“I Think He’s In A Pretty Good Place Mentally … I Think He’ll Be Ready To Play Mentally When He’s Physically Ready” | What We’re Still Getting Wrong About Ben Simmons

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Ben Simmons was at shootaround with his new team the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, and the newly acquired 6-foot-11 three-time All-Star was all smiles and looks happy to be with a new team. Prior to their game against the Sacramento Kings, Nets head coach Steve Nash talked about Simmons and said he thinks Simmons is “in a good place mentally.” Of course, that sent the internet and all of the amateur mental health professionals on Twitter into a frenzy.

“I think he’s in a pretty good place mentally,” Nash said. “And if we work with him here, in conjunction with his physical ramp up, to make sure he’s comfortable on and off the floor, I think he’ll be ready to play mentally when he’s physically ready.”

It should be noted Nash is a basketball coach and is not known to have had formal psychology or mental health training. But he “thinks” Simmons is in a “good place.”

Philadelphia talk radio host Howard Eskin noted the smiles from Simmons and tweeted “so much for Ben Simmons mental illness.”

It’s been seven months since Simmons asked for a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers following a very poor playoff performance in the conference semifinals versus the Atlanta Hawks. The 76ers did not have to listen to Simmons’ trade request, as he was under contract. But they did and figured he would play with the team while they looked for a trade they liked.

Simmons opted not to join the team until his trade demand was met, and when the team pressed him on why he wasn’t honoring his end of the deal he cited that he wasn’t in the right place mentally to play basketball.

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The timing (right before training camp) and the reason (mental health) led many to believe he was making it up in order to force his way out of Philadelphia.

Simmons is a professional athlete and is not above criticism for his on-court performance. That’s part of the deal.

What he doesn’t owe the public or us (media) is a detailed look into whatever the status of his mental health is.

The National Basketball Players Association informed the 76ers that Simmons had been seeing a therapist. He initially chose to work with a licensed mental health professional connected with the players union rather than the one the team assigned. When the team continued to insist, Simmons did speak to a team health professional, but continued to work with his union therapist as well.

According to reports, the 76ers were not pleased that Simmons did not share all the details of his work with the union therapist with the team therapist. This is a slippery slope. What are the 76ers legally entitled to know? What is Simmons legally obligated to divulge regarding his mental health?

The job of the players union is to protect and advocate for the rights of its membership. What’s the role of the 76ers? Whose interests do they protect?

None of you reading this article would share the details of a session with your therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist or mental health professional with your employer. Not one of you.

“But he makes $33 million, he’s under contract!”

And?

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That’s the line of work that he’s in. He performs a job function in a highly specialized industry and that’s what the economics say he gets paid. Also, he been fined repeatedly since demanding a trade. So again, what’s the problem?

So a picture and a few videos of Simmons smiling and laughing in a new environment with his new teammates means he was faking his mental health issues? Whatever the situation in Philadelphia devalues people who “actually struggle”? Based on what?

What does poor or struggling mental health look like? All of you that are outraged by this. Refer me to your psychiatric training where you can accurately identify what someone you only see on television and is struggling with mental health presents like. Surely you can spot all signs and can expertly diagnose from afar.

Mental health isn’t some line with fixed points. It’s a spectrum with infinite points scattered everywhere. There are areas the scientific community knows really well and others where they are only beginning to scratch the surface.

Simmons addressed the media for the first time as a member of the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday and while he was open about the physical work he’s been doing on the court, when asked about the mental work he continued to stress that it’s a “work in progress” and the details would be kept private.

Nobody besides Simmons and his therapist know what is going on with him. If and when he he is at a point in his journey where he can share details with people he trusts, good for him. But truthfully it is and never will be any of our business.

We’ve come a long way in just being able to talk about mental health in the prehistoric arena that is professional sports. But we still have a long way to go before the space is truly safe for athletes to speak openly.

Whatever you think you may know about Simmons’ mental health, keep that to yourself. It helps nobody and you’ll come across as insensitive and highly uninformed.

Save your critiques for his game. A subject you might know slightly more about.


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