Ben Simmons played just one season of college basketball, but it was enough for him to develop a strong opinion about the sport’s governing body.
“The NCAA is really (expletive) up,” Simmons, in documentary set to air this week, said, according to ESPN. “Everybody’s making money except the players. We’re the ones waking up early as hell to be the best teams and do everything they want us to do and then the players get nothing. They say education, but if I’m there for a year, I can’t get much education.”
The documentary, ‘One and Done,’ is set to air Friday evening on Showtime. In it, Simmons also claims to have been offered cars, jewelry, a house and “anything.” Simmons, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in June after his one season at LSU, said that he had no plans on attending second-semester class after earning eligibility with his first-semester grades.
“The NCAA is messed up,” Simmons said. “I don’t have a voice. … I don’t get paid to do it. Don’t say I’m an amateur and make me take pictures and sign stuff and go make hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars off one person. … I’m going off on the NCAA. Just wait, just wait. I can be a voice for everybody in college. I’m here because I have to be here [at LSU]. … I can’t get a degree in two semesters, so it’s kind of pointless. I feel like I’m wasting time.”
Simmons’ sentiments are hardly new. The NCAA’s stance on amateurism has never been more tenuous with assaults on all sides regarding student-athlete compensation. There’s also been concerns about one-and-dones bailing on classes after winter break since the NBA instituted the age limit in 2006. And just about only James Naismith predates impermissible benefits.
Simmons, though, does provide candid thoughts on the matter from someone who lived in that world as a super-prospect. His case may be extreme, but it certainly shines a light on the value of college players beyond their scholarship.
The issue with Simmons being the messenger of such a position is that he went out of his way to play NCAA basketball. As an Australian, Simmons could have declared for the 2015 NBA draft, but instead came to the United States for his senior year of high school and then chose to remain stateside to play for the Tigers, rather than go to the D-league or foreign leagues.
Simmons chose to play college hoops, even though the ability to bypass the NCAA was more readily available to him than most players. That doesn’t mean his message about the NCAA and its restrictions on student-athletes doesn’t have merit or truth to it, but it’s probably going to make it more difficult for him to make that point.
When presented with multiple options of making money playing basketball or doing it for a scholarship at LSU, Simmons chose the scholarship and the marketing that comes with it. And that’s why his words sound a lot more like buyer’s remorse than anything, even if their substance rings true.