After just four NBA games, Australian Ben Simmons is already being touted as potentially the nation’s best basketball export.
The 21-year-old from Melbourne notched 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to record a history-making triple-double in Philadelphia’s 97-86 victory in Detroit on Tuesday (Melbourne time).
Simmons reached the mark one year and three months faster than superstar LeBron James did at the beginning of his stellar career.
Just two other players, Oscar Robertson and Art “Hambone” Williams, have achieved triple-doubles in their first four games.
“I’m just glad we won. That means so much more than stats for me,” Simmons said post-game.
The phenomenal start to his NBA career has received huge praise, both locally and overseas.
Four-time NBA All-Star John Wall of the Washington Wizards said last week: “Ben Simmons, he’s one of those guys that, like a LeBron – gets the ball off the rim, he’s pushing it and finding his teammates, he can finish at the rim.”
Australian legend Shane Heal – who played 49 games in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs – doesn’t disagree with Wall’s assessment, but compares Simmons to another NBA great.
“Without wanting to put unrealistic expectations on him, he’s more Magic (Johnson) than LeBron in my mind,” Heal told The New Daily.
“Magic was a six [foot] eight point guard who could do it all. Ben’s six-10 and probably quicker and more dynamic than what Magic Johnson was,” Heal said.
“Obviously he’s got a long way to go before you can compare him to Magic, but as far as body type and positions and things like that, his upside is enormous.”
Heal is confident Simmons will one day claim the title of being the greatest NBA player to come out of Australia.
“With what he’s done already and the upside he’s got … it’s scary to think where he’s going to be when he’s 26 – he’s still a kid.”
Taken as the No.1 pick in the 2016 draft, before missing all of last season due to a foot injury, Simmons has enjoyed a meteoric rise.
Following his dominant display in Detroit, Simmons became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 1992 to register double-doubles in his first four games.
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) October 24, 2017
Mark Bradtke is another former Boomers representative who has been blown away by Simmons’ start to life in the toughest league in the world.
Bradtke played alongside Ben’s father Dave for the Melbourne Tigers in the NBL before signing with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996-97.
“It’s sensational, unbelievable what he’s done already,” he told The New Daily.
“To get a triple-double in his fourth game, and to lead a team and be the point guard, and have all the expectations because he’s a No.1 draft pick, it’s unbelievable, sensational stuff.”
Heal and Bradtke are both adamant Simmons’ success will give basketball in Australia a boost.
“Grassroots basketball in Australia is already massive, but all those kids will now be wearing Ben Simmons singlets and admiring what he’s doing,” Bradtke said.
Heal agreed: “When he gets into the green and gold again, you’ve got him running the point with (Matthew) Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Patty Mills and these sort of guys; the depth of our Australian team with international experience, we’ve never seen it before.
“The confidence that they will take moving forward is really exciting for Australian basketball.”