Aussie NBA superstar Ben Simmons staying level-headed despite fame

Quite often my mates couldn’t give a stuff what I’m reporting on. Not this week.

Grown men have been reduced to frothing groupies - like teenage girls at a One Direction concert. They can’t get enough of Ben Simmons.

“What’s he like in person?” they all want to know.

To be honest, he’s like every other 21-year-old. Which for a guy on the verge of a $100 million pay day is equal parts refreshing and surprising.

Yes, Ben can be big and brash on the basketball court (he liked to show off some dance moves to his teammates the day we filmed him at training), but sit down with him away from the spotlight and he’s pretty quietly spoken, seemingly unfazed by the fame, wanting to talk about his PlayStation and his dogs – it was like chatting to my mates.

His mum had an unusual but very effective way of painting the Ben that she knows just about better than anyone, comparing him to Beyoncé - bear with me on this one.

Beyoncé says she has an alter-ego called Sasha Fierce, and that’s who she becomes when she takes the stage to perform – “I have someone else that takes over when it's time for me to … this alter ego that I've created that kind of protects me and who I really am.”

And so it is with Ben Simmons – the basketball sensation who this season has taken the NBA by storm, boldly breaking just about every record there is for a rookie to break.

On the court, he’s a showman, at home, something different. His mum says “there’s Ben the star, and Ben the son”.

His parents are a fantastic story – Dave the American basketballer who moved to Australia to play, and met Julie, already a mother-of-four before they married.

They ended up having two more children together, raising six kids under the one roof with Ben the youngest.

Being the youngest of five myself, I understand why Ben is pretty level-headed about things.

With that many older siblings, you are very frequently cut down to size and reminded of your place in the world.

Ben’s sister Olivia told me that despite the fact her “little bro” now towers over her, she often points out to him his place in the pecking order.

To watch Ben develop as a person and as an athlete in years to come will be a joy for basketball fans, particularly here in Australia.

For the last couple of decades, basketball has been the ugly duckling of Australian sport – falling attendances, poor administration, and a general malaise about the game.

But now Australian basketball is enjoying a supercharged renaissance, at home and abroad.

Big ticket games are growing here, headlined by our national team taking on the USA in front of 60,000 fans at Etihad Stadium later in the year.

And in the NBA, Australia has the most number of players represented in the league – eight all up, with Joe Ingles, Dante Exum, Patty Mills and Ben Simmons all currently competing in the play-offs.

The NBA knows we’re a growing market too, and sees the potential value already: this year Ben Simmons jerseys were in the top ten sellers internationally.

And this morning I hung my signed #25 Philadelphia jersey up next to my desk. I too am now a Ben Simmons groupie.

Source: 9 News


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