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Everything Surrounding Ben Simmons Has Gotten Out Of Hand

Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

A combination of high expectations, reality, and the type of thick hyperbolic statements which you can cut using a butter knife, has made Ben Simmons playing college basketball for the LSU Tigers everything that is wrong with how we go about consuming sports.

It should go without saying that this doesn’t pertain to all. But let me get this qualifier out there: The following does not pertain to all. But I’ve seen enough shenanigans in columns and on the mean streets of Twitter to feel the need to scribble these words.

(Look, this is my serious face)

(Look, this is my serious face)

Firstly, we can’t simply enjoy Ben Simmons the college basketball player. Projection to the NBA is needed, because there is an apparent need to know how good a player “really” is or whatever. For those who think like that, they use the NBA as the measuring stick. It is why players like Juan Dixon, Felipe Lopez, and the like have long been forgotten about to casual basketball fans. They weren’t transcendent NBA stars.

Making matters even worse on this front is the fact that people are using the totally unrealistic comparisons to LeBron James. Some, smartly, only mean that from the sense that Simmons is the clear No. 1 overall pick if he chooses to declare for the upcoming NBA Draft. Others, unfortunately, mean that as far as the type of one-of-a-kind skill set they think Simmons has.

For what it is worth, Simmons’ NBA projections are definitely of a guy who seems destined to be the top pick in the draft. That said, any comparisons to LeBron James are not only unfounded, but irresponsible. Essentially setting up Simmons to fail since there’s no way he can be as good as a literal once-in-a-generation type of player such as James. You’re doing a disservice to them both, honestly.

Not to mention, Simmons has true holes in his game. While he is a very good player, one who is still very much developing, the people who are trying to say he is the next James are ignoring the fact that Simmons can’t shoot a jumper.

The counterargument to that would be about James’ own inabilities coming out of high school to shoot, but it would also be ignoring the obvious — which is that not all players in the history of basketball can improve their jump shots simply because they want to. If that were the case, many high school players in the country would be shooting 60 percent from three. Try as hard as might into making someone potentially becoming something a morality play, “wanting it enough” doesn’t mean a thing sometimes. Specifically, merely because a guy wants to become a good jump shooter does not mean it is inevitable.

Calm down, Mr. Sweeney. We aren't done yet

Calm down, Mr. Sweeney. We aren’t done yet

There’s more to this Ben Simmons, look ourselves in the mirror discussion other than his comparisons to LeBron. People have begun poking fun because he chose LSU, which is anything but a traditional hoops heavyweight.

I need to ask a question first, before we proceed: Is going to college about winning basketball games or education? I only ask because many of the same people who are poking fun at Simmons for picking the non-traditional basketball school as his destination are the same who claim being a student-athlete is important. If you’re a die-hard amateur purist, then you can’t have both.

Simmons could have chosen LSU for reasons based on the university more so than the basketball program. Maybe he values the same things that amateur purists do. If that is the case, then there’s little reason to mock his decision to go play for the Tigers. The obvious counterpoint to that would go along the lines of, “If he wanted to go to a good college he should have gone to {insert whatever college that person thinks is neat}.” As a preemptive strike to that I say, well, then every single person in the world would be going to the same college.

Also, it’s incredibly ridiculous to expect Simmons to immediately turn LSU into a title contender. He’s one person.

Are we seriously going to judge Simmons as a talent based on what his team does?

Obviously it would ago a long way in helping those who wanted to compare him to LeBron if he were carrying the Tigers on his back, but the only reason this even seems like a discussion is because Ben Simmons is failing to live up to OTHER people’s expectations

Mind you, the set of expectations that those people made for Simmons to overcome were set to such a humorously high bar that — unless Simmons grows wings from his shoulders with an R. Kelly score playing in the background — there’s no way he could do anything that would make anyone happy. There was no way LSU was going to the Final Four this year. The Tigers not exactly setting the world on fire doesn’t mean Simmons is some sort of a colossal flop. It merely means that LSU isn’t super-great at shooty hoops.

Finally, the very last thing that irks (very well, possibly only) me is that we are discussing Ben Simmons in absolutes. He’s either LeBron or great or dynamic… or not as good as we thought which means he isn’t that good at all. Very few are using nuance in the discussion that apparently needs to be had about Ben Simmons every waking moments of our lives.

This constant-comparison thing has to stop. We don’t need to project Ben Simmons’ NBA future. It’s tempting, but it’s not necessary–especially for those who simply want to enjoy one of this year’s top stars develop with the Tigers.

Let’s enjoy Ben Simmons for who he is now and not for whatever he will be at the next level. Because what I do know now, is that at this very moment, Ben Simmons is an excellent college basketball player… and rather enjoy his skill, too many feel the need to nitpick, contrast and compare.


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