior college.
Simmons attended Paris Junior College for his first year, and then transferred to Midland College. He impressed scouts at both schools with his athleticism and gutty play, earning all conference honors both years.
It was clear that Simmons had the talent to play at a D1 school, and the University of Houston came calling. After sitting out a year due to NCAA regulations, Simmons made the first of many leaps in his basketball career.
In a now common trend, Simmons succeeded in Houston upon arrival. He averaged 14.7 points a game to go along with 5.0 rebounds. By the end of the year, he had a big decision to make.
Simmons easily could’ve played his last year and built his reputation. Instead, he rolled the dice for the first time and declared for the NBA draft early.
Our hero actually lost the gamble, and he went undrafted, once again stacking the deck against his favor. But this minor setback wasn’t going to keep the determined guard down. He immediately entered the American Basketball League draft, and was selected in the first round.
Hooray, to all ABL first-rounders! Or something. Likely something, but semantics are for losers and physic professors.
You might be wondering what the heck the ABL is. If you’re anything like 99.99 percent of the population, you can’t name a single team that plays in the unheralded semi-pro league. But that didn’t bother Simmons a bit.
Jonathon Simmons played just 16 games for the Sugar Land Legends, a real team I swear it, and went crazy in every single one. He averaged 36.5 points per game, and grew his reputation. Simmons realized he belonged in a more competitive league.
So he took 150 bucks and headed over to Concordia University, where the Spurs D-League team was holding tryouts.
Literally anybody can come to these tryouts. If you have 150 dollars that you’re ready to blow, you can try to standout alongside 60 other guys, hoping an NBA team is willing to take a chance on you.
And that was exactly what Simmons did. He inserted that 150 dollars in whatever envelope, gave it to the Spurs D-League people, and showed out.
By the end of the year, he was playing for the Austin Spurs.
This marked the hardest stretch of Simmons’ career. At the time, the average D-League salary was about 22,000 dollars. That’s nearly a full million dollars less than… a million dollars.
Simmons had four daughters at home, and he debated dropping his life goal in order to have a safer source of income for his family.
But Jonathon Simmons was close, and he felt it in his bones. After the end of his second year playing in the D-League, he attended the league’s mini camp.
Then things began to turn in his favor thanks to some incredible skill sets.
He registered a 38-inch vertical and caught scouts eye with his perimeter defense and explosiveness.
Less than two months later, Simmons had an NBA contract. The Spurs had offered him a two-year deal. Simmons celebrated by leading the Spurs to a Summer League championship and winning the Championship game MVP.
That would help catapult him into the hearts and minds of the general public, as everyone loves an underdog, feel good story.
In Simmons first season in the NBA, he sat for a month before getting a chance to play. He still remained an obscure bench player who few NBA fans could identify. In one of his first games, Simmons was heckled by “Who are you?” chants from Bucks fans as he shot free throws.
But his days of obscurity were numbered. Shortly thereafter, he’d look obscurity in its face, crack a smile, then give it a punch that would make… wait, searching notes here for a non-problematic boxer… ah hell, I can’t find one… that would make… searches notes for a non problematic MMA fighter… oh for the love of god… a punch that would make someone who punches well jealous.
When Jonathon Simmons was given minutes, the Spurs loved what they saw. By midway through the season, he was a constant in the Spurs lineup, consistently drawing the opposing team’s toughest offensive player. The guy who was considering working a 9-5 job months ago was now matching up against NBA MVPs.
It would be like you, yes you, random video consumer, all-of-sudden guarding LeBron James in front of tens of thousands of people because you won a 150 dollar raffle. Well, not exactly that, because Simmons has actual abilities and you, presumably, are not at good at basketball as he is, but you get the point.
By the time the 2017 postseason rolled around, he ended up replacing Kawhi Leonard in the starting lineup and helping the Spurs advance to the Conference Finals.
When his contract was up, the Spurs offered him a 1.6 million dollar offer. Simmons had not come all that way to be lowballed, even by the historically great NBA franchise. He smartly rejected the offer, and ended up signing a three year 20 million dollars contract with the Magic. No longer would Simmons ever have to worry where his next paycheck would be coming from.
As of the 2019-20 season, Jonathon Simmons plays for the Washington Wizards after a series of trades shipped him to the East Coast. He is living his best life, and is ready to play a key role for the rebuilding team.
Jonathon Simmons will remain one of the best NBA success stories of all time, and a reminder that hard work, perseverance, and some nasty perimeter defense can change your life in the blink of an eye.
Oh, and 150 buckaroos.