Ben Simmons has heard all of the jokes about his air-balled shot during the Brooklyn Nets' annual Practice in the Park event last weekend.
He knows more are coming. He's just not going to let any of the attention bother him.
"It finds me all the time," Simmons told ESPN's Nick Friedell. "And it doesn't f--king stop. Sometimes I'm even sick of it, but then I'm like, 'OK, I'm Ben Simmons, you know? It comes with being Ben Simmons right now.'
"Even the other day, there was a clip of me air-balling a shot at the park. Meanwhile, like 10 guys air-balled multiple shots. So it's like people will find one clip and try to make it that everything—like Ben can't do [this or that]. Like, come on, man, you think I'm just air-balling every shot? It's not true. But it comes with it, and you got to have tough skin, and I realize that, but, nah, I can't take everything personally. It's social media."
Simmons has been one of the most criticized players of this generation, with fans and media pundits alike ripping him for his lack of development as a shooter—and a seeming unwillingness to even attempt shots.
The criticism reached a fever pitch during the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals when the then-76ers guard passed up a wide-open dunk in fear of getting fouled late in Philadelphia's Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Simmons would not step foot onto the court as 76er ever again, as he sat out last season due to mental health concerns. He was then traded to Brooklyn at the 2022 deadline.
Simmons is yet to make his Nets regular-season debut after a back injury cost him the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign after the trade. He says he has leaned on Kyrie Irving, himself no stranger to social media criticism, amid the latest viral moment.
"Me and Ky literally were just talking about it before practice," Simmons said. "He's like, 'Why is everybody on our heads?' But it comes with it. F--k, we're interesting people, I guess. Some guys you wouldn't talk about because you just don't care."
Of course, while the entirety of fan criticism of Simmons comes from his on-court play, most of Irving's backlash is due to his off-court decisions. He created a firestorm with his refusal to undergo COVID-19 vaccination last season and recently faced widespread criticism for reposting a video of right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his Instagram page.