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March 07, 2022

A guide to welcoming Ben Simmons back to Philly

Ben Simmons should prepare for boos in South Philly

Sixers NBA

The Philly sports scene’s public enemy No. 1 looks like he will be back in the “friendly” confines of South Philadelphia this week:

Ben Simmons, who has yet to play a minute in an NBA game since his complete meltdown in the 2021 playoffs, looks like he will join his teammates on the bench (how noble of him!) when the Nets play at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday evening.

This might not be the total cathartic release Sixers fans want, as I’m sure they’d rather see him in a Nets uniform than in street clothes, but the Philly faithful has been foaming at the mouth to see their former franchise point guard return as a visitor. How will they react? How will the Sixers react? How should they react?

Will the Sixers have a glaring lack of self-awareness and do a “welcome back” tribute video for Simmons? Perhaps the Sixers could clip one together that includes the signature highlight of his career, the moment he passed up a wide-open dunk against the Hawks last postseason. Maybe add in some video of him getting intentionally fouled by the Wizards and proceeding to shoot an embarrassing 35.7 percent from the charity stripe.

It’d normally seem perfectly fine to do such a thing when a three-time All-Star returns to square off against the team that drafted him, but nothing is normal when it comes to how Simmons’ tenure in Philadelphia transpired. The schadenfreude that would come with doing a video for Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, the two other Sixers who were sent to the Nets in the Simmons-James Harden swap, and not Simmons would be tastier than the free Frosties he’ll surely deliver the Delaware Valley one day.

I never heard the Wells Fargo Center crowd cheer as loudly as it did when Harden was first introduced as a Sixer. I can’t imagine ever hearing the fans boo more than when Simmons is shown on the arena’s big screen. A seemingly good gesture that blows up in this organization’s face would be fitting as Simmons’ pro career comes full circle.

If Simmons is going to sit on the bench and feel the venom spewing from Sixers fans, why not just rip the Band-Aid completely off and suit up instead of holding off because it’s future Ben’s problem? This is a half-assed measure. He’s feeling the wrath of Sixers fans, leading into the never-ending national narrative that Philadelphians are some sub-human species, without actually taking the floor and fighting for his basketball reputation.

Isn’t it better to get it over with during a Thursday night regular season game in March rather than in a playoff series next month? If the Sixers were to face the Nets in the first round of the playoffs, something in the realm of possibility, wouldn’t Simmons prefer not to deal with the largest spotlight in the basketball world during a postseason that could redefine his entire career?

I don’t get what Klutch Sports and Ben’s game is here! I’m not even sure they do.

To any Sixers fans who will be in the building, I suggest booing as much as your hearts desire. It goes without saying that they should stay away from turning this into some J.D. Drew-esque physical harassment, but, hey, you paid money for the seat, might as well enjoy yourself and boo a dude who crumbled and quit when his team had legit title aspirations. It's a game. Have fun. Revel in that spectacular Matt Cord intro for Harden, Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and the other starters. Let Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant know that come playoff time, Philly won't be an easy place to grab a win. Most of all, let Simmons know how you truly feel about how the last nine months have played out. 

Again, it’s a bit anticlimactic to have Ben return but not play against his old squad, but maybe March boos will bring April trips to Wendy’s and a Sixers series win.

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