Ben Simmons, the 76ers’ not-so-prodigal son, has returned to Philly with his new side the Brooklyn Nets. At the time of writing, The Nets are winning 72-51, and Simmons is taking the heat in his stride, bopping his head along to rude crowd chants, apparently unbothered by them.
But things weren’t going so well earlier. Simmons, who left the 76ers amid a controversial ‘holdout’ from the team (Simmons cited mental health concerns, as well as other factors, as what made him decide to leave), received a hostile reception from some Philly fans earlier today.
Chant of “F*** Ben Simmons” starts. #Sixers turn the music up louder and it goes away.— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) March 11, 2022
the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center is roughly 15% full and the boos are already LOUD for Ben Simmons whenever he touches the ball during warm ups— shamus (@shamus_clancy) March 10, 2022
Philly fans sarcastically cheering for Ben Simmons after making a dunk in warm ups pic.twitter.com/BE0Mo93bGd— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) March 11, 2022
After a bit of a standoff with the 76ers coach over comments made regarding his ability to win them a title last year, Simmons refused to train with the 76ers while still under contract with them, citing mental health concerns, and eventually transferred to the Brooklyn Nets.
Many 76ers fans feel Simmons simply couldn’t handle criticism, while Simmons appears to have felt disrespected and that the struggles he went through as a result of the controversy have gone unappreciated.
Whatever the case, when Simmons rocked up with his new team today, certain fans really gave it to him. One video by Twitter user Tori Lahren shows what she calls the “first ‘f*ck Ben Simmons’ chant” in the stadium.
Another video by @thegameday shows more fans mouthing off about Simmons in the parking lot outside the stadium.
Other videos on TikTok show fans yelling at him outside his hotel and in the street.
Other fans took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the game, which, at the time of writing is still being played.
“If Embiid dunks and and then points at Ben Simmons Wells Fargo might break the sound barrier,” Twitter user @tommyob95 wrote.
Baseball is back. Jason Kelce is back. Ben Simmons is back to get booed mercilessly. What a day.— James Seltzer (@JamesSeltzer) March 10, 2022
Others debated whether Simmons deserved to be booed.
I can give you so many reasons why you’re wrong.— Lyle (@WalkWithLyle) March 10, 2022
Others, like sports announcer Michael Grady, claimed the music had to be turned up to drown out the ‘f*ck Ben Simmons’ chants.
Another “F Ben Simmons” chant during the timeout, but game ops just jacked up the music to drown them out. It’s crazy crazy loud…— Michael Grady (@Grady) March 11, 2022
Simmons didn’t hide – warming up when he didn’t have to, despite the hostile reception – and is on the bench, presumably for the sake of not creating chaos.
Ben Simmons on the court in Philly.— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) March 10, 2022
Fox Sports reports that Simmons is refusing to back down, despite the rude chants.
“Despite all of the visible angst directed towards Simmons, he’s taken it all in his stride,” Fox Nexs reports.
NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal complimented Simmons for having the strength of character to show up, too.
During TNT’s pre game show Shaq said: “It would’ve been a better night if Ben was playing.”
“I give him credit for going out there, I wish he was playing.”Shaquille O’Neal
“He had to go [to the game] and I’m glad he’s sitting on the bench. If he didn’t, that would’ve told me a lot about him.”
Simmons was even filmed bobbing his head along to the “f*ck Ben Simmons” chant, apparently not letting the atmosphere get to him.
Sixers fans chant, “F*CK BEN SIMMONS!”— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) March 11, 2022
Ben Simmons just nods along on the Nets bench 👀pic.twitter.com/r46AtgmZx2
The Ben Simmons saga has divided fans into three camps – some are understanding of his situation and think those giving him grief should leave him alone, as they probably don’t know the full story.
Others reckon Simmons should have stepped up and handled the heat (last year) better, but still don’t believe you should ever level such abuse at anyone – professional athlete or not. And others, it seems, are more than happy to heckle.
At the very least, the Ben Simmons situation has sparked an important debate around mental health in America. Hopefully, people will be less quick to judge in future, as people realise we have some retrograde attitudes to mental health that are holding us back as a society.