PHILADELPHIA, PA -- The Wells Fargo Center is always a packed house when the Philadelphia 76ers are playing. On Saturday night, though, the vibe was slightly different than usual. Typically, the entire arena is filled with a majority of Sixers fans.
But with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in town, there was quite the shake-up. Lakers fans didn't precisely take over on Saturday night, but they showed up more than any other fan base that came to visit Philadelphia this season.
Perhaps, the circumstances on their side had something to do with it. In front of the primetime spotlight in the City of Brotherly Love, the future legend, LeBron James, was just 18 points away from passing Kobe Bryant on the NBA's All-Time scoring list.
To no surprise, LeBron did it. While it took a little longer than expected, thanks to the Sixers' dominant defense on Saturday, James felt the urgency in the second half and had to turn up his production. Overall, LeBron ended the game with 29 points. It wasn't enough for his Lakers to win -- but Philly still offered up some respect to the guy during the timeout following his accomplishment.
After the game, James took a moment to sit back and soak it all in. "I'm here in a Lakers uniform, in Philadelphia, where [Kobe's] from," LeBron James said after the game. "[Philly] is where one of the first times I ever met him during All-Star break. . . It's surreal. I'm just happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant."
LeBron James showed nothing but respect to the former Laker after surpassing him on the All-Time scoring list. He mentioned that having Kobe as a spectator watching him accomplish historical things is "pretty amazing."
And when the day comes where LeBron James is happily retired and watching the NBA as a fan -- he cannot wait to see other players perform at a high level like himself -- specifically, he cannot wait to watch Sixers' versatile point guard, Ben Simmons.
"It's pretty cool [having Kobe as a spectator as time passes]," James said while sitting at his locker. "That's pretty much how I'm going to be when I'm done playing, being able to come back and watch this beautiful game, and hopefully there's somebody still playing the game at a high level. Like the guy across the hallway, Ben Simmons. I can sit and watch him and see how much he continues to grow and watch him do what he does."
With LeBron and the Lakers in town, Simmons knew he had to turn up the intensity if the Sixers wanted a chance to take down the Western Conference's best team. Well, the third-year guard delivered. Simmons finished the night with 28 points, ten rebounds, eight assists, and four steals in the 108-91 victory over L.A.
The Sixers' Saturday night bell ringer surely deserved all the credit that came his way from across the hall. While Simmons has received his fair share of criticism throughout the first half of the year, it's beginning to look like the third-year guard is undoubtedly hitting his stride now on both sides of the ball. And even the future greats recognize this.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_