Ben Simmons: ‘I’m Not Friends With Anybody’
From the outside, the life of Ben Simmons looks utterly charmed. The Sixers’ No. 1 draft pick has fame, adoring fans, millions in his bank account, and he’s already been compared to a handful of NBA legends — all that, and he’s still not even old enough to buy a beer.
But maybe being a young phenom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe it’s a little overwhelming, trying to live up to larger-than-life expectations and contend with constant intrusions from people who want a piece of you — a selfie, an autograph, an interview, an endorsement deal.
Hints of the isolation and anxiety that can accompany such a meteoric rise have emerged in glimpses of “One & Done,” the Showtime documentary on Simmons that airs tonight at 9 p.m. It’s the closest Sixers fans will come to seeing Simmons with a basketball in his hands for at least a few months — depending on how you read tea leaves — while he’s recovering from a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot.
“I know people who want to try to be my friend because I might be in the NBA, I might have a nice contract and be on TV and famous, but I’m not friends with anybody,” Simmons says in one clip, against a backdrop of footage that shows him being mobbed by fans at Louisiana State University, where he spent a single season before entering the NBA draft.
In a trailer for the documentary, Simmons is shown wrestling with conflicting emotions over his journey. He recalls feeling destined to play in the NBA, even as an 8-year-old in Australia, but he also scoffs at the machinery of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, of being promoted as Louisiana State University’s star athlete in one breath, and then chided over his grades in another, as if either he or the university thought for a moment that he was actually there to pursue a four-year degree.
“NCAA is messed up. Go buy a [number] 25 jersey. Go put me on ESPN. Go make millions of dollars off one person,” he says, clearly exasperated. “I don’t have a voice!”
The film will undoubtedly give new life to arguments over whether the NCAA should start paying student athletes. Simmons’s point of view couldn’t be more clear: “Everybody’s making money except the players. We’re the ones waking up early as hell to be the best teams and do everything they want us to do and then the players get nothing,” he says at one point, according to ESPN. “They say education, but if I’m there for a year, I can’t get much education.”
“One & Done” marks the second time that Showtime has channeled a Philly basketball star’s inner turmoil into a documentary. You might have heard of the other guy they profiled before: Allen Iverson.
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