A passionate rant from MP Tim Watts in Parliament has gone viral in the United States after he hit out in the House of Representatives about Ben Simmons’ omission from the NBA All-Star team.
The 21-year-old Simmons has starred in his rookie NBA season for the Philadelphia 76ers, sparking comparisons between the Melbourne-born player and legend LeBron James.
Despite his excellent form, Simmons was left out of the NBA All-Star match, even though he won the third-most votes for any guard in the competition.
That has led to angry reactions from many fans and Mr Watts took the case further on Wednesday with an impassioned plea that also accused NBA of an ‘anti-Australian conspiracy’.
His speech (viewable below) attracted major media attention in the United States, with ESPN’s hugely popular Sportscenter program labelling it an “epic rant”.
They also posted a video of it, which has generated more than 11,500 responses at the time of writing.
A member of the Australian House of Representatives is outraged that Ben Simmons is not an all-star. Here's his epic rant: pic.twitter.com/PVeoGhILgl
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 7, 2018
“ESPN was never going to cover me for my athletic prowess, so I’m pleased that they picked up one of my speeches,” Mr Watts told The New Daily.
“Ben Simmons has the potential to be Australia’s greatest ever basketballer.
“He’s already an NBA superstar, breaking first-year records held by greats of the game like Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.
“For him to be denied a spot in the NBA All-Star game not once, not twice, but three times, is, as we say in Australia, a bloody outrage.”
Mr Watts added that he thought Simmons’ plight was “worth speaking about in Parliament as it provided an opportunity to highlight the achievements of a golden generation of Australian basketballers currently playing in the NBA”.
“The nine Australians in the NBA this season include indigenous Australians, immigrants and refugees and show that we are the most successful multicultural nation on earth,” he said.
“They show that Australia’s diversity is our strength.
“The response has been massive … hopefully the NBA Commissioner gets the message!”
The story was also covered by the likes of USA Today, who expressed bemusement at the fact the issue was raised in Parliament.
In the initial speech, Mr Watts cited Simmons’ statistics – and the case of Utah’s Joe Ingles – as reasons why he was concerned with the NBA’s decisions.
“In a record-breaking rookie year for the Philadelphia 76ers, Ben is currently averaging nearly 17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists in a game – he has already had five triple-doubles and frankly no one with two brain cells to rub together would want Goran Dragic on their team over Ben,” he said.
Miami’s Dragic was chosen ahead of Simmons as an injury replacement for Cleveland star Kevin Love.
A spot for Simmons may have opened up after New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis pulled out with injury but Mr Watts isn’t holding his breath.
“The fact that compatriot ‘Jingling’ Joe Ingles has also been left out of the three-point competition, despite currently sitting third in the league in three-point percentage, makes me think that’s there some kind of anti-Australian conspiracy at league head office at the moment,” he said.
“If you thought that Australia was angry about The Simpsons vs Australia TV episode, you ain’t seen nothing yet, Yanks.”