Ben Simmons slid into Shaquille O'Neal's DMs, mad about the Hall of Famer's comments on TNT last week. O'Neal shared the story behind their Twitter back-and-forth, revealing he now feels more compassionate about whatever the Sixers star is going through.
Shaq blasts Simmons
Before the 76ers hosted the Lakers last Tuesday -- Philadelphia won 105-87 -- Shaq blasted Simmons for sitting out games, describing him as "cry baby" unable to take criticism. He drew a parallel with the Sixers' superstar Joel Embiid, who is often targeted by O'Neal and Charles Barkley on Inside The NBA.
"I stay on big guys because I care about them," Shaquille said."I want them to play a certain way, I want them to play at a certain level. The difference between Embiid and his soft partner is, he can take criticism without being a crybaby and he still wants to play.Me and Charles, we've been on Embiid and we stay on him. We told him to his face what he needs to do. He didn't cry, he didn't say 'I want to get traded,' he didn't complain about mistreatment. And that's the difference. That's why I like and respect him. The other guy, I don't respect him."
During the recent episode of his "Big Podcast," O'Neal doubled down on his Simmons criticism, expanding into why his actions have a historical significance for the generations of NBA stars to come.
Magic paved the way for Mike. They wasn't making no money. Jordan paved the way for me to get all that bread I was getting. I paved the way for Garnett. Ben Simmons is messing the money up.
Shaquille O'Neal, The Big Podcast
According to Shaq, the potential consequences of Simmonns' actions go beyond his own pocket, the 76ers, or their run at this year's title. Aberrations such as this tend to become a standard -- something people will come back to when describing NBA stars -- and with how fans already describe today's NBA players, any form of conduct that can potentially allow people to label them as soft, even more than they already do, is undesirable.
But based on what Simmons did next tells us there might be more to this story than meets the eye.
Simmons' back and forth with O'Neal via Twitter
Ben heard Shaq's rant and obviously didn't appreciate it. According to O'Neal, the Sixers' star sent him a direct message via Twitter to confront him about his words.
“He got in my DMs and said some things. I said some things back.”
Shaquille O'Neal, The Big Podcast
Shaq refused to reveal the exact content of Simmons' texts. But after their conversation, he decided to "back off his LSU brother," showing more compassion for his situation after being harsh on him just a day earlier. "That's just what I said that time because I've seen the greatest ones get criticized," Shaq explained. "I had to come home and watch you guys say painful things about me. My father told me one time, rest in peace, Sarge, he said, 'there's truth in criticism from respectable people.'"
O'Neal went through something similar during the peak of his free throw woes. People were harsh on him, but as the Hall of Famer explained, O'Neal kept missing shots at the charity stripe, leaving him with nothing to come back at his critics.
The same goes for Simmons -- there's a legitimate reason to criticize his play and how he's handling this ongoing situation. But based on O'Neal's change of heart, there's more to it than meets the eye. Diesel didn't talk about it, nor does he plan to in the future. He just promised he'll get of Simmons' case.
In a sea of criticism directed at Simmons, Shaq's words obviously hit Ben differently, and he felt the need to respond. Whatever he said to O'Neal offered a different side of the story, good enough to get Shaq on his side. The question is, why doesn't he do that publicly?
For months, we've been hearing speculations from different people close to the situation about what prompted Simmons' sitting out campaign. And the general information we're receiving is undoubtedly true. But now, it may be time to hear something from Ben himself. Judging by Shaq's change of tune, it might be worth it.