In April of 2018, Ben Simmons said he’d “100%” choose himself as rookie of the year. This is a good, normal amount of self-confidence for a player who has been putting up triple-double left and right all season. Nothing wrong with that. Sure, he did then go on to add that no other rookies had done so much as caught his attention that year …
Meanwhile Donovan Mitchell was a breakout rookie sensation. For example he won the dunk contest, had multiple games over 40 points, and was leading Utah to the playoffs in the competitive West. When he heard Simmons’s comments, he decided to get his attention— by wearing a hoodie that questioned Simmons’s status as a rookie in the first place.
You see, Ben Simmons was drafted in 2016, but was injured all season, so according to NBA rules, he counted as a rookie in 2018. According to Mitchell’s hoodies, one emblazoned with the dictionary definition of the word “rookie”, one that simply said “rookie?”, Simmons’ status wasn’t so clear cut.
Both players insisted any and all taunts, digs, or hoodies were lighthearted. So, the media, the shoe companies, and most importantly, the fans took it upon themselves to pump bad blood through that light heart. Leaving us with a beef that took on a life of its own, one in which Simmons and Mitchell were merely avatars representing the two sides. They might not have really hated each other, but there was still plenty of hate to go around.