2016/11/08

Ben Simmons 'One & Done' Documentary Highlights Journey Of NBA's Next Superstar Prospect

This year marks the 10-year anniversary since the NBA implemented its so-called one-and-done rule as negotiated between players and owners in the 2005 collective bargaining agreement. It required players be at least one year removed from high school to be eligible for the NBA draft, forcing future league MVPs like Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant to spend one hoops season on college campuses.
The Philadelphia 76ers hope rookie Ben Simmons is the real deal after four years of historic losing. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)

The rule has two major benefits for owners. It provides a season-long marketing campaign for elite-level talents, who are showcased regularly on TV at high-profile programs, as well as in the NCAA Tournament in March. One-and-done NBA rookies are more marketable than if they made the leap straight from high school to the pros.
The rule also helps save owners from themselves. It was a big leap to take a high school player in the NBA draft without seeing how they stacked up against college competition. One-and-done in theory minimizes colossal high school-to-pros busts like Kwame Brown, Darius Miles and Eddy Curry.

A new documentary premiering on Showtime Friday night explores the one-and-done phenomenon through the lens of Ben Simmons, who spent one year at LSU before being selected as the No. 1 overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2016 NBA Draft. Simmons is currently sidelined with no timetable on his return after breaking his right foot in training camp in September.

Simmons and his family are clearly anti-one-and-done. “I’m here (LSU) because I have to be,” says Ben to his sister Emily, and he adds later in the film, “I feel like I’m wasting time.”
“If you get a kid who’s a child prodigy and plays the violin amazingly, no one’s saying to them you must go to college for a year before you join the philharmonic orchestra,” says Simmons’ mother, Julie.

“One & Done” is the latest unscripted documentary from Showtime with basketball a common subject in films like “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” “The Drew” about Baron Davis, “Iverson” and “Dean Smith.”

The filmmakers follow Simmons for nearly two years from his final season at Montverde Academy in Florida through his whirlwind freshman year at LSU where he faced incredible scrutiny. Simmons was as an Australian basketball prodigy before moving to the U.S. his sophomore year to attend Montverde. Julie Simmons is Australian and Ben’s father, David, is a New York City native, who played 13 professional seasons in Australia’s National Basketball League.

Along with Simmons blasting the NCAA for making money off his back, the family dynamic is a central theme of the film. Julie was a divorced single mother of four when she married David. Together they had Oiliva and Ben. Emily, who is married to former Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush, increasingly takes control of Ben’s career, while his parents lament losing influence.

Emily was hired as a marketing consultant by Klutch Sports after Simmons attended the LeBron James Skills Academy in 2014. Klutch represents James and is owned by James’ friend Rich Paul. It was little surprise when Ben announced that Paul would be his agent. Dozens of agents chased Simmons while he was at LSU, but Klutch and Paul were the only agents granted a formal meeting.

Simmons rattles off the list of things he was offered at school without identifying who offered the gifts, “A Bentley, a Wraith Rolls-Royce, watches, jewelry, a house … anything. It literally is anything. People coming at you, offering you things.”
Simmons’ distaste for not being allowed to enter “The League” is misdirected with his constant bashing of the NCAA. One-and-done is not an NCAA rule, but an NBA one. The rule was up for negotiations in the current CBA talks between owners and players, but no changes are expected in the new CBA, which should be announced in the next few weeks. Yet, both sides remain uneasy with the current setup and changes could come in future years.

Simmons’ NBA contract is set by the CBA and is guaranteed for only two years at $12.1 million (the 76ers have three option years as well). Simmons might not be happy about spending one year in college, but it made him more marketable. He signed deals with Foot Locker, Beats by Dre and Upper Deck and the all-important shoe deal for elite NBA talent.

“One & Done” explores the shoe company’s chase to sign Simmons. Adidas’ pitch included video messages from DJ Khaled and Snoop Dogg extolling why Simmons should sign with the three stripes. The Simmons family gushes about the pitch from Adidas and appears lukewarm about Nike where they know Simmons will be low on the totem pole behind LeBron, Durant and Kyrie Irving. “I felt like Adidas wanted him much more,” says Julie.
Simmons eventually signed a five-year deal with Nike worth a guaranteed $20 million with upside from potential bonuses for on-court play. After the Nike pitch, Simmons makes clear how he would make his decision: “For me it’s about the offer, once they tell me the money.”
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