Ben Simmons opened up about his last year and a half on a recent podcast and called out Shaquille O’Neal in the process.
Ben Simmons has really been through it the last year and a half. Simmons, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since the Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, has been heavily criticized for his role in the Sixers losing that series and the handling of his relationship with the team thereafter.
Simmons’s inability or unwillingness to space the floor with 3-point attempts hurt the Sixers’ offense, as did his lack of aggression in getting to the rim. Simmons struggled mightily from the free-throw line in that series and appeared to lack the confidence to put himself there.
The following year, Simmons didn’t play a single game. He requested a trade away from the Philadelphia 76ers and didn’t show up for training camp for several weeks. When he finally showed up to practice, he was reportedly disengaged, even being sent home early by head coach Doc Rivers for insubordination.
Simmons ended up leaving the team again, citing mental wellness struggles. Ultimately, Simmons was traded to the Brookyln Nets mid-season, but in getting his body ready for game action, Simmons injured his back and missed the entirety of the season.
It was a rough year for Simmons, but a lack of support from the NBA fraternity made it even worse.
Ben Simmons speaks on his struggles and the lack of support from former NBA players
Talking to J.J. Redick on his podcast, The Old Man and the Three, Simmons spoke on his career thus far, and the podcast focused heavily on the struggles of the last year or so.
Shortly after mentioning the inspiration he takes from John Wall’s struggles with injury, he spoke on how he relates to that and how the narratives pushed by Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley make it harder to mentally overcome the obstacles:
"“People go through it… Doesn’t matter how much money you got, how famous you are, like it’s real, people go through everyday struggles… I think it’s kinda ignorant, like Shaq and Chuck sometimes what they’re saying. ‘Cause they have a platform to kind of like protect us and, you know, do good. Um, obviously they’re supposed to criticize us, you know, we’re basketball players. But when it comes to personal stuff there’s a level of respect they should have. Even Shaq, like, when I was dealing with everything going on, I actually messaged him and he put it out. And I was like, alright.”"
With Shaq, it hurt even more for Simmons because O’Neal and Simmons both went to LSU. According to Simmons, that has been a point of connection for Shaq and Simmons previously, but O’Neal wasn’t checking in on his Tiger brother and ensuring he was OK:
"“I DM’d him and I was like, ‘why are you saying this if you don’t even know the story?’ ‘Cause he always wants to say like yo, we’re LSU brothers, you’re my brother, all this, that. If you’re my LSU brother you would’ve reached out by now and it’s been months since I’ve been dealing with this. You ain’t reached out once and said like, ‘hey, you OK? Like, what’s going on.'”"
Simmons is just one of nine players from LSU to play at least 200 games in the NBA since Shaq.
Not all players-turned-analysts acted that way toward Simmons. He had praise for Jay Williams who was critical of him, but quick to check in and get the full story. Simmons said Williams walked back what he said about Simmons:
"“The one person who did reach out was Jay Williams. And he had a real talk with me. I was like, I really appreciate that because, you’re trying to understand what’s going on with me. Because he did say something and took it back, which I appreciated.”"
Simmons sounded excited to finally get on the floor for the Nets and play with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the Brooklyn crew. Hopefully, he can put this bad experience of a year behind him completely.
And yes, he plans on shooting threes.