His status as one of the NBA’s elite players notwithstanding, Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons’ unique game has made him a polarizing figure. Not just with hoops pundits and talking heads charged with dispensing hot takes, but within the Philly faithful as well.
It doesn’t help that some of his raw numbers have trended downward since his standout rookie campaign in 2017-18. Or that he’s still only knocked down five career three-pointers.
Never mind the fact that he has developed into one of the Association’s best defenders or that he helped the Sixers to the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The boo birds, barbershop analysts and water-cooler GMs continue to do their thing.
This week, the three-time All-Star and 2021 Defensive Player of the Year finalist took to social media to poke some fun at the curious dynamic. Or, at the very least, to acknowledge it.
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They Love Me, They Love Me Not
Simmons hopped onto Instagram on Thursday with a new post addressing the love/hate relationship existing between him and some Sixers fans. Along with a picture of himself shooting a mean mug toward the camera, the Aussie import broke down said relationship in the photo’s caption.
“They love me. They love me not. They love me. They love me not,” he wrote, adding a daisy emoji and a laughing-until-crying emoji.
The post has been liked more than 300,000 times since it went live. Moreover, it inspired thousands of comments, including some from Sixers teammates.
“THEY LOVE YOU GANG,” reassured Sixers’ two-way guard Rayjon Tucker.
“That’s Philly for you,” added a fan. “Keep doing this.”
“Don’t listen to the casuals Ben…” implored a third supporter. “They r haters! Real Philly fans love u and will always love u.”
“We don’t love you,” deadpanned a contrarian commenter.
Running Hot & Cold
Simmons’ hot and cold relationship with his own fan base has hit both ends of the spectrum recently. Following the Sixers’ Game 4 loss in their first-round series with the Washington Wizards, he was made to be the poster child for his squad’s failures in the contest.
Making just 5-of-11 free throw attempts — including 4-of-8 in the decisive fourth quarter — when the opponent opts to intentionally foul you will do that. Especially when you’re a non-center.
Fast-forward to Game 5 and Simmons was the talk of the town. With Joel Embiid on the outs due to his meniscus tear, the former No. 1 overall pick messed around and got a triple-double, dropping 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
He also hit on 5-of-8 attempts from the free-throw line. It’s not a great number, but definitely one that the team can live with given all the other ways Simmons affected the game. And, as ever, winning cures all ills.
So, entering Philly’s EC semi-final series with Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks, Simmons and Sixers fans are seemingly in a good place.
Just how long the goodwill lasts remains to be seen.
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