When the Nets make their way to Philadelphia to face the 76ers, all eyes will be on Ben Simmons.
It’s been nine months since Simmons’ time as a Sixer came to an unceremonious end, but he has yet to face his former team. That Simmons’ first meeting with the 76ers will come in front of Philadelphia’s fans adds another layer of intrigue to the matchup.
Simmons will take the floor at Wells Fargo Center for the first time since Game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Semifinals, a moment in which most Sixers fans soured on the No. 1 pick. For those who didn’t, Simmons’ ensuing holdout and trade request fractured whatever remnants of a bond he had forged with the fanbase over five and a half years.
MORE: How Ben Simmons went from 76ers’ top pick to Philly’s biggest enemy
While this is Simmons’ first time playing against the Sixers, it isn’t his first trip to Philadelphia. Weeks after the trade, an inactive Simmons was greeted with boos during pregame warmups and while he sat on the bench, providing a preview of the reception he’s set to receive when he actually plays.
Ben Simmons has taken the floor in Philly. pic.twitter.com/UCMJqkqifH
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) March 10, 2022
Simmons knows what to expect from the crowd, which will be a reception complete with boos, chants, jeers and likely much more. The reception in Simmons’ return will rival that of other notable stars that drew the ire of fans as they left as free agents or via trade. For comparison’s sake, have a look back at some of the most notable.
MORE: Ben Simmons offers hilarious response on what he expects from Sixers fans
1. LeBron James vs. Cleveland, 2010
Less than three months after James took to ESPN to announce that he’d be taking his talents to South Beach, he and the Heat made their way to Cleveland for a prime-time meeting against the Cavs.
The boos were non-stop, fans wore shirts that read “Quitness” to make a play on James’ “Witness” advertisement campaign and “people were throwing batteries at us,” James recalled, as he downplayed the types of reactions any players would receive in the future.
Thankfully, no one was hurt, though the feelings of Cavs fans were at the time. James silenced the noise with 38 points in a 28-point rout. Things would eventually smooth over with time, paving the way for James’ historic return in 2014.
2. Vince Carter vs. Toronto, 2005
After putting the Raptors franchise on the map, Carter’s time in Toronto came to a bitter end with a trade to the Nets in December of 2004.
Four months passed before Carter would return to Toronto, but that wasn’t nearly enough time for things to smooth over. Carter could feel the boos from the entire province of Ontario, if not the entire country of Canada.
In his first game back in Toronto, Carter scored 39 points in an 11-point win, setting a precedent of dominant performances he’d put forth in front of his former home crowd. It took a long time, but things would eventually smooth over and the mutual love between Carter and Raptors fans was restored.
3. Kevin Durant vs. Oklahoma City, 2017
The boos weren’t subtle. But that smile riiiiiight at the end was. 😏 pic.twitter.com/FRP7lma6LW
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 12, 2017
Durant’s unprecedented move to join the 73-9 Warriors via free agency was clearly not appreciated by the fans of Oklahoma City. After all, it was that same Warriors team that came back from a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate the Thunder just weeks prior.
While Durant’s free agency decision came in July, he did not return to OKC until February, meaning fans had seven months to allow tensions to build up.
The boos were insufferable and Thunder fans handed out cupcake merchandise to indicate that they perceived Durant’s move to join the Warriors as soft. Durant wasn’t fazed, scoring an efficient 34 points in a 16-point win, but there were certainly fireworks.
WELCOME TO THE MAIN EVENT pic.twitter.com/4fLcLo7g59
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 12, 2017
4. Kyrie Irving vs. Boston, 2022
unsurprisingly, Kyrie Irving got booed pretty hard pregame by Celtics fans pic.twitter.com/CxRCRfFyba
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) March 6, 2022
Irving’s situation is interesting because he was also booed in Cleveland after requesting a trade from the Cavaliers. Boston, however, holds a different type of grudge, as Irving left via free agency after telling Celtics fans “if you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here.”
Due to internal and external factors, Irving changed his course, electing to sign with the Nets as a free agent in 2019, but he missed each of Brooklyn’s first two trips to Boston. The third trip came in December 2020, when attendance was limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, which also held true when they met in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
Irving was again inactive when Brooklyn visited Boston for the first time in the 2021-22 season, but he did make a few trips in the second half of the season, including two visits in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
Celtics fans let Irving hear it every time he touched the ball. He certainly responded, racking up hefty fines in the process.
5. Dwight Howard vs. Orlando, 2013
After being selected first overall at 18 years old, Howard quickly developed into the NBA’s most dominant center while in Orlando. After a time span that included a trip to the Finals and multiple Defensive Player of the Year honors, it was clear Howard was ready to move on.
On two separate occasions, Howard requested trades. While he walked back his first request, Howard’s request was eventually honored with a trade to the Lakers in 2012, paving the way for a return to Orlando and angry fans that were once enamored with him.
It was certainly a return to remember — the Amway Center crowd booed as Howard would attempt an NBA-record 39 free throws, of which he hit 25, to finish with 39 points and 16 rebounds in his lone visit to Orlando as a Laker.
Maybe it’s something about him wearing purple and gold, but Howard was again booed nearly six years later.
Boos for Dwight Howard in Orlando. pic.twitter.com/OgN7kpxRbm
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) December 12, 2019
There’s nothing like the grudge of a fanbase that feels they’ve been wronged. We’ll see how long it takes Sixers fans to forgive Simmons… if ever.