15/04/2024

Ben Simmons in action for the Philadelphia 76ers. Photo: Philadelphia 76ers

The reaction to Ben Simmons' withdrawal from the Boomers squad is a reminder that Australia still doesn't truly treat him as one of its own.

After previously announcing his desire to pull on the Green and Gold at the Olympics, Ben Simmons has withdrawn on the eve of the Boomers’ training camp in Los Angeles.

Australians are understandably disappointed with the decision. After all, Simmons will comfortably go down as our best male basketballer of all time.

But the reaction to his withdrawal from the squad is a reminder that Australia still doesn’t truly treat him as one of its own.

If you’re an Aussie that doesn’t follow the NBA, you might wonder if Ben Simmons is even worthy of playing for the Boomers at this point, such is his portrayal in Australian media.

He’s framed as un-Australian in attitude. Pundits question his dedication to the game by referencing his Instagram and gaming, and will jump at the opportunity to admonish his flaws whilst remaining silent in his successes.

In the past month alone, Simmons finished second in the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, and was voted onto the All-NBA Defensive First Team.

In a regular season blockbuster against the league-leading Jazz, Simmons tallied a career-high 42 points to go with 12 assists and nine rebounds. He did it without star team-mate Joel Embiid and against the man who beat him out for Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert.

He also became a three-time All-Star at just 24 years of age.

Australia barely heard a whisper of these feats from its media.

Instead, we heard about his mistakes in the postseason.

His lack of a jump shot, his career-low percentages at the free throw line and the continual deficiencies of an offensive game that hasn’t developed since his rookie season were front and centre in the media.

They’re all valid criticisms about a man devoid of confidence in his game. But that is the reason why he’s made the difficult decision of foregoing the opportunity to represent his country. He’s just doing everything he can to better himself.

Patty Mills – the leader of the Boomers who embodies what it means to represent your country – summed it up perfectly.

“I think that’s the important message that everyone – especially back home in Australia – needs to know and needs to understand. Now, more than ever, we all need to support Ben throughout his journey,” he said in the wake of Simmons’ withdrawal.

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With champions of culture and comradery like Mills and Joe Ingles in the squad, maybe representing his country was the best thing he could have done this off-season. But only Simmons himself knows best what he needs to do in the offseason to fulfill his potential.

He’ll go away and work on his game harder than any of us know.

He’ll commit himself to 1000s of reps at the free throw line. He’ll work tirelessly to become a better shooter. He may even change the hand he shoots with to try and find something that works.

The Australian knows that he’s a 235 million AUD asset that Philly has committed to. He refuses to repay their faith with mediocrity. That is the Boomers mentality that Ben Simmons embodies.

Yes, we should all be disappointed that we won’t be able to see our greatest male basketballer ever do us proud at Tokyo 2020. But don’t be disappointed in him.

It’s past time that we as a nation support Ben through his journey, as Patty Mills has suggested.

Ben Simmons in action during a Philadelphia 76ers playoffs game. Photo: Philadelphia 76ers

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1 thought on “Patty Mills is right; now is the time for Australia to support Ben Simmons

  1. Jasper good article and you make some fair points. I also agree that we should support Ben in his decision as disappointing as it is for us. I think what most people seem to forget is that this is his day/night job and if he is unable to do it properly then he has an obligation to his employer to improve. If I was doing a below expected job for my employer I can guarantee you that anything that would be considered not aimed at improving my performance they would say a big fat no to.

    I suspect his employer probably told him “you are dreamin’ if you think you are going to the Olympics with what just happened”!

    I think though whilst there was a lot of comments in social media and some commentary in the media I am not sure it was to the point you say it was. I think I would have appreciated in your article references to the examples you were referring to. Also have you seen the commentary coming out of the US?! Talk about hyperbole! It is out of control- what about the turnovers created by Embiid? What about the poor shooting by Harris and that he is on a max contract?!

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