Is Ben Simmons American? Inside the NBA star's globe-trotting life

Is Ben Simmons American? Inside the NBA star's globe-trotting life
Ben Simmons was recently chastised by sports pundits for continued poor performance with the Brooklyn Nets (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

PHOENIX, ARIZONA: NBA star Ben Simmons has had last two months fairly rough. From his former fiance Maya Jama confirming her separation with Simmons to being chastised by NBA pundits after being ejected during Brooklyn Nets' loss to the Phoenix Suns on January  20, Ben has been struggling to find his mojo since joining the Nets in February, last year.

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In the last game with the Suns, three-time NBA All-Star Ben's stat line comprised seven points, six assists, and five fouls. After missing all of last season due to a back injury, Ben's stats have reached the lowest point in his career, averaging 7.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. To make matters worse for the former No 1 pick, Ben is facing massive hate online after being chastised by ESPN analyst Jalen Rose.

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However, even till a year ago, Ben had established himself as the All-Star who could take the Nets to glory. From debuting for Australia in the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship against New Zealand at the age of 16 to signing a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Nike in 2016, Ben's career is marked with several laurels that keep fans hopeful that his addition to the Nets will see some positive results.

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Is Ben Simmons American? 'My roots are in Australia' says NBA star

While the 26-year-old has found fame and recognition after moving to the USA, his days as an athlete started in Australia, where he was born and raised. In Ben was featured in Forbes where he asserted that his roots remain in Australia. "I think more people think I'm American than Australian, which is kinda funny, that the older I get, the more I hear that. Especially when I tell people, they're like, 'Wow you're from Australia'. But that's my roots, you know that's where I'm from, that's where I grew up," he said. 

Early life and stint with LSU

Ben was born on July 20, 1996, in Melbourne's Fitzroy. His father, David Simmons, played professional basketball for 13 seasons in the Australian National Basketball League (NBL). While David was born in Bronx, New York, and graduated from Oklahoma city, he moved to Australia in 1989 after signing with the Melbourne Tigers. David shares two children - daughter Olivia and son Ben - with his wife, Julia, and is father to four stepchildren - Melissa, Emily, Liam, and Sean. The youngest of his six siblings, Ben, says he had always been a competitive kid. 

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Speaking at NBC's 'The Late Late Show' he had jokingly told host James Corden that he knew he had outskilled his father by the time he was 16. When asked by Corden when did he realize he was "better than his dad," Ben said, "I'm a competitive person so I have always believed that. But knowing what actually happened would be when I was like 16 years old. I came back from America and played him one on one and he kinda realized that he's getting older and it's time to hang it up."



 

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After representing Australia at the 2012 FIBA Under-17 World Championship at the age of 15 in 2012, Ben moved to the US in 2013. In an interview with NBC's Jimmy Fallon, he said the reason for his decision was higher competitiveness in the American Basketball league. An alum of Montverde Academy in Montverde, Florida, Simmons, reportedly helped his team rally from a 16-point deficit to beat New Jersey's St Benedict's 67–65 in the final of the High School National Tournament in April 2013.  

During his year in Florida, his basketball prowess helped him get four university offers of which he picked Louisiana State University, and committed himself on October 14, 2013. On November 12, 2014, Ben signed a National Letter of Intent to play college basketball for LSU, where he would make his debut against the Newcastle All-Stars during a four-stop national tour in Australia. On November 13, 2015, Ben made his college debut for LSU in the team's season-opener against McNeese State, tallying a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds.

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Professional career and Philadelphia 76ers debut

On July 3, 2016, Ben joined the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2016 NBA Summer League under a rookie scale contract, a month after being selected by head coach Brett Brown. Ben was the number one overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft despite never playing in the NCAA tournament. Despite a poor shooting form in the first three Summer League games, Ben's court awareness and passing ability earned him a spot in the All-Las Vegas Summer League First Team.

However, the season was marked with injuries for Ben. On September 30, 2016, Simmons rolled his right ankle, fracturing his metatarsal bone, and was later ruled out for the entire 2016–17 NBA season. He faced some skepticism and criticism from NBA pundits at that time, many of whom questioned his strength and fitness. On October 23, 2017, Ben recorded his first career triple-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in a 97–86 win over the Detroit Pistons.

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He became the third rookie after Robertson (1960) and Art Williams (1967) to record a triple-double in his first four games and went on to become the only player in NBA history to begin a season with at least 170 points, 100 rebounds, and 80 assists in his team's first 10 games. The 76ers finished the regular season with a 16th straight win to earn the Eastern Conference's No 3 seed in the playoffs. Ben was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month.

On January 31, 2019, Ben's hard work paid off as he became the first Australian to find a spot in the All-Star league. Ben was listed as one of the seven reserves from the Eastern Conference for the match against the Western Conference, which took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, on February 18, that year. Moreover, in the coming two years, he would find himself in two more All-Star squads. 

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In February, last year, the 76ers traded Ben along with Andre Drummond, Seth Curry, and two future first-round picks, to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for James Harden and Paul Millsap. However, his year with the Nets has seen him struggle with form. At his preseason debut against the 76ers on October 3, 2022, Ben managed only six points, five assists, and four rebounds. His regular season debut on October 19, 2022, against the New Orleans Pelicans aso saw him struggle, with a stat line of four points, five rebounds, and five assists before fouling out.

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