Former fan favourite Ben Simmons has returned to Philadelphia one month after his controversial move to the Brooklyn Nets.
For 76ers fans, the date of the home game against the Nets was circled on the calendar the moment Simmons signed for Brooklyn.
After not playing an NBA game all season and copping millions of dollars’ worth of fines, 25-year-old Simmons got his wish and was traded by the Philadelphia 76ers in February.
On a blockbuster day of NBA trade action, Simmons was traded to the Brooklyn Nets along with Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two-first round picks.
Brooklyn included superstar James Harden and Paul Millsap in the deal.
Last season Simmons averaged 10.7 points, 7.8 assists and six rebounds per game as the 76ers were eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the 2021 NBA Finals.
It was in game seven against the Hawks when Simmons’ problems came to the surface when he passed up an open dunk with his team down by two points late in the fourth quarter.
After the game, 76ers superstar Joel Embiid described the moment as “the turning point of the game” and when Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers was asked if Simmons could be the starting point guard on an NBA championship team, he replied with “I don’t know the answer to that right now.”
The game against the Hawks ended up being the last time Simmons would play for the 76ers.
Simmons joined a team of superstars at the Nets, including Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, plus Australian Boomers captain Patty Mills who could be the perfect person to act as a mentor for Simmons as he looks to get his NBA career back on track.
A back injury meant Simmons did not take the court on his return to Philly, however he joined his team for a warm up and sat on the Nets bench during the game.
NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal believed it said plenty about Simmons’ character.
“It would’ve been a better night if Ben was playing,” O’Neal said on TNT’s pre-game show.
“I give him credit for going out there, I wish he was playing. He had to go and I’m glad he’s sitting on the bench. If he didn’t, that would’ve told me a lot about him.”
Even before the game started, Simmons was receiving plenty of abuse and sledging from the 76ers fans.
On his way back to the Four Seasons Hotel where the Nets were staying, fans were booing, swearing and yelling at Simmons.
“Why the grievance? Why spit in the face of Sixers fans Ben?” one fan yelled to Simmons.
To his credit, Simmons stopped to sign a few autographs for fans.
Once the game started, the atmosphere inside the Wells Fargo Center became hostile and loud as the booing for Simmons continued all game.
As the home crowd chanted “f*** Ben Simmons” numerous times throughout the game, Simmons could be seen nodding his head on the Nets bench and standing up to cheer on his team as he tried to ignore the crowd.
The Philly faithful inside the venue also wore outfits that showed their anger towards Simmons.
One fan sitting courtside wore a crying baby mask that had a label on the front of a Simmons 76ers singlet that said ‘Mister Softee’ with a picture of Simmons.
On the back of the singlet, the fan had taped ‘Crybaby Ben’ above Simmons’ name.
Plenty of fans inside the Wells Fargo Center could be seen wearing ‘Mister Softee’ t-shirts with Simmons face on the t-shirt, plus fans were also wearing Simmons 76ers singlets with his name crossed out on the back.
In the end, Simmons and the Brooklyn Nets had the last laugh after a convincing 129-100 win over the 76ers.