Behind Ben Simmons: A Deep Psychological Dive into His Sour NBA Journey

ben simmons
Loading the Elevenlabs Text to Speech AudioNative Player...

Touted as the premier prospect to emerge from the 2016 draft, Ben Simmons mesmerized the NBA with his youthful and exuberant energy on the court. His razzle-dazzle approach wowed the fans and earned respect from opponents and teammates. But his misfortunes through injury and the allure of the celebrity NBA lifestyle contributed to him facing and dealing with ridicule from social media and major pundits.

Such negative attention created a cave where hibernation from the NBA landscape became a necessity. That seemed to result in a stagnation of his potential. The reasons can be speculated by those outside his sphere of thought. But to understand the former 76er and current Nets’ fallen star status we must recognize that it all stems from the mental aspect of his game. As the Beck song eloquently puts it, “It’s all in your mind.”

Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards
Ben Simmons with the Philadelphia 76ers with hands on head in disappointment

A Good Start

A historical recollection might help to identify the source of his collapse and a deep dive into his psyche could lead to understating and perhaps justifying his lack of productivity and carefree attitude. After all, his numbers did validate his worth as an NBA star in the making. Ben Simmons won the ROY award in his first full season. He won despite the debate that he missed his entire actual first season due to a related foot injury. Some pundits and fans felt the award should’ve gone to then Utah starlet Donovan Mitchell. But when Ben Simmons was on the court, he played 81 regular season games, averaging 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, and 8.1 total rebounds in 33.7 minutes.

He elevated his game and stats by scoring more (16.9 points/game and 8.8 rebounds/game) in 34.2 minutes of action per game. Granted, critics circled like vultures over his failure to accurately shoot the ball. In the six playing seasons, his best free throw percentage was 62%. For a guard, those are shameful numbers. Missing a ton of uncontested shots from regulation and, dare I mention, an “easy spot” where he can take his time to think about the shot is downright embarrassing for any NBA pedigree player.

That, in which lies the problem.

ben simmons 3 1
Ben Simmons when he first joined the Brooklyn Nets under then head coach Steve Nash

Shooting Woes

Despite being a three-time NBA All-Star, Ben Simmons lacks the mental aptitude to shoot under pressurized situations. When everyone in the arena has their eyeballs on a player taking a free throw, his mind locks up, and his shooting represents that mental deficiency. The spotlight hampers his stats and, by doing so, creates a narrative for journalists, pundits, and NBA enthusiasts to nit-pick at his overall game. It should be stressed some will enter the NBA Hall-of-Fame despite being a terrible free-throw shooter. Shaq, aka Big Diesel aka Superman, was infamously known for struggling at the line. This gave rise to the Hack-a-Shaq strategy.

In Simmons’ case, the embarrassment of being the recipient of such a tactic greatly affected his enthusiasm for the game. To be the lone player on the team purposely targeted down the stretch of games to be sent to the free throw line takes a toll on the mind. What made things worse was his ineffectiveness shooting from the three-point line. It narrowed his game, forcing him to continuously drive to the hoop where he would inevitably be fouled and sent to the free-throw line. The cycle persisted, and the weight of his superstar potential diluted with every passing season. This culminated in his eventual release from the team that drafted and formerly believed in him.

ben simmons 2
An indifferent Ben Simmons going through warm-up motions before a game

A Look Ahead

His off-field celebrity romance, injuries, and holdout aside, Simmons has yet to recover from the backlash he suffered as a fading Philly superstar in the making. His recent season numbers plummeted to where he averaged 6.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 6.3 assists in 42 games last season with the Brooklyn Nets. That’s a nearly 60% drop! Not much has changed this season. His devolution is on display for all to mock. He is absorbing great suffering due to expectations from the masses on a gargantuan scale in the NBA landscape. He was told he could’ve been one of the greatest players to ever grace the court.

And yet, there’s still the belief, although with a minority, that he will climb out of his NBA playing despair and rise to become the player who first entered the sport. “Everyone loves a comeback” is a cliché that might not come to fruition with Ben Simmons. It’s all in his hands to deal with what’s in his mind if he has the will. Without the willingness and love for the sport, there is sadly no point of return for him.

Leave a Reply

More on thepeachbasket