Why Everyone Should Stop Slam Dunking Ben Simmons
How quick we are to forget.
Wasn’t it just weeks ago we were celebrating Ben Simmons as the highest paid Australian athlete in history? Weren’t we cheering while he went to battle in a gruelling 82-game NBA season -- only to lead his team, the 76ers, to within one shot of the Eastern Conference Finals?
Now a quick Google search brings up headlines such as “Australia falling out of love with NBA star because he’s too American”, or "Basketball star Ben Simmons cracks it again".
Some people really need to check their privilege.
The Crown Casino refusal-of-entry row kicked off this anti-Simmons hate-fest.
Then, over the past 48 hours, he has been under siege for charging $200 for a basketball camp -- like that's some sort of crime, and like every kid within 1000 kilometres of Melbourne wouldn't have come if it was a free camp.
Let’s take a second here to calm down.
Simmons is now under fire for "sneaking out" of his own camp. Yet he was there all day. He didn't just put his name to the camp and make a token appearance. He was actually there working out with kids, which is the whole point of the thing.
But at one point late in the day, he left. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he’d just spent eight hours with paying fans and needed to get to a dinner. I don’t know his schedule, and I doubt all these knockers do either.
It’s always the little things that don’t get spoken about, like the fact Simmons gifted a bereaved family tickets because he wanted to, and made no mention of it.
Did he do it for Instagram accolades? Forget it. He did it for the kid.
Then we're told he ‘stormed out’ of an interview with former AFL star Campbell Brown when he was asked about the casino incident. Likely that topic had been put forward as a no-go for the interview. Either way, Simmons was entitled to move on.
And now, certain media personalities are saying Simmons should "go back to America". Honestly, this is outrageous.
His whole visit here has been needlessly marred with controversy, in what should have been a celebrated return to his homeland after a celebrated sophomore season.
Whether Simmons went about the alleged refusal-of-entry incident the right way is debatable, but say this: he believed he was hard done by, and took a stand on an issue that is front-and-centre every day in America, where he lives.
Simmons is our brightest star on one of the world’s biggest sporting stages. At 23, he is considered one of the best players in the world. His ‘big brother’ in the NBA is none other than LeBron James.
If you follow Ben on Instagram, you’d see he has spent almost the entire off-season in the gym working out. He is determined to be one the best of all-time, and he’s probably a jump-shot away from being a top-10 player in the league.
So please, for all our sakes, lay off Ben Simmons.
If we want him to be the face of Australian basketball, if we want him to wear the green-and-gold with pride, then why are we making him feel so unwelcome in his own country?
I for one can’t wait for the NBA season to start again, so we can go back to talking about his nightly triple doubles and incredible dunks instead of all things the overnight experts suddenly think he's done wrong.