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Australian Basketballer Ben Simmons Becomes The Third #1 NBA Pick Born In Melbourne In Just 12 Years

Bogut. Kyrie. Simmons.

24/06/2016 9:40 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST
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USA Today Sports / Reuters
Off to Philly, home of delicious cream cheese.

Australian basketballer Ben Simmons has been selected number one overall in the NBA Draft.

The Melbourne-born forward was taken by the Philadelphia 76ers with the prestigious top pick out of Louisiana State University.

The pick is significant not just because he's Australian, but because Melbourne has now become one of the most prolific cities for producing number one draft picks in NBA history.

Simmons is the third Melbourne-born basketballer taken #1 in the NBA Draft in just the third years. Australian forward Andrew Bogut (2005) and American point guard Kyrie Irving (2011) were both born in Melbourne.

USA Today Sports / Reuters
He's probably already listening to the Rocky trumpet music.

Melbourne has often been proclaimed as the sports capital of Australia, if not the world, by those who live there. With the selection of Simmons on Friday, that claim may actually hold some water.

Simmons was considered the consensus top pick in the lead-up to the draft, which took place only four days after the Cleveland Cavaliers (led by the aforementioned Irving and LeBron James) beat Bogut's Warriors in the NBA Finals. And that doesn't even count Melbourne-born Matthew Dellavedova, a part-time player for the Cavs.

HOW IT WORKS

Under the rules of the draft, teams who have missed the playoffs undergo a lottery process to determine which team gets the first selection. The worse your record, the better your chance of winning the lottery and earning the right to earlier draft picks.

The 76ers won the draft lottery, which was fitting as they had easily the worst record in the league in the 2015/16 season. They won just 10 games and lost 72, which was a near reversal of NBA runners-up the Golden State Warriors, who went 73 and 9 in the best season ever.

DO FIRST DRAFT PICKS USUALLY BECOME GREAT PLAYERS?

Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. There's no science to this. LeBron James was a number one pick. So was Shaquille O'Neal. Michael Jordan -- widely considered the greatest player of all time -- was only third pick back in the day.

Perhaps the worst top draft pick of all time was LaRue Martin, who was selected at number one in 1972 by the Portland Trail Blazers. He had a completely unremarkable four year career and the Blazers won the championship the year he retired.

What's really worth bearing in mind is that most NBA players reach their peak in their mid 20s. Ben Simmons is just 19. He's unlikely to set the NBA on fire next year or the one after. Give him time.

SO WHO IS BEN SIMMONS?

He was born in inner Melbourne to an Aussie mum and an American dad and spent his early childhood in Newcastle where he also played rugby league. He later moved back to Melbourne where his dad, Dave, had a celebrated career for the (then) Melbourne Tigers (now Melbourne United) in Australia's NBL.

Simmons excelled at both Australian Rules footy and basketball through his teens. When he obtained an AIS basketball scholarship, that pretty much sealed his sporting fate.

Simmons then followed his dad's footsteps into the world of U.S. college basketball, where he became a young superstar at Louisiana State University. A 208cm 109 kg power forward, Simmons is already strong, tough and skilful.

Because of his draft selection, he'll be unable to represent Australia as part of the Boomers squad at the upcoming Rio Olympics, but he's said he hopes to play many games for Australia in the future.

BEFORE WE GO, SOME COOL STATS

That thing we said about Melbourne producing three number one draft pickss in 12 years? It's almost a record. Almost, but not quite.

New York produced three number one draft picks in 11 years leading up to 1963, so the Big Apple beats the Big Tram (or should that be the Big Coffee) by a year. But it's still pretty amazing.

Simmons becomes the 11th number one overall pick born outside the U.S. The first was Mychal Thompson in 1978, born in Nassau, Bahamas. Other high-profile draftees since include the New York Knicks' Patrick Ewing, from Kingston, Jamaica, Chinese superstar Yao Ming and of course Irving.

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