What are Danny Green and Scott O’Neil thinking, telling you to not boo a coward? Booing is bad, as a rule, but if you’re gonna do it, then cowards are the fairest of game.
What was ABC thinking, mocking a player that will be on their air for the next decade? ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company, as is ESPN. Good luck getting your next postgame one-on-one with Ben Simmons, Worldwide Leader in Sports and Bad Jokes.
And what are we thinking here in Philly, trying to dictate Simmons’ offseason diversions? He’s a handsome, 24-year-old multimillionaire, drowning in money and swimming in a sea of international fame. He’s supposed to be dropping $17.5 million on L.A. mansions. That’s the archetype.
Get a new slant
To review: Green was Simmons’ teammate when Simmons’ refusal to dunk late in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals became the touchstone for cowardice in Philadelphia sports history. O’Neil was the team’s CEO.
Simmons’ refusal to shoot and his poor free-throw shooting have been the main reason that the Sixers were eliminated in all three playoff runs in which Simmons has participated during his four-year career. Those also are the reasons Simmons gets booed. Nevertheless, both Green and O’Neil believe that chastising the fans who deride this dereliction of duty will somehow make the booing stop. And why should it stop? Because the Sixers, and perhaps other athletes, are too soft to take it.
“With a guy like Ben and other guys, I think [fans] need to stick behind them, and stick by them as long as they can, until the horn blows,” Green told John Clark on Clark’s Takeoff with John Clark podcast July 8. “It has an effect on everybody, and I think that’s something that needs to change in this city. I love our fans, but when things aren’t going well, they can’t turn on you.”
As outrageous as that suggestion sounds, O’Neil’s admonishment was even crazier. Two days after Simmons’ worst basketball moment, during an interview touting his new autobiography, Be Where Your Feet Are, O’Neil -- unsolicited -- was moved to counsel the people who paid both his salary and Simmons’:
“I don’t understand the reaction to some of our players. I don’t understand some of the booing and the treatment of some of the young men. If you ever understood the complexity of what you’re doing and the impact that you have, versus supporting them, I think the behavior would change pretty dramatically. This city has a reputation of stars not staying for their careers. I hope that changes.”
Not only is that claim specious -- most Philadelphia stars have been happy to endure derision as long as the checks didn’t bounce -- it also reveals the thinness of skin the Sixers and other players might have. It’s true that some players have whined, from Mike “Beyond help” Schmidt, to Jimmy “Front-runners” Rollins, and even to Simmons himself, who said that fans disgusted with the Sixers’ Game 1 loss in the 2019 playoffs should “stay on that side.”
A year later, Simmons chose his side: He signed a five-year, $177 million contract extension.
Yet even that wasn’t enough to convince him to dunk over Danilo Gallinari.
The ESPYs fumble
On Saturday night, ABC used 2 minutes of The ESPYs award show to mock Simmons’ 34.2% free-throw performance, which was the worst in playoff history.
The lead-in: Simmons gets a special humanitarian award. The punchline: Simmons’ shooting supplied enough bricks to build orphanages.
It was done in bad taste. Perhaps worse, it wasn’t remotely funny.
It’s a good thing Ben was busy.
Livin’ it up
Less than two weeks after being sent home for the summer, Simmons dropped $17.5 million on a 12,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom mansion outside of Los Angeles that came with an indoor Bonsai tree. Look, the Main Line is great and all -- Jeffrey Lurie throws awesome cookouts, and it’s about an hour from the Jersey Shore -- but Simmons’ new neighbors are Kanye West and Paul George, and he’s 30 minutes from Malibu. Not a tough choice.
Then, last week, Simmons and Maya Jama, the British TV and radio personality, were caught snogging in the stands at Wimbledon.
This is completely normal behavior. This is what the Ben Simmonses of the world are supposed to do. Yet, Philadelphia is outraged: He must do penance! He must feel shame!
Simmons should be in a sweaty gym in East Falls practicing his free throws with Herb Magee. Or ...
Simmons should return to Australia and get ready for the Olympics. Or ...
Simmons should be on Joel Fish’s couch, examining his issues and discussing with the good doctor the existential meaning of the word “clutch.”
Simmons needs time away from the practice gym, he needs time away from the spotlight, and the last thing Philadelphia 76ers fans should want is for Ben Simmons to collapse into himself. Let him live.