Shaquille O’Neal replied to Ben Simmons’ criticism of him abandoning the LSU brotherhood and being unsupportive of his mental health struggles.
The NBA season is almost here, and Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Simmons are doing a great job table-setting some early fall drama for us.
Simmons, after a really challenging year and a half, finally spoke up about what he’s gone through over the last 18 months or so on J.J. Redick’s podcast The Old Man and the Three. Simmons spoke on his mental health, the trade from the Sixers to the Nets, and what’s ahead.
In full view, the podcast makes one a bit more sympathetic to what Simmons has gone through. Finally hearing his side of the story puts a lot of things in context that previously didn’t make sense without all the details.
Along the way, Shaquille O’Neal came up and was directly called out by Simmons.
Shaquille O’Neal defended his actions toward Ben Simmons, says he didn’t “abandon” him
Shaquille O’Neal took the time on his podcast, The Big Podcast to reply to Simmons and his claims about O’Neal.
As a refresher, Simmons claimed O’Neal abandoned the LSU brotherhood and left behind an opportunity to, “do good,” when Simmons was going through mental wellness struggles. Simmons called O’Neal and his co-host, Charles Barkley, “gnorant.”
Here’s what O’Neal had to say as a reply:
"“First of all, if you play at 9:30 and we come on at 10:00 and we say something, it’s just what we see. The mental health thing ain’t come out until everybody start bashing you, then you let everyone know we have mental health problems… I told the world, I said he DM’ed me, he told me he was going through some problems and I said I was gon’ back off.”"
Shaq went on to say the reason people weren’t able to have the full picture is Simmons didn’t give them the full picture. Shaq said, “I told him in the DM, ‘OK, the reason people don’t know what’s going on is you ain’t talking.”
While Shaq seemed to have some baseline sympathy towards Simmons and his mental wellness struggles, O’Neal’s overall tone was that he didn’t care about the excuses. He defended his approach as a critical analyst saying that he only wants to help players get better having already gotten to the Hall of Fame himself. He views that as his job.
"“Let me tell you something. I’ma always say what I say. And I’ma always give guys constructive criticism to get to the next level. Cause if you don’t want to get to the mountaintop of the Hall of Fame, I don’t give a damn. Either you wanna get there or you don’t.”"
While that might seem harsh, let’s recall another incident. O’Neal and Barkley were critical of Simmons’ former teammate, Joel Embiid in the past. Embiid embraced their challenge in 2019 saying he takes the feedback to heart:
If this doesn’t make you excited to see how Simmons fires back on the court in 2022-23, what will?