Shaquille O’Neal says Ben Simmons is the player he’d pay to see play — but not for the reason you’d expect

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal has never been shy about calling out current NBA stars for their performances, attitudes and anything in between. 

Ben Simmons found himself in the firing line on the latest episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq.”

Simmons has played just 15 games this season for the Brooklyn Nets before being ruled out for the remainder of the 2023-24 season with back issues. But his injury struggles did not save him from O’Neal’s ire.

MORE: Ben Simmons injury history

What did Shaquille O’Neal say about Ben Simmons?

On Wednesday’s episode “The Big Podcast,” O’Neal was asked by host Adam Lefkoe which NBA players he’d buy a ticket to see. Surprisingly, Simmons’ name came to mind first for the NBA legend.

“Ben Simmons, because I would wanna learn how you could make $80 million and play 55 games,” Shaq said.

“Teach me. Teach me how you could play 55 games in three seasons and get $30 million, $40 million, and get another $40 million just by saying your back hurt. Get some f—in’ Icy Hot, man up.”

Simmons has struggled to stay healthy during his two seasons with the Nets with knee and back injuries. The 27-year-old has appeared in just 57 games since the 2021-22 season — which he missed in its entirety as he forced a trade away from the 76ers.

Shaq did eventually give a more serious answer to the question, naming Nikola Jokic, his “Vice President of the big man alliance,” as the one player he would go to watch.

Jokic is in the midst of another stellar season, leading the reigning champion Denver Nuggets to the top of the Western Conference with a 51-21 record. 

In the running for a third MVP trophy, Jokic is averaging 26.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 9.0 assists on .581/.354/.826 shooting splits. 

Ben Simmons stats 2023-24

  • 15 games played
  • 23.9 minutes
  • 6.1 points per game
  • 5.7 assists
  • 7.9 rebounds
  • 0.8 steals
  • 0.6 blocks
  • 58.1% field goals
  • 40% free throws

Ben Simmons contract

Simmons still has one year left on his contract with the Nets after this season, before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

The Aussie signed a five-year, $170 million contract extension with the Sixers in 2019. That deal runs through the 2024-25 season, and there are no options in the final year.

Season 2023-24 2024-25 2025-26
Simmons’ salary $37.9 million  $40.3 million UFA

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