He joins a “who’s who” of the greats of the game with past winners of the coveted prize including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and Kevin Durant.
Australian-born Kyrie Irving also won the award in 2012.
“Wow,” said Simmons, after a slow walk up to the stage at the ceremony in Los Angeles on Monday.
“I’d like to thank my family and friends to start with.
“I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Simmons, a 21-year-old born in Melbourne, beat the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell and the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum to win what became a contentious battle debated furiously in the US media, on social platforms and among former and present NBA players.
Mitchell and other critics were vocal in questioning whether Simmons should be eligible for the award.
The Australian was injured the entire 2016/17 season with a foot fracture, but remained with the 76ers and worked out with the team until making his game debut the past season.
Mitchell and Tatum made their debuts the year they were drafted.
Mitchell wore pointed shirts to games toward the end of the regular season, including one that defined the word rookie as: “An athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team.”
The Jazz guard kept it up on Monday, arriving in a van for the ceremony with “ROOKIE?” on the side.
When Simmons was announced the winner Mitchell got out of his seat and hugged the Australian.
“I try not to let the media hype things up or fans or whatever it is just because I know I’m doing what I love and I do what I can on the floor,” said Simmons, when asked about the criticism.
“That doesn’t take anything away from Jayson or Donovan.
“They had excellent, amazing, tremendous seasons.”
The award was decided by members of the US and Canadian sports media and Simmons likely benefited from the date votes had to be cast.
The deadline was back in April.
It was the end of the NBA regular season and when Simmons was leading the 76ers, without injured All-Star team-mate Joel Embiid, on a record win-streak and personally dropping triple-doubles that put him in the rare air of Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.
It was after the vote deadline when Mitchell was sensational in the Jazz’s playoff run and Tatum went head-to-head with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In the playoffs Simmons was exposed by the Celtics for his inability to make and take mid-range and three-point shots.
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