Philadelphia is blessed as a great sports city with passionate fans who just want to see their team win. The city has five major sports franchises to call their own. Each team is competitive every season and gives the fans something to cheer for every day. The Philadelphia sports teams have an excellent crop of athletes that play in this city. Which athlete is the best? In my inaugural list of top ten in Philadelphia sports, let’s profile the top ten athletes in the five major Philadelphia sports franchises right now.
The Cincinnati native might be the biggest steal in the 2007 draft when he was drafted in the fifth round for the Eagles. He keeps getting better every season with his ever-improving blocking technique and amazing pass-catching ability. Celek has proven he can play in big games for the Eagles. In the 2008 NFC Championship game, he caught ten passes for 83 yards and scored two touchdowns. Celek’s breakout season was in 2009. He caught 76 passes (team record for a tight end) for 971 yards and eight touchdowns, becoming the most consistent weapon in the Eagles’ offense. At the young age of 25, Celek will only improve his play and possibly could become the best tight end in the NFL after this season.
The Sixers are not a good team, but Iguodala is a good player. Iguodala continues to amaze fans with his high-flying, acrobatic dunks and has ability to fly up and down the court. He has shown signs of leadership; constantly defending his teammates and taking the blame after a tough loss. Iguodala is one of the NBA’s few triple-double threats, showing he can pass and rebound along with being a scoring threat. Iguodala has earned notoriety around the league, winning the Rookie Challenge MVP and finishing second in the NBA dunk contest in 2005. His greatest accomplishment is representing team USA at the FIBA World Championships this summer and possibly at the 2012 Olympics. Iguodala will be heavily relied on to lead the United States to their first world title since 1994. The international experience will make Iguodala a better all-around player and make the Sixers a better team in 2010.
Cole is the most underrated defensive end in the NFL. He has accumulated 42 sacks since becoming a starter in 2006, which is among the top five in the league. He is constantly double-teamed, which makes this feat even more impressive. Cole is a dominant force and gives quarterbacks nightmares with his spin move. The two-time Pro Bowler carries the Eagles pass rush with no help from the defensive tackles or from the opposite end. Cole could have a huge season with the draft addition of Brandon Graham, forcing the double team to disperse for the first time since he became a starter. He is the best player on the Eagles defense and is expected to carry them for years to come.
Despite the Philadelphia Union’s record, their soccer is not bad to watch thanks to Sebastien Le Toux. Le Toux has evolved into one of the best goal scorers in the league. Sebastien is third in MLS with nine goals and second with nine assists. The Union’s lone All-Star continues to impress the fans with spectacular crosses and shots to the back corner of the net. Le Toux proved to the world he is one of America’s best soccer players with impressive performances against soccer powers Manchester United and Celtic FC this summer. As the Union continue to grow, so will Le Toux’s game.
The heart and soul of the Phillies continues to put up impressive numbers for a second baseman. Utley’s 162 game stats put him as one of the best offensive players in all of baseball. Chase career average is .294, averaging 29 home runs and 104 runs batted in per season. He continues to improve on defense, which was a huge question mark when he was called up in 2003. If Utley had not been so injury prone, he would have a National League Most Valuable Player award in his trophy case, along with a gold glove. Utley’s 2009 World Series performance is the best showing for a National League position player in the postseason ever (.286 avg., 5 HR, 8 RBI, 1.048 slugging percentage, .400 OBP in 6 games). Chase’s 2010 season has been hampered with a thumb injury, which is why he is low on this list.
Richards is the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers for a reason. The Flyers’ center never had impressive stats in the regular season, but continues to show why he is so valuable to the Flyers in the postseason. Richards scored seven goals and had 16 assists in the 2010 Flyers’ Stanley Cup run. Every game, Richards made smart decisions with the puck and proved he was the best forward on the ice. His leadership reminded old-time Flyers fans of another legendary captain in the postseason, Bobby Clarke. Richards 30 second performance in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals was legendary in franchise history, performing a big hit and then later hustling down the ice to beat Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak to the puck, which led to a short-handed goal. The goal gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead and led them to the 2010 Eastern Conference Championship. Richards enters the 2010-2011 NHL season with high expectations as he attempts to lead the Flyers to their first Stanley Cup since 1975.
The Phillies first baseman has been in a slump since returning from the disabled list, but Phillies fans cannot deny the power he brings to the lineup. Howard has a career average of .280, with 245 HR, and 722 RBI in only 841 games played. Since arriving to the show in 2004, Howard has become one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. Howard has been rewarded with numerous accolades for his play; winning the 2006 National League MVP, 2005 NL Rookie of the Year, three all-star appearances, and a Silver Slugger. Howard has shown his value in the postseason; hitting three home runs in the 2008 World Series and winning the 2009 National League Championship Series MVP. Ryan would be ranked higher on this list, but his 2010 stats (.286 avg., 23 HR, 81 RBI) and the Phillies offensive struggles bring him down a notch.
The 2009 NFL season was a breakout party for Jackson, as he became one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league. Jackson caught numerous deep balls from Donovan McNabb, tying the NFL record with eight touchdowns of over 50 yards in a season. DeSean introduced himself to the country with one of the greatest individual, single game performances in franchise history on Sunday Night Football. Jackson caught six passes for 178 yards, including a 60 yard touchdown pass to take the lead in the third quarter. He also had a 72 yard punt return for a touchdown earlier in the game. DeSean caught 62 passes for 1,176 yards in 2009, averaging 18.6 yards per catch. He became the first player in NFL history to start at two different positions in the Pro Bowl (wide receiver, punt returner), and made the NFL All-Pro team as a punt returner. Jackson is the go-to guy in the offense for Kevin Kolb, and is expected to have an even bigger season in 2010.
In only one season donning the orange and black, Pronger took the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1997. Pronger is the NHL’s best defenseman and one of the best postseason players in NHL history. His leadership was the key to the Flyers Eastern conference title. He kept the team level-headed and proving he was the best player on the ice during every shift. Chris had four goals and 14 assists during the 2010 NHL playoffs with a plus/minus rating of five. When Pronger was on the ice, he set up easy shots for Mike Richards, Danny Briere, and Simon Gagne. Pronger was also the leader in Canada’s gold medal winning team in the 2010 Winter Olympics. With Chris Pronger still at the top of his game, the Flyers have a chance to win the Stanley Cup for the next two to three years.
The best pitcher in baseball has simply been dominant since putting on a Phillies uniform, which puts him at the top of this list. Halladay leads the National League in complete games (8), shutouts (3), innings pitched (207), and strikeouts (186). Doc’s 16 wins are tied for third in the National League, and with some run support he probably would have 20 wins by now. Halladay also pitched the twentieth perfect game in MLB history this season, becoming the second Phillies player to accomplish the feat. He becomes more dominant as the game goes on; with his pitches becoming most effective after the seventh inning. Halladay continues to have the best cut fastball in the game, which baffles hitters when he is going to throw it during a pitch count. Since coming over to the National League, Halladay’s numbers will continue to skyrocket this year as he pads on a Hall of Fame career. If the Phillies make the playoffs this season, Roy Halladay will be the reason as he is certain to pick up is second career Cy Young award.