A Philosophical Discussion with Ben Simmons
A Philosophical Discussion with Ben Simmons
As you may know, Ben Simmons is a highly-revered professional athlete for the Philadelphia 76ers. He has tremendous size, speed, and passing ability among other skills. However, much to the chagrin of the casual observer, Ben has yet to attempt a three-point shot in his career.
In a league of ever evolving shot range, where centers may shoot over 30% from the three, Ben Simmons remains an outlier. In this dialogue, Ben and Louis sit down to discuss the reasoning behind the absence of his three point attempts, to ultimately conclude what is the most logical decision for the Ben and the team’s benefit.
Ben: Hi, Louis.
Louis: Hi, Ben. It seems we are meeting here today to discuss your three-point aversion?
Ben: Yes. This is quite the pressing matter, Louis, and it is urgent that you and I take the time to discuss this situation logically, so that we may come upon a just conclusion as any philosopher would.
Louis: Indeed, Ben. Well, I have to start by saying that surely you are the basketball expert among us and I would have nothing new to teach you about the sport that you have not already learned yourself?
Ben: Yes, that is correct.
Louis: And it seems that you must have multiple reasons for avoiding the three-point shot, rather than one simple one.
Ben: Yes, I do have several reasons that I do not wish to explain at the moment.
Louis: And is it true that you have not attempted a single three point shot in your career – (barring your several half-court heaves)?
Ben: Yes this is true, too.
Louis: Well, Ben, this is where I will need your basketball expertise then. To your knowledge, is there any one single statistical category in the NBA in which one player can single-handedly manufacture all production while still promoting his team’s optimal benefit?
Ben: What precisely do you mean by optimal benefit?
Louis: Quite simply, Ben, the benefit that is most optimal for a team. Meaning, is there any one statistical category in the NBA in which a team could benefit most by having a solo designated player produce that statistic alone, as opposed to having the whole team produce that statistic? Such an example comes to mind as the Steal Guy. In this case, our hypothetical team would deploy their Steal Guy to run around the court and produce all the steals for their team. No other player would be allowed to attempt a steal, although one may occur naturally, as it is the Steal Guy’s duty to generate steals alone. Now, being the basketball expert we must turn to you here, Ben. The question again asks if there is any one statistical category in the NBA in which a team would benefit most by deploying one solo player to manufacture all production, as opposed to a team’s total contribution?
Ben: Not that I can think of, Louis. And our example of a Steal Guy seems quite irrational.
Louis: Indeed it does, Ben. So you do agree, by antithesis, that an NBA team would benefit most by having a total team contribution in every statistical category as opposed to our one man designation? So that the more players contributing to all categories, the better?
Ben: Well yes, I do believe so.
Louis: So does it not follow that the Philadelphia 76ers would achieve a more optimal benefit with you attempting three-pointers than if you do not do so?
Ben: And that is where we disagree, Louis. As I mentioned before, I have several reasons for not attempting three-pointers that I do not wish to explain at this time. You have only proved to me that a one man designation is not optimal for a team’s benefit – but not that I should attempt three-pointers myself.
Louis: Fair enough, Ben – allow me to convince you with an alternative argument.
Ben: I am listening.
Louis: Would you agree that the NBA is ever-evolving?
Ben: Well, of course.
Louis: And would you also agree that some statistics today are more important than yesterday, just as they might be less than tomorrow?
Ben: To which do you specifically refer, Louis?
Louis: Ben, I am not an expert of these things and I could only ask for your consultation here. But, in my casual eye, it seems a player’s three-point percentage carries more weight today than it did three decades ago. Though I cannot think of a statistic in which has drastically decreased its value recently. Is that a fair assumption?
Ben: Yes, that is certainly fair.
Louis: So let’s assume for this argument that you had a special ability in which you could never miss a three-pointer - no matter how tight the coverage or angle. Would we agree that the Philadelphia 76ers would benefit most if you used your special ability, than if you had not?
Ben: If that stood true, we could win a championship every year.
Louis: Certainly. So, in a more rational setting, you agree that if the Philadelphia 76ers had more positive contributions to this important statistic, (three-pointers), they would be better off than if you had kept your contributions dormant?
Louis: Surely, Ben – it seems not to be a matter of whether you contribute to the team’s three-point category or not, now, but rather a matter of whether you contribute to the team’s three-point category positively or negatively.
Ben: And for this reasoning, Louis, I hold my explanation still.
Louis: Yes, and you are right to do so, Ben. As we discussed, you are the basketball expert here. Perhaps you attempting three-pointers could help contribute to your team’s total offensive potential. But, as you hold, perhaps you attempting three-pointers could also deter your team from success - if you were to do so negatively. That is where I cannot answer you.
Ben: You are exactly right, Louis.
Louis: Then allow me to persuade you with one last effort, Ben. If not by reason, then by inspiration.
Ben: Well, Louis, we agreed to act upon a logical conclusion, correct?
Ben: Then I am not interested in simple inspiration. Only logic may serve us here.
Louis: Fair enough, Ben. Let me ask you, do you believe in the Power of Practice?
Ben: How so, Louis?
Louis: In that, if you are to practice a skill with effort and curiosity over time, you are bound to see some gains? Provided you eventually come across some leadership or guidance, albeit internally at times, to offer you correction and assistance?
Ben: Yes, I do. But I also believe gains are unequal for all people.
Louis: As do I, Ben. And I must call you wise for saying so. There is certainly a relationship between the input and output of learning that we do not fully understand and should not attempt to decipher now. Let us instead turn to facts. You are an NBA player, Ben?
Louis: And you were not born an NBA player, correct? You practiced, studied, and performed repeatedly over time and through a variety of methods unknown to me you created a situation in which now you are an NBA player?
Ben: That is so, Louis.
Louis: Ben, do you believe that your innate physical and mental talent has also contributed in some part to your success? So that as you stated gains are unequal for all people, then not every man who practices and studies and performs may too become an NBA player?
Ben: Most men are capable, if they truly tried, Louis. But, yes. I do believe there is something innate in which I hold that contributes to my success.
Louis: Then do you believe that a man, with innate and practiced abilities such as yourself, is incapable of improving a skill to the point of positively contributing to their team’s optimal benefit?
Ben: I do believe I am capable.
Louis: Then is it not logical that, given your practices and willfulness to improve, your three-point attempts would lead the Philadelphia 76ers to their most optimal benefit, as opposed to your continued abstinence?
Ben: Louis, I appreciate what you do but I remain unconvinced at this time. As I stated, I have several reasons for my actions that I do not wish to explain.
Louis: Fair enough, Ben. I am glad we had the chance to inquire among our minds like the great philosophers before, and I wish you the best in your continued journey - as I appreciate your open-mindedness.
Ben: Thank you, Louis.
December 10th, 2018
Louis J. DiPaolo Jr.
Purpose. Persistence. Practice.