If you’re one of those people who felt like the Saturday booing of Ben Simmons and the Sixers was justified, you were proven right last night.
You fundamentally believe that booing is a way to send a message to players, to light a fire under their ass and motivate them to play at the level you know they’re capable of. Maybe it doesn’t even come from a position of douchebaggery, it comes from a position of, “listen man, we love you and we know you’re a hell of a player, so let’s see it.”
If that’s the premise, then Ben Simmons’ Monday night performance essentially proved that the Philadelphia blueprint for criticism is 100% sound.
Because the thought process goes something like this:
- we know Ben Simmons and the Sixers can play better
- therefore, we show our displeasure by booing
- as a result, players with heart and desire will respond positively while players with thin skin and a lack of mental fortitude will respond negatively
- Ben therefore proved that he is the former and not the latter
This all manifested itself in a 22-point win, a blowout victory in which the Sixers scored 51 third quarter points, tying an NBA record for most points scored in one period. Ben himself went for 18, plus 10 rebounds, and 12 assists as he became the living embodiment of the snort emoji he regularly posts on Twitter, looking more like an aggressive bulldog and less like a Bergamasco, or other more passive and calm dog breeds.
And I got the sense, watching Ben operate, that HE HIMSELF ‘got it,’ when he showed us this:
Simmons with the AI ear thing 🗣 pic.twitter.com/4u7615chOt
— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) April 16, 2019
That’s Ben saying “I hear you. I hear you. Y’all can be a pain in the ass, but I hear you, and now it’s time for the boos to become cheers.”
He suggested as much when he said this about the Allen Iverson ear gesture:
“I was thinking about the boos from last game. But I’ve got a lot of love for this city and the fans here. Every time I step on this floor I try to play as hard as I can. I was just showing that. The hustle I try to give every game isn’t only for my teammates or my family, it’s for the city.”
I thought it was a great quote, for real. That’s adult stuff from a 22 year old who has a ton on his shoulders, who is on one bell curve for expectations and a different bell curve for realistic NBA development and growth. There are multiple curves here, like a basketball version of Shakira’s hips.
So this blueprint works for Ben Simmons. He responded like a grown man, put in one hell of a performance on the floor, and earned what I thought was the respect of the crowd and probably most Sixer fans watching at home. And him directly mentioning the boos in that quote goes to show me that yes, they were, in fact, a motivating factor in the turnaround, as opposed to some generic rebound performance.
I also understand that this model might not work for everyone, the “tough love” thing. Fans took a decidedly different approach in supporting Markelle Fultz, for instance, cheering him every time he shot the ball, and we saw where that got him.
Regardless of what happens moving forward, Philadelphia sports fans should file this one away and pull it out every time a national media jabroni wants to make generic and myopic booing comments. You can say, “Yeah? Yeah national media jabroni? Remember when we booed Ben Simmons and he went for a triple-double two days later? Remember how loud the arena was that night? Yeah tough guy? How’s that working out for you?”
Booing is not always the solution, but in this case it was justified and it manifested itself in a positive and beneficial fashion.