A then 17-year-old Simmons attended the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas, an annual camp hosted by the NBA great.
The top 80 American high school and 30 college players attended the multi-day event in July, 2014, with the four-time NBA MVP in attendance. It was the Australian teenager who was the standout. Just minutes after Simmons' under siege Louisiana State University coach Johnny Jones announced on Monday (AEDT) that his team would opt out of playing in any post-season tournaments, freeing Simmons to turn professional, Yahoo! Sports reported Simmons would sign with James' Klutch Sports agency. James' agent and right-hand man Rich Paul would personally look after the 19-year-old. The report, by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarwoski, was filled with other interesting tidbits, notably the line that "an arrangement for Klutch to represent Simmons has been in place for over a year".
The Simmons-James link, however, went deeper. Simmons' older sister Emily Bush has had a marketing/branding job at Klutch since 2014, the year the young Australian attended the Cleveland Cavaliers star's Las Vegas camp, according to Wojnarwoski. It is a smart business move by Simmons to link with James - but it is also a smart, lucrative signing for James. LeBron's help could land Simmons $133m shoe deal
LeBron James is the most powerful figure in the NBA, taking the power position with every deal he signs. He agreed to a two-year $US46.974 million ($62.55 million) contract with the Cavaliers last year, but it gives James, not the team, the option to walk away after the first year if he is not happy. It ensures the Cavs spend big on providing James with a strong supporting cast and fire coaches, like David Blatt, when things are not going well. James also signed a lifetime shoe deal last year with Nike worth an estimated $US500 million ($665.78 million). Klutch will use its influence with Nike to sign Simmons to a major shoe deal, or squeeze rivals Adidas and Under Armour to over pay. Former Nike marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro, who signed a young Michael Jordan to his first sneaker deal, believes Simmons' deal will be worth more than $US100 million ($133.16 million). Simmons interestingly tweeted a photo of a pair of Nikes recently. James, on track to follow Michael Jordan and become a billionaire NBA player, can also use his connections to introduce Simmons to the corporate world. James earns an estimated $US50 million a year ($66.58 million) in endorsements with companies including Coca-Cola (via Powerade), Beats by Dre, Samsung and Kia. Not bad for a 19-year-old from Melbourne yet to dribble a ball or take a shot on an NBA court.