If you've heard Ben Simmons' interviews throughout the last few years, you'd be forgiven for wondering why he sounds more American than Australian. He didn't always sound like this however - old footage reveals a distinct Aussie accent. (For those wondering why this is even a topic, we've had a a long offseason.)
The interview below from mid-2012 shows a young Ben Simmons emerging onto the scene. Following standout performances at the Adidas nations tournament and Pangos All-American camp, he shot up draft boards and was labelled a potential top 5 player in the class of 2015. Ben was still based in Melbourne at this point, and hadn't played high school basketball in the USA yet. His accent is as Australian as it gets in this clip, just 5 months prior to joining Montverde Academy in Florida.
In fairness to Simmons, he has an American father (90s NBL player Dave Simmons) and dual citizenship with the USA. Furthermore, he moved to the States at a young age and has been based there ever since.
Fast forwarding to mid-2014, Simmons was coming off a big junior year. He won his second high school national championship and was being discussed as the #1 prospect in his class by this point. The following video features a noticeably Australian "shout out to home team hoops" at the beginning. Feel free to keep watching; it's one of his better high school mixtapes.
At this point the Aussie accent is starting to slip away. Another 2014 interview, with Ben Simmons in AAU uniform, shows mixed delivery. He still appears to sound Australian for now, but the American accent has all the momentum.
Moving forward to 2015, Ben Simmons was named high school player of the year. He won his 3rd consecutive national championship and firmly established himself as the favourite to go first overall in the 2016 draft. The American accent is starting to take over at this point, with some Australian speech intertwined.
Simmons managed to maintain his status as the #1 NBA draft prospect throughout an up-and-down season at LSU. Prior to draft day he made an appearance on "The Tonight Show", where Jimmy Fallon asked him what accent he had. Ben's immediate response: Australian. He then elaborated, saying it was mixed with American talk. It's an encouraging first response from Simmons, although his accent is really hybrid at best here.
Simmons' accent has become a point of interest since he elevated himself to NBA stardom. 60 Minutes Australia explored this in an interview last year, asking Ben how he would describe it. Simmons again said he has a mixed accent, which is a fair estimation. He also indicated that it comes out more when he returns to Melbourne.
Does any of this really matter? Not at all, but the progression in Ben's accent is interesting to follow. Jonah Bolden and Josh Green have followed a similar pattern, picking up an American voice after moving to the states. On the other hand, Patty Mills, Andrew Bogut and Dante Exum (to give a few examples) sound as Australian as when they left home. Our athletes should be encouraged to simply speak in a way that they feel comfortable.
Regardless of what accent he has, Simmons represents Australia well and comes back every offseason. He has indicated that he wants to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and should be one of the first names on the team sheet. This will end a 7-year wait to see Ben put on the Boomers uniform again.
Hopefully, for Australian basketball fans, Tokyo will be worth the wait.