If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of my 36 years it’s that no matter how confident you are, nothing and nobody is a “Sure Thing”. Whatever the situation, placing unashamed confidence in an outcome you have no control over will eventually see the worth of your opinion taken down a peg or two:
- “There’s no way Greg Norman can lose the 1996 Masters with a 6 stroke lead heading into the final round.” (Uh-oh….)
- “I can categorically state that the 2013 NBA Draft #1 pick will not be Anthony Bennett .” (Oh dear….)
- “There is no chance that Bill Cosby is anything other than a wonderful family man and one of America’s most adored and loved TV entertainers.” (Errr, perhaps we should move on….)
As we make our way through the 2015-2016 NCAA Division 1 season we are now constantly reminded of the world of basketball’s next “Sure Thing”, Australia’s own Ben Simmons. With comparisons to everybody from Lamar Odom and Toni Kukoc to a new generation Magic Johnson or LeBron James, the media machine has gone into a Millenium Falcon-like hyper drive with no end destination in sight.
While I have my own giddy expectations for what Ben Simmons COULD become, a quick run through history will show that the best thing we, the fans, and especially the media can do is to give this young man (he turns 20 in July) the room to grow, the room to make mistakes, and the room to adjust to this crazy new world that he will inhabit for the remainder of his career. About 2 1/2 years ago we eagerly swallowed anything we could put into our basketball mouths regarding a group of US high-school ballers who would quickly become the next generation of NBA franchise players….fast forward to today and those predictions for Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle have been at worst proven incorrect, at best still very much in the balance.
As well as understanding that the media hype machine is there to generate interest and money for the NBA, we should also pay attention to a slew of other factors that could derail the Ben Simmons train.
Injuries – Remember when Joel Embiid was the next Hakeem Olajuwon? He has played 0 out of a possible 133 games as he battles a number of concerning injuries. At this point he should concentrate simply on being the best NBA player named Joel. (Currently 3rd behind Joel Pryzbilla and Joel Anthony.)
Wrong Team – Being drafted by an organisation with a proven track record of developing players is crucial. Boston Celtics or LA Lakers? Great chance to be successful. Ending up on the confidence sapping tanking programme of the 76ers or the Chernobyl like disaster that is the Sacramento Kings organisation? Not so much.
Temptations – The temptations that come with fame should not be underestimated and can effect a career on different levels. Magic Johnson couldn’t keep it in his pants and robbed us of a final 5-8 years of his career. Len Bias didn’t even make it to training camp before being fatally seduced by fame’s perks in 1986. Johnny Manziel or “Johnny Football” was all set to be the next Hall of Fame QB in the NFL – he now spends more time in rehab than on the field.
It’s a mine field out there for young sports prodigies to tip-toe their way through and the journey will be no different for Ben Simmons. But before we all start anointing him with All-Star selections, MVP awards and Olympic gold medals, and then cutting him down when he doesn’t deliver it all, let’s take a step back, give him some room to mature and develop and remember that “Sure Things” don’t exist.