Natasha Cloud competed in this year's NBA All Star Celebrity Game before taking part in the Philadelphia 76ers Pride Night. | Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Before her move to Phoenix, and before nearly a decade as the heart of the Washington Mystics, Natasha Cloud was a kid from Delco.

“My heart resides in Philly, so I’m a Sixers fan through and through,” Cloud told The Next several years ago.

So it was fitting that she might be one of the centerpieces of the recent Pride Night held by the Philadelphia 76ers, just hours before WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert mentioned the city as a possible expansion location for her league.

While the Sixers didn’t put nearly at much zhuzh into their celebrations as their brothers next door at the Wells Fargo Center, the evening was a homecoming moment for Natasha Cloud, who was given the honor of ringing the team’s Liberty Bell.

“I feel like ringing the bell has always been a dream of mine since being a young kid. And then to ring it in on Pride night as well […] To create those safe spaces for our community is so imporant for people to feel seen, heard, loved, and supported,” Cloud said on Saturday.

A relatively recent tradition, the team introduced a pregame ceremonial bell-ringing in 2013, and a postgame ringing to commemorate wins.

At a previous Pride night in 2020, the Sixers also gave the honor to Jason Collins, whose historic coming out over a decade ago helped set the stage for a new era of increasing gay visibility in men’s sports.

2020 was also when the Sixers first featured Cloud as part of their virtual Philly PrideDay Parade during the “bubble” season. In an interview and accompanying photo series at the time, she shared her advice to LGBTQ youth in Philadelphia:

“There are so many good people out here part of the LGBTQ+ community that will be there. I will be there for you if I can help navigate it as well. But understand that you are not alone. There are countless people out here that will love and support you whether they are part of our community, or they are not. Most importantly, just love yourself. You are perfect in every sense of who you truly are. Embrace that in every facet.”

Does this latest moment of recognition mean anything for those who have long been calling for a WNBA expansion to Philly?

It seems a far off possibility, at least for now. But there’s fewer non-WNBA cities with a more glittering lineage of the women’s game, from Hall of Famer Dawn Staley to recent Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, than Philadelphia.

As WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert vows expansion of four more teams to the league by 2028 (for better or for worse), perhaps no city is more deserving of a team of their own.

And a possible, final, return home on the court for Cloud.