YEAR One on court has drawn to an end for Ben Simmons but the history will look favourably on the start of something special.
This has been a season of immense highs for latest NBA star to hail from Melbourne. Simmons has shaken the league and redefined what it means to be young, bold and ready to roll. He’s already being questioned as a legitimate star, legitimate threat and someone you need to keep an eye on… all in his first playing season.
How often do rookies shake the NBA in such a way? From the disappointment of his injury-riddled 2016-17 to this level so quickly, Simmons’ first real crack at the NBA has been beyond comprehension.
Anyone in the basketball landscape has known for a fair while that he was set to star, but to this level? This quickly? I think that’s the incredible factor that has separated Simmons from the rest of his draft class and potentially the rest of his generation.
Without question he is “the Australian” sports star of today. You would scarcely find any other Australian with the status and star recognition as the 76ers’ wunderkind.
He’s the spark that has ignited the rest of the state’s latent interest in the sport. Victoria’s basketball community has always loved this game but it has lay dormant in the minds of the greater community for a fair while. There’s no doubting the impact Simmons has made in his short time in the league as you see Simmons-mania sweep the mainstream media channels and especially social media.
That was an inspiring season from Ben Simmons. Despite it ending in a loss, his play has put basketball and #NBA back into the lives of many Aussies who had left the game and emboldened those with hoop dreams. Bring on 2018-2019. @BenSimmons25 @sixers #NBL19 #PhilaUnite
— Roy Ward (@rpjward) May 10, 2018
A basketball star on the front of The Australian. An extended interview on 60 Minutes. Around the clock coverage of its his performances ever since the season began in every news outlet imaginable. These are the incredible achievements and compliments that orbit true star power. They talk about the “Simmons effect” in basketball but it’s actually just an effect on those who forgot about our sport in the first place. He is the spotlight for basketball at the moment and everyone is now scrambling to catch up and pretend they were ‘always into basketball’.
He’s so popular that Four n Twenty decided to partner with the 76ers to sell pies half way across the world to an audience who never heard of a meat pie in the first place. Who else could get that going?
— Basketball Victoria (@Basketball_Vic) June 26, 2018
Simmons was named NBA Rookie of the Year to further cement his status as one to watch and someone set to shake the league even further over the coming years. Is this The Process in action or something bigger and undefinable? How high can his star-status climb? Is he the next greatest of his time? These are all questions for far smarter basketball minds than mine but at the end of the day, airing these ideas and not having them dismissed as fantasy tells a lot about Simmons and his extraordinary ceiling in this sport.
This was his first trip into the playoffs and there’s always going to be some errors when you take the next step. Seeing the 76ers brush aside Miami in the first round was exceptional for a side without playoffs experience, (let alone winning playoffs experience) but the way the schedule and the 24-hour media churn works… those results seem irrelevant to the masses now. People talk about his Game Two against Boston as if it was the end of his career; think about that for a second. The analysts called for more from a rookie in his first time taking on the NBA elite in a conference semi-final setting. There is no time to acclimatise for him… at least in the eyes of the basketball world.
Those are exceptional asks of a 21-year-old man but such is the star-power and such is the reputation he is blazing. People expect him to star as he’s already one. While it all came to an end today with the heart-stopping Game Five last-second loss, there is so much more on the horizon.
He’s set the bar pretty high in Year One but that’ll only stand as the foundation for something bigger. We can only wonder about the heights he’ll reach in years to come and that alone remains extraordinarily impressive for any Victorian.