Xavier Simpson has played in a national championship game, two high school state championship games and countless other big games.
But nothing really compares to stepping on to a basketball court to play in his first NBA game, which the former Lima Senior, Lima Central Catholic and Michigan player did when he suited up to play for the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 5.
“It was definitely like no other because I’d never done it before. It’s everyone’s dream to play in the NBA. It was amazing,” Simpson said. “It was surreal but it just motivated me to keep going so I could possibly start there instead of just finishing out the season.
“It has always been a dream since I was little. It was a dream I wasn’t sure was reachable but I kept trying,” he said.
Simpson averaged 11.0 points per game in four NBA games after getting a 10-day contract from the Thunder. He scored 10 or more points in three of the four games he played and averaged 7.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds a game.
The 6-foot point guard was Ohio’s Mr. Basketball in 2016 at Lima Senior. He was a starter for three years at Michigan, where he ranks second in career assists.
Simpson nearly made his NBA debut in late December when the Thunder planned to sign him to a 10-day hardship contract because of COVID issues depleting their roster. But before the deal could be completed, he tested positive for COVID.
“I caught COVID right when I was supposed to begin. It sucked but I guess it is what it is. COVID is kind of out of control,” Simpson said.
His hook shot quickly became a fan favorite in the NBA. It was something he added to his game in college but didn’t have in high school.
“I perfected it my sophomore year in college. I started to work on it my freshman year and by the time I was a sophomore it was pretty good,” Simpson said.
The Thunder played the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center during Simpson’s time with the team on a night when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, owner of perhaps the most famous hook shot in NBA history, was in attendance but Simpson did not get a chance to interact with him.
Simpson, 25, is currently training in California for what he hopes will be another chance to play in the NBA. He says his body and his shot are the two biggest things he is working on. He plans to play in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League in July.
He has scheduled two basketball camps at the Lima Family YMCA in June and July.
The first is scheduled June 25 and the second is scheduled for July 30. They are for boys and girls from kindergarten through ninth grade.
A morning session for kindergarten through fifth grade will run from 9 a.m.-noon and an afternoon session for grades 6-9 will be from 1-4 p.m. Cost is $85.
To register, go to xaviersimpsonbasketball.com.