But it’s the rage about him charging $200 a head for a basketball camp and then apparently “sneaking out” early that really smacks of Australia’s obsession with tearing down our international success stories.
The haters lined up to shoot him down for charging $200 after he recently signed a $243 million five-year contract with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.
Because of all of this, Jones has claimed Simmons “has lost a lot of people very quickly”.
What a load of rubbish. Just because Simmons is wealthy, it doesn’t mean he owes us something and it certainly doesn’t mean he now has to work for free. There are plenty of wealthy sportspeople and media types charging a small fortune to appear at sportsmen’s nights and other community functions, and nobody seems to bat an eyelid at that. Should they also work for free?
Simmons is an international superstar and doesn’t have to come back to Australia. In fact, he could be anywhere in the world doing anything he wants.
The fact he’s chosen to come home should be celebrated, and harnessed to encourage kids to get out and play.
In an age when kids are regularly glued to their screens and too often isolated and shut away from the world, international superstars such as Simmons have the ability to do far more good than harm.
What many of these haters don’t realise is that times are changing. No longer are younger fans obsessed only with Australia’s traditional sports. Increasingly, they’re gravitating to overseas sports with a truly global appeal. They’re fascinated by megastars who earn truckloads of money and who have millions of social media followers around the world.
In fact, many follow stars and brands more than teams.
Simmons is a bona fide basketball star. Furthermore, he’s a star of a sport that’s played by more kids in Australia than cricket, Australian football and rugby league. And he’s playing in a competition, the NBA, that has more subscribers to its streaming service per capita in Australia than any other nation in the world.
And yet, instead of encouraging him to help get kids off the couch and onto the basketball court, where they can be active, socialise and form meaningful friendships and communities, we’ve tried to chase him out of the country.
Sadly, the behaviour and sentiment showed towards Simmons is not unique. Australian golfing legend Greg Norman once remarked that if someone in America bought a sports car, other Americans would say “nice car”; if someone in Australia bought a sports car, other Australians would scratch it.
Sam Duncan is a lecturer in sports media and marketing.