Basketball Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal are not shy about criticizing current players. Philadelphia 76ers’ point guard Ben Simmons has been a recent target of their stinging critique, given his refusal to play for the Sixers so far this season.
Barkley believes the Sixers have “bent over backwards” in trying to accommodate Simmons, that it’s now time to “kick his ass.” Shaq says Simmons is not aggressive, and is not doing everything to be the best player he can be.
"This dude has done everything he can not to be re-recruited."
Chuck talks about Ben Simmons and how the Sixers should move going forward. pic.twitter.com/hVvxHDDRJZ
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) November 10, 2021
Another former player, Gilbert Arenas, who has spent some time with Simmons, sees the situation differently and says Barkley and Shaq are being hypocritical. Arenas goes as far as calling Shaq and Chuck prima donnas.
Arenas was a guest on “The Rematch,” a podcast hosted by former NBA player Etan Thomas, and Arenas shared his thoughts on the media coverage of Simmons.
So I don’t think people separate the basketball player from the human. Right? And once a Shaq or Charles Barkley say it, it becomes law. In fact, they were the same. If they want to call him a prima donna, you were the same prima donna when you were the man. It’s crazy because [Simmons] is a quiet kid. He’s not this rah-rah type of guy. He’s a quiet kid who just wants to just play, and then if you don’t [want] him, just trade me. If you want me just… He just goes with the flow.
The NBA is a fraternity. In the league’s 75 year history roughly 4,500 players have taken part in a game. When you think of the amount of people in the world that play high level hoops, this is an elite and exclusive club.
When former players turned media stars like Chuck and Shaq criticize current players it carries weight and no doubt hurts.
Chuck and Shaq see themselves as “old school” and think some of the players today are not as tough or as good as they were. When you combine that with the explosive salaries today’s players make, there is tension.
With the two Hall of Famers being television commentators on the most popular NBA show (TNT’s Inside the NBA), they have a platform to go in on current players. Fair or not, that’s the game.
But Arenas’ points have merit.
Sometimes you get so far removed from something you forget what it was like when you were in the middle of it. Countless media members criticized Barkley and Shaq in their playing days, and they didn’t always like it.
Arenas brought up Shaq’s trouble in Orlando with budding superstar teammate Penny Hardaway as an example. It’s not a direct one-to-one. But you see what Arenas is getting at.
First of all, Shaquille, didn’t you push to get a trade from Orlando because a guy got more popular than you? That’s prima donna. I want to move because he got a Penny [Hardaway] doll? I’ve seen your commercials back in the day where the Penny doll was on the couch and you slapped it off. Now, you guys are bickering. I was a Penny fan. That is bickering. That is babying. So the things that some of the older guys go at the young guys, I’m like, you did the same exact thing, so you know how he feels. So since you know how he feels, you should be able to help him through this process because you know what’s going to actually happen at the end of this.
Here’s the reality. NBA players like Ben Simmons and former players like Shaq and Chuck are super talented. They are the one percent of one percent basketball talents. In addition to that talent comes massive egos. You can’t make it to that league if you don’t think extremely highly of yourself.
But with that ego there are also fragilities. They’re human.
Feelings get hurt. Guys get jealous of teammates over contracts, playing time, women, you name it.
Simmons and the Sixers are not in a great place and it doesn’t look like that situation is salvageable. There are a lot of hurt feelings and no trust. Some of the blame is on Simmons and some is on the Sixers’ and management.
As former players Chuck and Shaq had their issues with management and they didn’t always end well. They should keep that in mind when commenting on today’s players.