“At Some Point A Champion Does Something For Someone Other Than Himself”| It’s Media Open Season On Ben Simmons, But Does He Deserve It?

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Ben Simmons has been getting ragged on, disrespected, challenged, name-hauled through the mud by talking heads and shock jock all-stars. The Brooklyn Nets being in a 3-0 playoff series hole against the Celtics — and the organization claiming “back soreness” will keep the multi-faceted point guard out of a Doe-or-Die Game 4 — hasn’t done anything to help the matter.

With the Brooklyn Nets’ season hanging on a string and Simmons spotted each night sitting on the bench, fashioning the latest wears, the former No. 1 overall pick out of Australia is running out of excuses and supporters. 

The “Inside The NBA” crew isn’t sparing the rod for the 25-year-old Simmons, who they feel is acting like a spoiled, self-centered child. Shaquille O’Neal went as far as to say that Simmons is faking his back injury and just doesn’t want the smoke. Shaq has no respect for Simmons’ approach to the situation. 

If you’re not going to play, don’t say you’re going to play,” Shaq said. “In the hood we call that a punk move. He went the punk move route.”

Shaq basically said Simmons is shook and the players across the association know this, no matter how PR spins it for the media.  

“Ballers know what it is…,” Shaq insisted. “There’s no need to say it, buddy.” 

Charles Barkey used rookie Scottie Barnes, who is playing through injury for the Toronto Raptors, as an example of how you endear yourself to teammates and the game. 

“When your team is down 2-0 you go out and try and play”

Chuck, as he often does, related the situation to his playing days, when he went out and played a Game 7 with a jacked-up knee. The Hall of Famer, apparently referring to his Phoenix Suns’ 1995 Western Conference semifinals against his co-host Kenny Smith’s Houston Rockets, says he got the knee shot up and went out there and gave his best effort. 

“Shaq is right,” Barkley said. “When the players don’t respect you that’s a big deal.”
“Ben is getting to the point where his teammates are like, ‘Does this cat want to play?’”

Kenny Smith entered the fray, specifically defining why Simmons’ actions — regardless of what he does on the court — are detrimental to his standing as a great player. 

“At some point a champion does something for someone other than himself,” Smith said.  “Another decision appears to be ‘It’s my back, it’s my career, it’s my money, it’s my time.’ At no point did he say, ‘I’m gonna do this for Philly (or Brooklyn).’”

TNT wasn’t the only major sports network whose representatives had a bone to pick with Ben10. FS1’s Shannon Sharpe went in on Simmons with the same venomous tone that dominated Sharpe’s commentary on Russell Westbrook this NBA season. 

Sharpe basically labels Simmons a quitter who cowered from the challenge of his professional duties. Quite an indictment, but is he wrong? 

“When we had this conversation like 12 months ago, I said It’s over for him,” Shannon told his co-host Skip Bayless on “Undisputed.”
“You look at his makeup and how he’s built … He wasn’t coming back from that (situation in Philly). He doesn’t take criticism very well. So you have to walk on eggshells and be careful what you say around him.”

Why Won’t Ben Suit Up?

The mystery surrounding Simmons’ availability has put a strain on the former Philadelphia 76ers’ relationship with the media and reportedly some of his teammates. 

Initially, Simmons was receiving more support than criticism because fans and media were sympathetic to his supposed mental health issues. However, once he was traded to the Nets, most people assumed that he would join the team and begin to piece his All-star basketball life back together. 

Prior to joining BK, Simmons refused to speak to anyone associated with the 76ers organization unless it was to discuss an exit route. Now Simmons has yet to play a game in a Nets uniform.

The organization has been teasing fans about Simmons’ return throughout this dreadful playoff run, and that has only compounded the vitriol being directed at Simmons, who has become a punchline, a low-hanging fruit for sports media entities to keep the clicks coming. 

At one time, the general public was split on how they felt about Simmons. Some media members such as Stephen A. Smith doubted the validity of his mental health claims. Now all the gloves are off. 

“I feel bad for anyone who was his teammate,” Smith said Sunday. “He quit on LSU, he quit on the Philadelphia 76ers, and now he ain’t showing up for the Brooklyn Nets. We can point to all the excuses, all the rationale that we want to. I do recall despite him not playing, he still filed a grievance to collect $20 million he has not earned.
“This is one of the most pathetic situations that I’ve ever seen in my life. He ain’t going to war, he ain’t going in the octagon, he’s not going into a boxing ring. It’s pulling teeth to get this man to play basketball. It’s pathetic, it’s sad.”

Others, like sports analyst Jay Williams, once supported Simmons and passionately stood by his decision-making process. He’s had a change of heart and says Ben10 needs to clock in for work. 

To Play Or Not To Play?: That’s The $30M Question 

Simmons basically got paid $33M to chill this season. In the eyes of the public, however, he’s set himself up for failure. His lack of transparency is one of the main issues folks have with him. Fans have no problem with players demanding their money, forcing trades, and empowering themselves. In fact, most fans support and understand the idea of capitalism in sports. However, when it’s playoff time and teams have a legitimate shot to do something special, all the public asks is that their superstars play if possible. 

From all accounts it was very possible that Simmons could play. Based upon the way all of the supposed “insiders” are blasting him, it appears to be common knowledge that he’s taking a me-first approach to this entire situation. Those former players who have sacrificed on championship-caliber teams can’t relate to how Ben is handling his business in 2022. 

Or maybe he’s just really afraid of the moment. Maybe Simmons will never recover from his Philly nightmare, like Shannon said. Because if he wanted to endear himself to Brooklyn fans and was seriously contemplating staying at the Barclays, suiting up and giving it the old college try would have immediately ingratiated himself with New York fans, who can appreciate a warrior’s mentality in victory and defeat. 

It’s clear Simmons isn’t ready for the moment. He hopped out the frying pan and into the fire by leaving Philly to come to N.Y.

“The peer pressure is real in professional sports,” said Sharpe. “Ben got a little simulation of that 4-on-4 and was like, ‘nah I ain’t feeling it’…If you don’t love the game the littlest bump and you be like nah I’m out.”

Keeping with the theme, latest reports have Ben Simmons missing Game 4 tonight at 7 p.m.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.