Top 10 Philly Athletes of the Past 50 Years: One Man’s View

February 19th, 2014 by Jim Chesko | Filed under Baseball, Basketball, Eagles, Flyers, Football, Hockey, Phillies, Sixers, Sports, TalkSportsPhilly.

Philadelphia’s been the home base for a great number of incredible athletes over the years, but who are the best of the best?

If you’re a faiBobby Clarke and Bernie Parentthful viewer of Comcast SportsNet (I admit, I’m a heavy watcher), you know that CSN has recently been counting down its list of the Top 10 Philly Athletes of all time. (In case you haven’t been paying attention, Numbers 10 through 4 were Bernie Parent, Chuck Bednarik, Carl Lewis, Julius Erving, Steve Van Buren, Joe Frazier and Steve Carlton; will the final trio be Clarkie, Schmidty and Wilt? We shall see.)

Anyway, it got me thinking about MY list. First, however, the parameters: I decided to limit my Top 10 to players whom I’ve seen in action during the past the 50 years and who’ve played the bulk of their career in Philadelphia. So, no Jimmie Foxx or Lefty Grove (way before my time), no Pete Rose (despite how much he meant to the Phils’ 1980 World Series team), no Steve van Buren or Chuck Bednarik (amazing careers for both, but – again – before my time), no Richie Ashburn … and no Kobe Bryant.

Before giving you my personal Top 10, how about a few Philly greats who just missed the cut? Getting “honorable mention” status would be Charles Barkley, Brian Dawkins and – although he spent just four of his prime NBA years as a 76er – Moses Malone. All right, here goes…

10) JOE FRAZIER – Philly’s greatest boxer, “Smokin’ Joe” was an Olympic gold medalist and undisputed World Heavyweight Champion from 1970 to 1972, who had those three memorable battles with Muhammad Ali. Career record of 32-4-1.

9) CARL LEWIS – The Willingboro, New Jersey, sprinter and long-jumper won nine Olympic gold medals and an additional eight World Championship gold medals in the 1980s and 90s. (We won’t penalize Lewis for his inglorious 1993 attempt at singing the national anthem at a Bulls-Nets NBA playoff game.)

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8) ALLEN IVERSON – He didn’t like to practice, but when the lights went on, A.I. delivered: a 6-foot scoring machine who averaged nearly 30 points per game during his first 10 years in the league, and led the Sixers to that memorable run to the 2001 NBA Finals.

7) REGGIE WHITE – The greatest Eagle of the last 50 years, in my opinion (and right up there with all-timers Bednarik and Van Buren), the dominant pass rusher of his era, and the leader of the Gang Green Defense. White average 15 1/2 sacks per game during his eight years as a Bird.

6) BERNIE PARENT – Nearly 40 years later, the Flyers have yet to have a goaltender as good as Bernie, who – along with Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Coach Fred Shero – was a key reason the Flyers won those back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and ’75. His regular-season record for those two seasons: 91-27-22, with 24 shutouts and a goals-against average of 1.95. His playoff record those two Cup-winning seasons: 22-10, with 4 shutouts and a 1.96 GAA.

5) STEVE CARLTON – “Lefty” joined the Phils in 1972 and promptly had one of the most amazing seasons in baseball history, going 27-10 with a horrible, last-place Phillies team that won just 59 games total. Carlton won 241 games during his 15 years with the Phils (and 329 total in his Hall of Fame career), with four Cy Young Awards along the way.

4) JULIUS ERVING – The league’s No. 1 attraction after he left the ABA to join the Sixers in 1976, Dr. J played 12 memorable seasons with the Sixers, leading them to the NBA Finals four times, and finally winning (with help from that Moses Malone fellow) a title in 1983 – the last one for the city’s pro basketball franchise.

3) BOBBY CLARKE – His numbers might not be as impressive as the Gretzkys or Lemieuxes of his sport, but when you think of great captains, great leaders, “Clarkie” definitely belongs at or near the top of the list – definitely the heart and soul of those mid-70s, back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Flyers.

2) MIKE SCHMIDT – Michael Jack’s got to be very near the top on this list. 548 home runs – in the pre-steroid era, by the way – three MVP awards, 12 all-star games, all those gold gloves … and still considered by almost everyone to be the sport’s greatest third baseman ever.

1) WILT CHAAMBERLAIN – Yeah, thanks to the Celtics, Wilt won just one title in Philly (with the great Sixers team of 1966-67) – his second came with the Lakers – but he was absolutely the most dominant NBA player of the 1960s. In ’61-62, the year of his 100-point game, he averaged 50 points and 25 rebounds. During his years in Philly, with the Warriors and Sixers, he averaged 36 points and 24 rebounds. There was just no one else like him.

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