Playing professional sports in Philadelphia can be tough. As fans die-hard and want to see their teams accomplish winning a championship, they can often be hard on athletes if things don't end on a positive note.
Although it happens in every sports city, the harsh criticism from Philly fans can sometimes drive players out of town and also prevent others from going there via free agency. On the other hand, players might embrace the toughness and take on the challenge that Philadelphia fans offer.
Philadelphia Eagles star defensive lineman Brandon Graham can be placed in the latter. As the former first-round pick entered the league with high expectations attached to him, he failed to live up to the hype early on.
Therefore, Graham was basically given up on. Over the years, he continued to develop and embrace the challenge of getting better. Now, he's not only a Super Bowl champion, but he's a Philadelphia fan favorite.
As he pays attention to what's going on with the Philadelphia 76ers, he noticed that the three-time All-Star Ben Simmons is in a similar situation. As Simmons entered the NBA as the No. 1 overall pick in Philadelphia, Simmons had sky-high expectations coming from fans.
Unlike Graham, Simmons didn't show signs of struggling right off the bat. He actually was named the NBA's Rookie of the Year after missing his first season with a broken foot. While Simmons maintained a high level of play over the years, his lack of offensive development created much criticism towards him.
And as Simmons' weaknesses shined bright in the second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks during last year's playoff run, he lost a lot of supporters, causing him to request a trade not too long after the season ended.
"It's a little worse for him because I feel like basketball players because you can see them and they visible and people can notice them a little more," Graham said recently on 94WIP. "When I wasn't playing so good, people wanted me out of the city. They wanted me cut and all of that. It got to me, and I didn't want to be here, and I had to fight against that, and I did. And the way you handle that is how you go out there and play and perform, and so I focused more on my craft and not worried about what other people had to say. That's when I felt like things started to change for me."
Many have suggested instead of requesting a fresh start elsewhere, Simmons should stay in Philly and continue to work on expanding his game. As somebody who's done that before, Graham is among those who suggest the former first pick should grind it out and silence the doubters.
"It's hard to tell people how to feel, but how I feel about it for Ben is to just come in, put your head down and get working," Graham continued. "If you're gonna be here, and hopefully you doing what you haven't been doing like you said -- dunking when you supposed, even shooting threes -- or whatever it is the fans want you to do. You do it, and then you start getting better and doing things that you normally wouldn't do, then I think all will be forgiven. Just come in and work."
At this point, Simmons has reported to the Sixers. On Monday, as the team tipped off against the Brooklyn Nets, he showed face in Philly for the first time since the summer. While he's not permitted to join the team just yet, the Sixers are hopeful Simmons is ready to play for them once again when he clears health and safety protocol.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.