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Rich Paul has Ben Simmons walking the LeBron James path

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

The Philadelphia 76ers already expect to be without Ben Simmons for the next few months after the first overall pick fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot during the final day of training camp. Now, reports have it that his absence might extend throughout the entire season, as Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, is not keen on the 20-year-old taking the court until next summer.

We don’t know if the situation will end up playing out like Paul has seemingly dictated. The medical staff could offer such assurances that there’s no risk of re-injury that Simmons’ camp could comfortably change its mind. Simmons could also just be eager to play basketball again and override the advice of his representation. He is his own man, after all.

Yet, Simmons having his long-term future in mind over anything in the short-term would fit perfectly with everything we know about how he considers his career. The first overall pick has a documentary set to air on Showtime on October 21. The crew has been following him since high school, which means that as a teenager, he was already thinking about his long-term career and crafting a legacy.

Simmons also has a multi-year autograph memorabilia deal with Upper Deck. At the team’s Beach Bash event in August, Simmons arrived with his Upper Deck reps and a set amount of officially sanctioned photographs, which were the only items he was allowed to autograph for fans, standard operating procedure for him.

The point being that everything about him is carefully controlled and curated so as to provide Simmons with as much ownership over his footprint in the marketplace as possible.

In a lot of ways, this situation is just another example of Ben Simmons following the LeBron James career blueprint. The Aussie draws comparisons to the future Hall-of-Famer because they both possess extraordinary court vision and passing ability for men their size. Even off the court, though, Simmons is trying to walk a mile in LeBron’s shoes. He signed with LeBron’s agency, Klutch Sports Group, and has been working out with the Cavaliers star during the summer.

LeBron was even Simmons’ predecessor in the media department. The More Than a Game documentary told the story of LeBron with his St. Vincent-St. Mary teammates. Those high school games were televised on ESPN, an unprecedented phenomenon at the time.

While the high school years weren’t as closely watched for Simmons because he was in Australia, he did cause his LSU Tigers team that wasn’t even good enough to make the NCAA tournament, to be regular appointment viewing on the national level.

James has been the current torch-bearer for the player as his own brand model. The Decision was the highest-profile example of a player taking control and owning his destiny in free agency. LeBron then pioneered the big money, two-year deal with a player option, effectively taking the reins on the team’s decision-making year-to-year because he could always threaten to bolt if things didn’t go according to his directives.

If Simmons and his camp decides when it is that he is to come back from injury, it’s one more step toward the players having all the power.

Standing 6’10” but ready to step in and play some point guard, Ben Simmons was expected to change the game at the NBA level. If he does eventually follow his representation’s advice and sit out despite the team and medical staff wanting him to play, Simmons will definitely change the game. It just won’t be for anything on the court.

Rich Paul has Ben Simmons walking the LeBron James path

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