Thursday night at 7:30pm EST, Ben Simmons will officially return to the Wells Fargo Center. Of course, he will be doing so as a member of the visiting Brooklyn Nets. It will be the first time Simmons shows up on the court in South Philly since last year’s devastating game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. We all know the story of what happened between then and now, so needless to say, this return has been highly anticipated. What was not anticipated was that it would involve Simmons just sitting on the bench rather than actually participating in the game, but no matter. He’ll still be in the building, and it is imperative that each and every Sixer fan in the arena is their best self.

Now let me be clear; what you may have just read is “be on your best behavior and as nice and respectful as possible towards Ben”. That is NOT what I mean, not at all. Ben Simmons has not been respectful to this franchise, or this fan base, or this city. He does not reserve our respect, but he absolutely deserves our decency. So what does being your best self as a Philadelphia fan mean? To me, it means voicing your displeasure as loudly as physically possible, while not crossing any lines that would reflect poorly on the fan base or city that we all belong to and love. In my time as a Philly sports fan, I have seen plenty of opponents booed mercilessly; plenty of coordinated chants aimed at opposing players, coaches, and of course the referees as well. It is absolutely possible to do all that without threatening someone, or throwing something at the person, or just generally crossing the line between spectator and player. Take a second and think about the narrative of Philadelphia sports fans. You know it well. Snowballs at Santa Claus. Batteries. Cheering injuries. It’s a MINISCULE part of our history, and yet has been unfairly held against us for decades. It only takes one person to fuel another 50 years of narrative about this city and these teams.

Again, I am not telling you to let Ben Simmons off the hook. I, like all of you, want this to be a difficult place for him to come back to. I want him to be uncomfortable when he steps into the Wells Fargo Center, but not because of any fear of bodily harm or threat. I want him to know after this trip back to Philly that he made enemies of the wrong fan base, and they’re going to boo him mercilessly until he’s no longer in the league. For that scenario to play out without crossing the line, it takes each and every person in that building to be accountable, and be the best sports fan they can be. Look out for each other, show restraint, and remember that one person can represent 5 million. Even right now, as you’re reading this, Ben Simmons’ representation over at Klutch Sports are anxiously awaiting that one individual to take things too far on Thursday night. It will give them a case against Philadelphia and in favor of Ben recouping millions of dollars he did not earn this season. Simmons does not deserve a dime for the stunt that he pulled this year, and one misstep by an unruly fan can give it all right back to him. Do not allow him to play you like he tried to play this team and city for months.

I truly believe that Philadelphia fans are the best in the world. I believe that we are (mostly) an intelligent fan base. We don’t have to be the nicest – being loud and annoying is part of why Philly is such a tough place to play – but with Simmons, we need to truly live up to the moniker of best fans on the planet. A lesser fan base would accept the bait of taking their displeasure too far and overstepping their boundaries. A lesser fan base would threaten a man for something that does not lend to any type of threat. We ARE NOT a lesser fan base. So, when you walk into that building, either Thursday night or any night in the future when Simmons returns, remember that you are there to watch a basketball game. There are lines that absolutely cannot be crossed. Booing is fine, yelling is fine, calling out cowardice is fine, but you all know well what we cannot do. So, like every other night, be the best fans in the world Philadelphia, and show Ben Simmons what he is missing out on.