Ben Simmons’ first year in the NBA more than lived up to the hype. The Melbourne-born baller messed around and dropped 12 triple doubles in his rookie year, lead the 76ers to the second round of the playoffs, and picked up a well-deserved Rookie Of The Year award.
With the 17-18 season done and the next NBA season still two months from tip-off, Ben was back in town with a rapid-fire schedule of appearances and media appointments.
Among a fashion shoot for GQ and a prime time interview for The Project, Ben stopped off at Box Hill Senior Secondary college in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. The school, which Ben attended, boasts one of the country’s best basketball programs. Complex and Beats By Dr. Dre linked Ben with Melbourne Demons midfielder –and former Australian basketball prospect– Christian Petracca to talk about their careers, their long-standing friendship and handling the pressure of performing at the highest level.
The interview was conducted in front of students from the school's basketball program.
Ben, it was only a year ago that you and I were talking in that little gym there, same time this year you're back, with Beats. Can you tell us what you've been doing in Australia?
Ben Simmons: I had a busy day yesterday; I had the 2K launch, a photo shoot for GQ, and now I'm in Melbourne.
And coming up on Sunday you've got your Ben Simmons Basketball Camp.
BS: Oh yea, my camp is coming up. This is the second year I'm doing that. That'll be a lot of fun.
You're keeping an eye on the talent in the country and assisting in developing the basketball talent, which is tremendous. I think a question that everyone would like to ask is, are we going to win a medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo?
BS: That's my goal, but I'm going for gold. If I eventually play – which I will – at the Olympics, that's my what I'm playing for. I'm not gonna go for anything less than gold.
What if Christian plays?
BS: He needs to, we need you to come back
Christian Petracca: Nah I'm too small
[the crowd cheers]
There's definitely some support for Christian to make a comeback at the Olympics in 2020.
CP: Nah my jump shot is terrible!
BS: Just lay it up.
I saw the jump shot earlier, it was butter. And the handles were smooth. So let's just move on and talk about why we have Ben & Christian together on stage. You guys have known each other for a while, but when did you actually meet?
CP: We met playing under-12s state basketball. Around grade six. From there, we played footy together at Beverly Hills, which is just down the road in East Doncaster. We played a couple years there, and then made a lot of the rep teams together,
BS: Whitefriars [Melbourne high school]
CP: And Whitefriars as well, we were in school from year 7 to year 9 and then Ben went here [Box Hill Senior Secondary]. We had a lot of sport together.
So Ben, what sort of a basketball player was Christian?
BS: He was a Westbrook without the dunks. Honestly. He was a quick point guard, he could find guys and get to the rim.
But did he pass?
BS: Oh yea, he made the right play, of course. All the time.
Westbrook without the dunks, and with passing. And Christian, what kind of a football player was Ben?
CP: He was an aggressive player, he loved tackling. He was a very good tap ruckman, still to this day –sorry Max Gawn– probably one of the best tap ruckmen I've had. He used to tell you where he'd hit [the ball] and it'd just be there. I reckon he'd be playing AFL if he wasn't playing basketball.
So he's a loss to the AFL?
CP: Yea but, I think he's doing well in the NBA [laughs].
And still talking about footy. Ben is an Essendon Bombers fan, and–
BS: I'm a Melbourne fan now
Oh right, of course. And a Demons fan. And Christian for some reason you're a Thunder fan?
BS: I know right. How messed up is that, that I go for Melbourne now but you still go for OKC?
CP: I'm Philly now! Although the one [76ers] game I did go to, Eric Gordon hit a buzzer beater in the corner so I probably shouldn't come to a game ever again
BS: Yea, probably not
But when you were young, who was your AFL team?
Oh wow, that's awful. You don't pick teams very well.
CP: It was my Dad’s team
Right. And Ben, who was your NBA team growing up?
BS: I didn't really have one. I just had favourite players. I didn't really have a favourite team.
Yea, I don't really buy that.
BS: I promise, I promise. I mean, Miami Heat when Dwayne Wade was really leading the team, that was my go-to team.
So when you say you followed the players, D-Wade obviously, but who else?
BS: D-Wade, LeBron, I liked to watch a lot of film of Magic. Chris Paul, guys like that
The floor generals