Jonathon Simmons was an unemployed 23-year-old struggling to provide for his three daughters when his mother suggested he quit basketball.
It was spring 2013, and Simmons’ debut season with the semiprofessional Sugar Land Legends had just been cut short because the American Basketball League could no longer pay players and coaches. LaTonya Simmons, who worked decades at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to feed and clothe her four kids, called Jonathon — her oldest — one night and encouraged him to pursue a career as a barber.
He was already cutting friends’ hair on occasion, and an extensive social circle in the area figured to help him build his client base. But before LaTonya could finish her pitch, Jonathon, irate that his mom would advise him to give up on his goals, hung up on her.
From time to time during his recent four-year stint in the NBA, Jonathon mentioned that conversation to LaTonya and told her, “You should’ve known I was never going to become a barber.” His perseverance has long been his trademark, which is why he again didn’t consider career alternatives when the Wizards waived him 14 months ago.
One of five G League players in minicamp with the Warriors, Simmons, 31, is intent on showing Golden State’s front office that he is still the same defensive-minded wing who was once a key member of winning San Antonio teams. His chances of making the Warriors’ 15-man roster are slim, but he understands as well as anyone how to overcome long odds.
Before his breakthrough with the Spurs five years ago, Simmons barely graduated high school, spent three years in junior college and toiled in minor leagues for two-plus seasons. Along the way, he learned that a couple of missed shots can be the difference between a multimillion-dollar NBA