Simmons Shows His Heart---On and Off the Court
Jan. 31, 2011
The journey that brought Bobby Simmons from a South Side housing project to the glamorous lifestyle of an NBA basketball player is incredible enough.
What is even more striking about the former DePaul star is the sensitive, caring nature in which he deals with the less fortunate in the world around him.
It's Vincentian in the way Simmons has turned some of his lucrative earnings into a local company called Monarchy Investments.
"We rehab buildings and create affordable housing for families who can't afford a home," Simmons said.
The former Simeon High School standout flashes a bright smile when told Monarchy Investments is like the Bobby Simmons version of the popular TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
"I've seen so many families who need space for housing," said Simmons, who began his ninth season in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs and is currently a free agent. "There are so many people living under one roof. And even with subsidized housing, there's only so much money they can spend."
Simmons knows precisely what it's like living in a crowded environment.
"I grew up in the Altgeld Gardens housing project where everyone lived on top of each other," Simmons said. "I was raised in a three-bedroom house with my mom and dad, three brothers and two sisters.
"Wanting to help others comes from my upbringing, and I know every man wants to provide his family with a big house surrounded by a white picket fence.
"Lots of people do stuff like this for the PR, and they want to make sure everyone knows about it. I do it---just because.
"I do it, basically, because I really do care."
He especially cares about kids---kids running the streets and kids with the intelligence but not the resources to obtain a college education.
Simmons has a plan to one day build a local boxing facility for youngsters where violence comes in the form of a right hook rather than a stray bullet. Simmons is a huge boxing aficionado who has trained in the sport and sponsors a local fighter.
There is the Bobby Simmons Rising Stars Endowment Fund in which he has donated $250,000 to help give underprivileged students a chance to attend DePaul.
"This is for the kids who get good grades but can't afford to go to college," Simmons said. "These are the ones I want to change from just being another sad statistic."
Making the most of his DePaul education and NBA career, Simmons has done well in the business world.
SuccezZ is a unique kind of store at 1329 S. Michigan Ave. where customers can build their own custom sneakers and then select a matching outfit from a contemporary line of clothing.
Simmons also owns Full Spectrum Printing at 2201 W. Walnut St., which features creative designs for fashion lines with any kind of apparel.
In addition to Monarchy Investments, he owns Simmons Entertainment Marketing, also at 2201 W. Walnut, which promotes events and concerts.
Simmons recently turned 30 years old, and yet it seems like just yesterday that he teamed with Quentin Richardson and Lance Williams in restoring the glory of DePaul's storied basketball heritage for several years.
During his three seasons, the Blue Demons returned to the NCAA tournament and were once again a conversation piece in college basketball circles nationwide.
"It went by way too fast," Simmons said while shaking his head. "It's almost 10 years ago, and I still remember it was so amazing. It was fun.
"I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world. It was such a great experience---the impact we had on the city."
By staying home and attending DePaul, Simmons, Richardson (Orlando Magic) and Williams changed the landscape of college basketball.
"When Lance, Q and I came to DePaul, it demonstrated the brotherhood of Chicago kids," Simmons said. "We grew up playing together as kids and against each other in high school. We wanted to change everything around at DePaul
"Coming here was one of the best decisions I have ever made."
Simmons would love to see more of the top Chicago area players stay closer to home. Crete-Monee star Jamie Crockett and Rich South star Macari Brooks are part of the 2011 recruiting class.
"If kids ask me about DePaul, the first thing I push is education," Simmons said. "When it comes to academics, these people really care about you. They want you to graduate.
"DePaul is very hands-on. At other schools, there are 200 students in a class and you might get left behind. Classes at DePaul are much smaller, and it's easier to ask questions.
"I'm just 12 hours away from my degree in communications and education."
Simmons dwelled on the advantages of playing at DePaul.
"The great thing about DePaul is that it's close to home and your family can see you play every home game," Simmons said. "I remember talking to guys who went away to college. They became homesick, and you have to realize 17 and 18-year-old kids like that haven't had much experience with life yet.
"When you need something, there's no one there. You're by yourself. Maybe you run low on cash. You can't get some from your mom or dad or uncle. There's no one to call. Pretty soon, guys leave and come back home."
The Washington Wizards selected Simmons in the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft, and he went on to play for the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets and briefly with the Spurs.
He averaged 16.4 points and nearly six rebounds a game for the Clippers in 2004-05 and was honored with the NBA's Most Improved Player Award. He averaged 13.4 points a game the following season with the Bucks.
Simmons was reunited with Richardson and teamed with another Chicago guy, ex-Fenwick star Corey Maggette in Los Angeles.
"That was so much fun," Simmons said. "I was with guys I had known for most of my life, and you could trust your teammates.
"There were so many big events and celebrities. I remember Smokey Robinson, Chaka Khan, Brandi and Serena Williams coming to games."
Simmons can hardly wait for the day when three top Chicago players stay home and duplicate the success of "Q," Lance and Bobby.
"There is more than enough talent in the city," Simmons said. "I think it will happen again. "Three big-name guys from the city will come to DePaul and turn the program around."