Shaquille O’Neal Defends Criticism of Former Sixer: ‘It’s My Job’

Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets

Getty Former Sixer Ben Simmons #10.

Some feuds simply won’t die. That’s especially the case between former Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons and legend Shaquille O’Neal. While some player-broadcaster beef quickly blows over, the Simmons-O’Neal tension has been part Category 5 hurricane, part Level-Nine-On-A-Richter-Scale earthquake.

And we got another rumble on Wednesday.

Both players had solid individual careers at LSU. And both entered the league with monumental expectations. Yet their careers have taken wildly divergent paths.

O’Neal had one of the most productive and illustrative careers in NBA history. Not only did he win three straight Finals with the Lakers (including one against the Sixers in 2000), but was named MVP in each.

Simmons, on the other hand, has yet to get past an Eastern Conference Semifinals. His talent is enormous, but there’s a lingering sense it’s been unrealized, especially in the shooting department.

And after recursive comments and digs, O’Neal took some time recently to defend his criticism of his fellow LSU Tiger.

Shaq: ‘I Know What It Takes to Get to the Top’

O’Neal headed to Australia — which is, coincidentally, Simmons’ homeland — this week ahead of a “live on-stage interview” on Thursday, August 25. But ahead of the discussion, Shaq sat down with the Herald Sun to discuss his Australia basketball and, of course, Ben Simmons.

And the all-time great defended his history of bashing Simmons’ behavior, including calling Ben Simmons a “crybaby” earlier this year.

“I want him to succeed and I’ve been hard on him because I feel as an elder statesman it’s my job,” O’Neal explained to the Herald Sun, “I know what it takes to get to the top, top, top level and that guy knows what it takes to be great.”

Shaq was careful, though, about separating Simmons’ on-court performance from his mental health and what Shaq described as “personal problems.”

“He’s had some personal problems,” Shaq added, “and I don’t like to measure that so I wish him well and hope that he can come back strong.”

Shaq’s view of his role as “an elder statesman” — former players offering tough love to current stars to make them better — is a familiar one. Back in June, Warriors star Draymond Green took aim at former players who bemoan today’s game for its lack of physicality.

Is the NBA Heading to the Southern Hemisphere?

Ben Simmons wasn’t the only topic of conversation between O’Neal and the Herald Sun. O’Neal also discussed Australian basketball with the Herald Sun, namely, bringing NBA games down under.

“I will ask him about Australia,” O’Neal promised, “and I won’t speak for Mr. Silver but it will get done.”

O’Neal’s interest in Australia isn’t surprising. The NBA is now truly a global brand, with international stars like Luka Doncic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo dominating stateside.

In response, the NBA has looked to take its brand overseas. For instance, the NBA launched the Basketball Africa League in 2021, with the hopes that a “pan-African pro league can provide the NBA with a valuable talent pipeline and a billion potential new viewers.”

Australia and New Zealand already have a solid basketball league in place — the National Basketball League (NBL). And the NBL has produced numerous NBA talents, including Joe Ingles, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellevadova, and Josh Giddey.

Once upon a time, the NBL was a place those who couldn’t cut the NBA went to continue their careers. Now, the Australian-New Zealand league is being dubbed a “nursery” of NBA talent.

It might be a long flight for just one game in Australia, but if it means expanding the game’s base, there’s little question the league will find a way.

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