HE is yet to make his NBA debut after going first overall in last year’s draft, but Newcastle lad Ben Simmons is still having a massive impact on the Philadelphia faithful.
It seems Our Ben has inadvertently started one of those viral trends just by posing for a photograph with one of his cats.
It’s called #RaiseTheCat and it’s going to take some explaining.
Simmons – who learned to play basketball in Newcastle while his father, Dave, played for the Newcastle Falcons and then coached the Hunter Pirates in the National Basketball League – is a cat person.
He’s got a couple of what he calls “F2 Savannah” cats that feature heavily in his social media feeds.
Those shots of Simmons and his exotic felines inspired 76ers fan Dennis Grove, aka @GipperGrove on Twitter, to take action.
“Simmons has a very rare-looking cat that climbs on his shoulders and head all the time, so I was thinking about how there's no way my cat could do that,” Grove told Philly.com. Well, Grove decided to try it out, and #RaiseTheCat was the eventual byproduct.
He posted a few images of himself raising his much larger cat and now Philly fans are routinely posting images of themselves doing the same thing when their team wins.
Which, lately, has been more often than not. It gained enough traction that Simmons got word of it and tweeted on Saturday [US time], “Someone tell me how raise the cat started."
About an hour later, Simmons posted a black-and-white photo of himself holding two cats raised to the sky with #raisethecat, which gained more than 4000 “likes” on Twitter.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Once a celebrity or athlete actual endorses something like this then the sky is the limit. And, as the once forlorn Sixers have clawed their way back to respectability, Sixers fans have caught cat fever and routinely post photos of themselves hoisting cats in a four-legged celebration.
The Sixers are “feline fine”, as one US outlet put it.
They've won three from their last four and eight of their last 11 games. Which is a far cry from last year when they managed just 10 wins in an 82 game season.
Grove's Twitter bio reads, "founder of #RaiseTheCat," and includes a link to a shirt for sale with that motto and says all profits will go to PhillyPAWS.
The Philadelphia-based Morris Animal Refuge has used the hashtag in photos to promote cats available for adoption .
It’s a weird story, but social media crazes have been started with less.
And the surging 76ers are a great story at the moment in the US.
Once the laughing stock of the league, Philadelphia have been slowly building for the last few years, stockpiling draft picks and tanking in the hope that a truly great player would come along and lead the revival.
That man, it seemed, was Simmons, who the 76ers took with the first overall pick in June last year.
But then Big Ben broke his foot before he could make his NBA regular season debut.
But with fellow rookie Joel Embiid exploding and the 76ers youngsters and veterans gelling the team has become seriously exciting.
They could push for a playoff spot this season, which would be totally unexpected.
And when Big Ben comes back and teams up with Embiid we could be looking at two pieces of a championship team in years to come.
And, for Simmons, it all started at Broadmeadow basketball stadium.
Putting shots up with his friends, while his dad ran drills.
It seems in Philly, the city of brotherly love, you’ve just gotta ‘Trust the Pawcess’.