Now That Ben Simmons Is Out Indefinitely With Nerve Impingement Is He The New Bust Life?

On Saturday the Brooklyn Nets announced that swingman Ben Simmons has been diagnosed with a nerve impingement in his back and will remain out indefinitely. He’s missed 16 straight games for the Nets and 32 of 74. He’s unlikely to play again season, and his career might be over.

Is Simmons a bust?

“For me as a coach, there’s some things that I can control, some things that I can’t control,” head coach Jacques Vaughn said on Saturday. “What I can’t control is the impingement. What I can control is getting this group ready to play. And then in all honesty, the realism that he’s probably not going to join us for the rest of the year … certainty will come once he continues to be looked at by specialists.”

Ben Simmons’ Season Likely Over

There is certainly frustration in Brooklyn over the situation.

It’s hard to call anyone that has earned over $125 million their career a bust. As media personality Bomani Jones likes to say, “he is a legend at the bank!”

Putting his riches aside, Simmons has accomplished some pretty remarkable things in the five seasons he’s been on the court.

He’s had six 30-point games and a 40-point game. Pretty impressive for a non-scorer.

Simmons has been a three-time All-Star, two-time All-Defense, All-NBA, Rookie of the Year, and he’s led the league in steals. Again, pretty impressive in five on-court seasons.

Kwame Brown, a fellow No. 1 overall draft pick, is often called a bust and he’s fought hard against that label. But Brown has never accomplished anything close to what Simmons has.

Same for 2013 No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett.

Greg Oden was drafted No. 1 overall in 2007 and he too never came close to accomplishing what Simmons has. Oden was perpetually injured, so it’s tough to accurately critique him.

What Classifies As A Bust?

Maybe we need to reexamine language and the word bust. So many factors play into whether or not a player is successful. It’s part luck, player’s will, talent work ethic, and team environment.

Golden State Warriors’ forward Andrew Wiggins was selected No. 1 overall in 2014. Prior to joining the Warriors he won rookie of the year and made the playoffs once. Is Wiggins a bust? Was he miscast in his role? Was Minnesota the best place to optimize his talents?

Nobody that has accomplished what Simmons has in five on-court seasons is a bust. The problem with Simmons is his failures or poor performances have been in big moments on the national stage. It all culminated in the 2021 playoffs when he failed to dunk with the game on the line for fear of getting fouled.

Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot and fear of attacking the rim is antithetical to the macho culture of sports. He’s not seen as an alpha or someone with a dominating personality or game, and for a No. 1 pick that doesn’t sit well with fans and may media pundits.

Injuries aside there are real questions to be asked about Simmons’ development and his mental approach to the game.

If this is the end of this career, it certainly did not reach the cumulative heights that many predicted. But to call him a bust is a step too far.

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