Ben Simmons is the latest Australian to excel in the NBA. From Australia to Philadelphia, the Sixers star has remained close with his family. Ben explained to Bleacher Report why representing for his country is important.
“I came to the States and no one knew who I was, then they kind of do, then I get injured and no one talks about you for a while,” Ben told Bleacher Report. “So it’s kind of like now I’ve got to build myself back up.”
Ben’s parents, Dave and Julie Simmons, have been a big part of Ben’s success. His father was born in the United States, but moved to Australia to follow his pro basketball aspirations. Dave met his wife, Julie, while he was a pro basketball player in Australia. Ben was born in Melbourne, Australia. He has four half siblings and a sister: Melissa, Emily, Liam, Sean and Olivia (Liv). Ben’s sister Emily is married to former NFL running back Michael Bush.
Ben admits to missing Australia, but notes his family’s presence helps him on the court.
“I don’t get many chances to go back. I usually go back once a year, and do my camp-out there, but I definitely miss it,” Ben told ABC Australia. “A lot of family, a lot of friends back home, and just the culture…[Family is] huge for me, they keep me humble. It’s a reality once I get back home with my brother and sister and my mum and dad, so they’re a huge help. I think they really keep me composed and relaxed once I’m away from the lights and the cameras.”
Learn more about Ben’s parents, siblings and family.
1. Ben’s Sister, Olivia, Was Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder
Ben’s sister Olivia, who goes by the nickname Liv, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and the Showtime documentary One & Done gives viewers a glimpse of Liv’s experience. Liv opened up to The Undefeated about wresting with the illness.
“I was diagnosed with bipolar and there’s this crazy stigma around it and that’s what’s scary,” Liv told The Undefeated. “You hear people every day use the word. People don’t get that. It’s going through mania and it’s going through depression. There’s different types and there’s different severities. And there’s different medications and there’s different ways to handle it. You can live a perfectly normal life. And I live a normal life. I’m a normal person. I just have restrictions, but it’s kind of like someone with diabetes.”
The documentary shows Liv speaking with Ben about the disorder. The two have had their disagreements, and Def Pen reported in December 2016 that Ben had his sister blocked on Twitter.
“Struggle city right now. I wish I was a cash cow for my family and treated everyone like sh– maybe I would get the support I need,” Liv tweeted in 2016 (via Def Pen).
Based on Liv’s recent Twitter posts, it seems like the two have reconciled as she consistently posts about rooting for her brother and the Sixers. Liv spoke with The Undefeated about telling Ben about her illness.
“I look back on that call [with her brother] and I smile, because I needed to make that phone call,” Liv explained to The Undefeated. “Had to. Because there is something very liberating and empowering about asking for help … People who aren’t afraid to ask for help are the strongest, most resilient people on this earth. I promise you. Because if you don’t know how to ask for help, how are you going to get anywhere?”
2. Sixers Coach Brett Brown Also Coached Ben’s Father, Dave Simmons, in Australia
Ben’s dad grew up in New York City, but the game of basketball would take him all over the world. After graduating from Oklahoma City, Dave eventually signed with the Melbourne Tigers after short stints in smaller leagues. According to Sports TG, Dave averaged 15 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists over his career in Australia’s National Basketball League.
Ben wrote his father a letter on an ESPN video prior to getting drafted.
“Because of your hard work, I have opportunities that you didn’t have, and for that I am grateful beyond words,” Ben said in the letter. “To be here with you and grandpa, in the city [New York City] you grew up in where the Simmons basketball story began is truly special.”
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sixers coach Brett Brown coached Ben’s father more than 25 years before he would coach his son in the NBA.
“It’s an amazing story,” Dave noted to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “You couldn’t have scripted it any better. He has to develop a relationship with Brett on his own.”
3. Ben’s Parents Met In Australia When His Father Was Playing Professional Basketball
Ben’s mother Julie is a native Australian, and met his father while he was playing basketball in Australia. According to Sports Illustrated, Julie was one of the basketball team dancers and an aerobics instructor.
Julie went on to become an executive assistant, and is now retired. Julie noted she already had four children, but Dave was not bothered.
“I don’t know what you were thinking,” Julie told Sports Illustrated. “You must not have been on your A game.”
Julie and Dave went on to have two children of their own, Ben and Liv.
4. Ben’s Brother, Sean, Is His Roommate & Helps Him Run His Business Ventures
Ben’s half-brother Sean is his roommate, and helps him with life away from basketball. Bleacher Report refers to Sean as Ben’s “roommate, protector and spokesman.” When Ben was recovering from injury a few months after being drafted, Sean helped his brother remain in good spirits by organizing games around the house. Bleacher Report detailed some of their adventures including Walmart runs and drinking hot sauce.
So he went searching for alternatives. Along with Sean, Silva and whichever of his friends happened to be around, Ben became a regular at a local Walmart. They’d buy board games and puzzles and Legos. Sometimes they’d bring home giant Nerf guns, use couch cushions to set up a battle royale and then litter the black-tiled apartment floor with foam bullets. Ben binged episodes of South Park and played more hours of Call of Duty than any human should. They’d shoot pool in his living room with the loser being sent to the floor for push-ups. One time after Sean lost at pool, Ben forced him to down an ungodly amount of a super spicy hot sauce that came packaged as if it were a grenade (Sean spent the night crouched over the toilet).
5. Dave & Julie Live One Street Away From Their Son
His circle is small — part of the advice the family was given when Ben was in high school: ‘no new friends’ — and it seems to be more of a necessity, than anything else. The nature of being a potential superstar athlete in a sports-mad city like Philadelphia means you have to adapt to the fame and adulation that comes with it.
Simmons has one friend from high school who lives in the city, but there aren’t too many people, outside of his family and teammates, that he’s able to ‘let in’ to his life. He says it’s what keeps him human.
Ben credits his mother for keeping the family (six children in all) together, and for keeping him grounded in spite of his new NBA star status.
“I’m definitely grounded because of her,” Ben explained to Fox Sports Australia. “Most Aussies know that she’s a typical Australian mum, that has a son in the NBA, and a husband who played professional basketball, and a big family. It’s tough for her, because she’s at games and people are coming up to her, saying ‘thank you’, and giving her compliments, so that part is tough on her, but, away from the court and the lights, we’re just a happy family. I think she’s done a great job holding everybody together, and raising everybody the right away.”