June 21, 2021
Fans, media members and other pundits are rightfully piling on the Sixers after the team lost Game 7 to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night, bringing a promising season to a disappointing end.
Sixers legend Charles Barkley was among those who blasted the team for its early playoff exit. The TNT analyst said he was "stunned" to see the team lose, 103-96, at the Wells Fargo Center to bow out of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"I am shocked that the Sixers lost Game 5 and Game 7," Barkley said on "Inside the NBA." "I was shocked they lost Game 5, impressed they won Game 6. ... Take my hat off to the Atlanta Hawks. But man, I gotta admit, I didn't think there was any way Atlanta could go in [to the Wells Fargo Center] and win. ... But man, my Sixers let me down."
The postgame conversation later turned to the lackluster performance of Ben Simmons, who finished with just five points on 2-of-4 shooting. Simmons only took two free throws in the game, but he missed one late that could have helped the Sixers get the win.
But the enduring moment was Simmons passing up a chance to tie the game with a wide open dunk in the fourth quarter. His decision to instead pass to Matisse Thybulle led to boos from Sixers fans and an apoplectic Joel Embiid.
Jim Jackson said it, Simmons has to go up to score with this. It has to be a dunk. pic.twitter.com/hA2BkyUFEn— Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) June 21, 2021
Barkley slammed Simmons for being "scared to shoot" and reiterated that the 24-year-old can't truly be an All-Star until he becomes a better offensive player.
"You can't have a guy on the court who's afraid to shoot the basketball," Barkley said. "[Simmons is] giving the ball up to Joel Embiid at half court because he's terrified. This dude is scared to death. It's unbelievable. You can just listen to the crowd.
"We thought [Simmons] would get better," Barkley continued later in the segment. "He hasn't gotten better, that's the problem. Nobody thought he was going to be scared to shoot and he's scared to shoot. When you're giving the ball up that quickly, you're scared to shoot. We didn't think it would get to the point where he would go all these games and won't even take a shot. He won't even take a shot. We knew he was never a great shooter, but wow, we never thought it would get to this point."
The Hall of Famer added that the Sixers need Simmons to learn how to shoot this offseason or they must move on from the three-time All-Star.
"[The Sixers] are going to have to sit [Simmons] down and say, 'Ben, it's either A or B. You're gonna have to work on your shooting first. Then you're going to have to shoot the ball. Then you're going to have to shoot free throws, or we can't win with you,'" Barkley said. "That is a small, very honest conversation."
Barkley, who starred for the Sixers from 1984-1992, said earlier this season that he needed to see more from Simmons offensively for the team to win its first NBA championship since 1983. Barkley also said it would be a "lost season" if the Sixers didn't make it to the NBA Finals for the first time in 20 years.
The Sixers were subjected to the show's "Gone Fishin'" segment, which makes fun of teams that are eliminated from the playoffs. Host Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny "The Jet" Smith and Barkley dress up in fishing gear and act like they are fishing.
Their fake photo of the Sixers fishing boat featured Simmons, Embiid, actor Will Smith, rapper Meek Mill, who was wearing a "Rocky" shirt, and actor Rob McElhenney on vacation.
When Johnson jokingly asked Barkley where to go fishing in Philly, the former NBA MVP replied, "We go in the Schuylkill."