Former athletes love to bash today's stars. And the premise is always the same -- idealizing the old times at the expense of the current NBA. But the rose-colored glasses most players-turned-analysts look through don't change the reality of their basketball résumés.
The only issue is that very few call them out for it. But Gilbert Arenas did; one guy in particular.
"Y'all were prima donnas also!"
"They wanna go back and fix their mistakes that they did and rewrite their past," Arenas said. "Or they're looking at their past from today's brain. You're talking with this perception of who you are now, not who you were then."
Whether it's the on-court stuff or their criticism of guys utilizing more and more control that derives from the player empowerment, ex-stars tend to use the same argument -- whatever it is that players today are doing, we weren't doing it back then.
Teams are shooting too many threes -- the game was a lot more physical decades ago. Superstars are teaming up -- that's a weak move and something off the table "when we were playing." Guys are forcing their way out -- no one was doing that "in our era."
A lot of their criticism is fair, especially when it comes to discrepancies between dominant styles of play today and before. The hypocrisy enters the conversation when guys are targeted for their off-court actions.
When it comes to that, Shaquille O'Neal's voice is usually the loudest. But Arenas decided to put a stop to it.
Shaq's hypocrisy behind the Ben Simmons criticism
"Don't bash the players today for being prima donnas because you was prima donnas! Just say, 'Hey, I understand where he's coming from. I slapped Kobe, I tried to get him traded; they wouldn't trade the man!' You can say that 'cause it happened," Arenas added.
The latest example of Shaq's hypocrisy-based criticism is the Ben Simmons saga -- he was one of many who bashed the former Sixer for the way he forced his way out of Philadelphia and the approach he had once he joined the Brooklyn Nets. But Gil pointed to an incident from O'Neal's career that reveals the double standard.
"You're talking about Ben Simmons, he did this -- Kobe tried to do that too. If Kobe could've got you traded his first your after you slapped him, trust me they would've did it."
Gilbert Arenas, DJ Vlad
The incident Arenas referred to took place during a pick-up game in 1998. At the time, Shaq had already established himself as the NBA’s most dominant player, while 19-year-old Kobe was getting ready to take the league by storm. According to sportswriter Jeff Perlman, one day, the two ended up in the same open gym, playing against one another. Soon enough, they were at each other's throats.
"Say another motherf---ing word," Shaq said, staring directly at Bryant.
"Aw, f--- you," Bryant said. "You don't know sh--!"
O'Neal slapped Bryant across the face. Hard."
There are stains on every NBA resume. But when it comes to retired Hall of Famers, most of those are swept under the carpet. Then there are today's stars, who, understandably so, live their lives under the magnifying glass. And most of the time, it's the former athletes who bash them for their mistakes. But the way they do it is what rubs Arenas the wrong way.
"I just don't like how us ex-athletes pretend that we were something different," he said.
Calling guys out is fair -- in today's media-driven NBA, it's inevitable. But Gil's point is clear; whenever the former players bash today's stars, they should keep in mind that they were once in their position. And no, they weren't perfect, despite their efforts to present themselves as such.