Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons is directing criticism at Shaquille O’Neal after Simmons faced a torrent of criticism, and O’Neal failed to come to his defense.
Simmons appeared on J.J. Redick’s podcast and spoke in part about his mental health battles, taking issue with O’Neal’s past public approach toward him.
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“When I was dealing with everything going on, I actually messaged him, and he put it out, and I was like, alright,” Simmons said. “I DM’d him. I was like, ‘Why are you saying this if you don’t even know the story?’ ‘Cause he always wants to say, ‘Yo, we’re LSU brothers. You’re my brother.’ All this, that, if you’re my LSU brother, you would have reached out by now, and it’s been months since I been dealing with this. You ain’t reached out once and say, ‘Hey, you okay? What’s going on?'”
Simmons’ mental health issues became public during his time with the Philadelphia 76ers. Conflict that developed between Simmons and the team caused a very public rift that eventually led to the three-time All-Star being traded to the Nets.
O’Neal and fellow TNT analyst Charles Barkley were critical of Simmons as he stayed off the court. In particular, O’Neal was highly critical of Simmons for refusing to report to training camp last season.
While O’Neal and Simmons both attended Louisiana State University, their respective stints at the school were more than two decades apart. They are similar in the sense that they both played at the school and then became top overall draft picks.
Yet, it’s clear that Simmons was stung by O’Neal’s criticism and what he perceives as the Hall of Famer’s hypocrisy.
O’Neal does have a regular forum through the media to speak on NBA issues as a TNT analyst. His opinions often come in the form of blunt criticism, which can be difficult for some players to handle.
Simmons faces a pivotal year this season after not taking the court at all last season. During his last game as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2021 playoffs, his judgment was called into question.
That judgment came after Simmons had already been the recipient of some heated criticism about his play.
Simmons will head into training camp with pressure from the basketball world to succeed under heavy expectations. Even though that pressure figures to be shared by Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Simmons’ play will undoubtedly be put under a microscope.
O’Neal may be ready to defend Simmons at some point, but in Simmons’ mind, the Hall of Famer has already missed his opportunity.