How Ben Simmons can launch himself into the pantheon of Australian sporting royalty


Don Bradman. Cathy Freeman. David Campese. Dawn Fraser. Greg Norman.

The list of Australian sporting greats -- those whose reach extended beyond parochial adoration to capture the hearts -- imagination and interest of a truly global audience, is a long and incredibly proud one.

Ian Thorpe's staggering Sydney Olympics, the likes of Shane Warne and Dennis Lillee leading cricketing domination across numerous compelling periods, Rod Laver defining the sport of tennis across a period of no less than seven years as world No.1. Sporting history is littered with Aussies bossing the world's sporting psyche.

Right now, though, it would be hard to argue this is a golden era for Australian sport to match.

As detailed in the ESPN World Fame 100, not one Australian national can hold a candle to LeBron James, Tiger Woods or even Tim Howard in the global fame stakes.

It says much that the biggest global star in Australia is arguably Steph Curry, the slight point guard currently tearing up the rule book in the NBA.

The Warriors superstar may only come in at No.34 on the ESPN World Fame 100 but his amazing three-point shooting and supreme passing game have left Australian sports fans in awe. Curry has almost single-handedly propelled the NBA to near the top of Australia's sporting psyche despite basketball traditionally struggling to gain traction behind dominant domestic sports such as Australian football and rugby league.

And herein could lay the route for the next great Australian global superstar.

Because that groundswell of interest could become a tsunami if potential No.1 NBA Draft pick and Melbourne-born Ben Simmons lives up to his immense potential.

ESPN writer David Thorpe wrote of the 19-year-old: "The LSU prospect could be the prototypical power forward for today's NBA game, thanks to his elite vision and feel with the ball as a 6-foot-10, 240-plus pound man.

"His ceiling [is] a perennial All-Star, a max-salary player and, if he learns to be a better primary scorer, a recurrent MVP candidate."

In short, Simmons could have the world game at his feet. Such is his immense reach, even U.S President Barack Obama is a fan.

In June he will take his next step. It looks a straight fight between him and Brandon Ingram as to who will be first pick - which means a spot either at the Philadelphia 76ers or LA Lakers. No lose.

Only once before has an Australian been first pick in the NBA draft - Andrew Bogut was of course the first in 2005 - and with it would come a six-figure paycheck and a potential route cleared to reach the very top table of the sport.

Which means Simmons could be capturing the world's attention as a dominant NBA superstar inside the next five or 10 years -- and then even the current adulation would be 10-fold for Australian sports fans, who love their proud sporting nation punching above its weight on the international stage.

And few of his compatriots could compete.

Yes, there is Jason Day. He is golf's world No.1, a man whose scintillating finish to last year's PGA Tour season -- including the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits -- and three victories in 2016 have catapulted him to the forefront of sporting interest.

But he needs more majors to really stamp his authority on the global stage. A clean-cut, family-man persona ensures his likeability, but he certainly cannot yet rival the likes of Woods, Phil Mickelson or Rory McIlroy -- numbers 7, 13 and 20 respectively on the ESPN World Fame 100 -- for global appeal.

Nick Kyrgios, for entirely different reasons, also hints at future global fame (or notoriety, depending on events). But his badboy image -- something he shares with fellow Aussie tennis hope Bernard Tomic -- has put some Australian fans off, as has his ongoing verbal stoush with the Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team, Kitty Chiller.

While he struggles to back his volatility with major on-court success it will be difficult for Kyrgios to truly make his mark.

And were AFL and NRL to have spread their incredible domestic support beyond Australian shores then inevitably Lance 'Buddy' Franklin (AFL) and Johnathan Thurston (NRL) would be world picks. As it is both are virtually unknowns beyond the mainland.

So, with the NBA draft fast approaching, perhaps this is the time for Simmons to lay down a marker and set himself apart as the next Australian global prodigy.

If he becomes the player many basketball experts expect him to be, he could help lift basketball into another stratosphere in Australia.

And should he do so, Simmons will not only catapult his name into the pantheon of Australian sporting royalty but also help re-establish his country as a true global sporting powerhouse.