Ben Simmons has been under fire since he decided to sit out Game 4 of the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics series that finished last Monday. The Australian playmaker didn't play a single game this season despite being part of two contender teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and the Nets.
He first cited mental health issues as the reason why he couldn't play in Philly, then in Brooklyn, he said the stress from his last playoffs series with the Sixers still bothered him, which caused issues with his back. That's why he decided to miss an elimination game with the Nets, where his team ended up getting swept by the Celtics.
After the series was over, more people criticized Simmons and some fans even found out he was playing video games while his teammates were battling it out at Barclays Center.
Those decisions didn't favor Simmons and many people took shots at him for not playing. Shaquille O'Neal, who once supported his fellow LSU alumni, called him out while explaining why people lost respect for Simmons. During a recent edition of his 'The Big Podcast with Shaq', O'Neal had this to say (via Sportskeeda):
“See, back is the only thing that doctors can’t really diagnose. … You can diagnose a knee, an ankle, a hand, but back, you can’t diagnose. When somebody says their back hurt, you gotta come believe them. But your back can’t hurt if you're jumping up and down.
“Your back can’t hurt if you're doing all this. Is your back maybe sore? Yeah, everybody’s back sore! I ain’t play in 15 years, my back and my knees and my ankle are sore. … That’s why people don’t respect a guy like that.”
Shaq then compared Ben's situation to regular workers, saying that those who will never see $2 million have no other option than going to work regardless of how they feel and if their back is hurt.
“This is why people are upset and don’t respect Ben. … I see a guy on his phone. I see a lovely lady on that computer. They work hard, probably would never see $2 million. They’re tired, their back hurt, you don’t hear them complaining. They’re not allowed to complain.
"So, why can’t a guy that makes $30 million because his back is sore, how come he can’t go to work? If your back is hurtin', you can’t walk!”
Simmons has a lot to prove next season. He sit out a complete term after his collapse against the Atlanta Hawks in the 2021 playoffs. The playmaker has let a lot of people down, and even those who understood his struggles have gone mad at him. Ben is still young and can improve his game, but things haven't gone in his favor lately. Still, if he doesn't show the desire to at least suit up and sit on the bench with his teammates, he'll be seen as the spoiled player that does whatever he wants without facing consequences.