‘You Don’t Think I Get Emails … And Death Threats?’| Shaquille O’Neal Wants Ben Simmons to Know “There’s A Difference Between Mental Health And Mental Fortitude”

(Photo: Getty Images)

The social media mosh pit has been locked in and extremely opinionated over the many underlying stories within the James Harden-Ben Simmons trade.

At the heart of the controversy has been the topic of mental health which triggers an avalanche of emotions and opinions from across the spectrum, especially when it centers on a polarizing figure such as Ben10. 

Simmons claimed to have mental health issues in the aftermath of his playoff fallout with Philly fans and his teammates. The beating he took on social media and what he perceived as an unwillingness of the franchise to come to his defense inspired his agent Rich Paul to set his Philly departure in motion and end all on court activities for Simmons until a trade was reached.  

In a press conference on Tuesday, Simmons says the main source of his troubles were unrelated to basketball and he’s in a better space. But his return to the court with his new team in Brooklyn is still unscheduled as he works out his mental health issues.

There have been more than a few talking heads, players, fans and casual sports consumers who have challenged the validity of Simmons’ mental health claims. Shaquille O’ Neal is one of those media members who is not letting Simmons off the hook that easily.  

On “Inside the NBA” on Tuesday night, Shaq let it be known how felt about the Ben Simmons ordeal, by breaking down the difference between mental health and mental fortitude.

“As a superstar, as a professional NBA player, we don’t always get our way. The problem started when Doc made the comment, he was upset, backlash, and then the mental health thing came in. There’s a difference between mental health and mental fortitude. You know, I am not comparing him to me, but you don’t think I have heard ‘We can’t win with Shaq’? You don’t think I’ve heard ‘Shaq’s not worth $120M’? You don’t think I heard ‘Don’t throw it to Shaq, D-Wade, you shoot’? I’ve heard it all, and what makes us great is we learn how to persevere around all of that.
“Not gonna get into the mental health thing because I was in L.A. yesterday, and I’ve seen real mental health. How many homeless people out there and you just talk to them and like they have problems that we don’t know about. I wish him well, I wish him the best, but that is when the problem started. It just started as a petty situation and then you throw the mental health thing in. And I’m happy for him. But the question is, if this problem arises again what are you going to do? You don’t think I get emails and posts and death threats? I done heard it all. I got booed before. I just wish if this situation ever comes around that he has a tough enough mental fortitude to be able to get through it.”

This isn’t Shaq’s first tough love take for Simmons. Last month, he called Simmons soft, which prompted Ben to end up in Shaq’s DM’s, and, according to Shaq, Simmons “wasn’t happy.”

Ben Simmons On Road to Return 

Everyone deals with life’s challenges in their own way. It’s a slippery slope when people who aren’t licensed doctors give their own interpretations of what passes as a mental health problem or being unable to manage a situation. But Shaq’s point of view is probably shared by many other people, which is exactly why we all have to do our due diligence to understand mental health and how deeply a person can be affected when they aren’t of sound, mind and body,

In this case, Shaq is once again suggesting that Ben toughen up a bit, get some thicker skin. Let’s hope he’s in a safe space now and can get his head back in the game.


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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.