The 10 Most Memorable Philadelphia Sports Seasons of the Decade
The start of the Phillies' 2010 season marked the official beginning of a new decade of pro sports in Philadelphia. And just 17 hours before Opening Day, the Eagles perhaps officially brought the previous decade to a close by trading Donovan McNabb to Washington.
So, with this new Philly sports decade in its infant stages, let’s take a look back at the 10 most memorable Philadelphia pro sports seasons of the last decade. "Memorable," is a subjective word. So these rankings reflect the author’s opinion…not fact.
Hope you all enjoy this trip down memory lane…
No. 10: 2005-2006 76ers
OK. This season was memorable for all the wrong reasons. The Sixers missed the playoffs with a 38-44 record. It was Maurice Cheeks’ first season as head coach, Chris Webber’s only full season in town, and Allen Iverson’s last full year in Philly.
Iverson averaged a career-high 33 points per contest, scoring 40 or more in 15 games. But it was A.I.’s off-court associations that made the most headlines this year.
Iverson refused to give back the $10,000 in chips that he was mistakenly dealt during a poker game at Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal in December ’05. Earlier that year, A.I.’s bodyguard was accused of brutally assaulting a man at a Washington, DC, nightclub. Iverson was sued by the victim, even though Iverson himself never even touched the accuser. The victim was eventually rewarded $260,000.
Finally, on Apr. 18, 2006, Iverson and Webber arrived nearly 90 minutes late to Sixers fan appreciation night at the Wachovia Center, marking a fittingly bitter end to a contentious season.
No. 9: 2002 Eagles
The NFC Championship loss to Tampa Bay in the final game at Veterans Stadium reduced the accomplishments of the 2002 season to a mere footnote. And because of that, there are probably few Philadelphians out there who remember just how great this season actually was.
The Eagles went 12-4, won their first 11 conference games, scored a then-club record 415 points, and clinched the NFC’s top seed for the first time ever. They won five of their final six regular season games after Donovan McNabb suffered a broken ankle.
McNabb eventually returned and led the Eagles to a 20-6 home win over Michael Vick’s Falcons in the divisional playoffs. Andy Reid won Coach of the Year, while Jim Johnson’s ferocious defense allowed the second fewest points in the NFL (241).
The Birds were the NFL’s best team from September until the day of the NFC Championship…I try to not think about that game.
Super Bowl XXXIX hurt. Clearly. But I still have nightmares of Joe Jurevicius and Ronde Barber…streaking down the sidelines.
The 2002 championship loss was the most devastating defeat of the Reid-McNabb era, period. The 2002 season was the Eagles’ greatest chance to win it all, and they—as a team—let it slip away…
No. 8: 2007-2008 Flyers
During the 2006-2007 season, the Flyers finished with the NHL’s worst record and nine fewer points than the league’s second-worst team. But the 2007-2008 campaign marked one of biggest turnarounds in the Orange and Black's proud history.
The Flyers overcame a 10-game losing streak in February to finish as the Eastern Conference’s No. 6 seed.
Philly then compiled a fantastic postseason run: upsetting the Capitals in a thrilling, seven-game series and dominating the top-seeded Canadians in five, before falling to Pittsburgh in a five-game Conference Final.
Former Buffalo Saber Danny Briere totaled 72 points in his first season in as a Flyer, while fan-favorite Mike Richards broke out with 75 points in his third year.
The loss to the hated, cross-state rival Penguins may have ended the year on a sour note, but the 2007-2008 Flyers had no reason to hang their heads.
No. 7: 2007 Phillies
Until mid-September, the 2007 season looked a lot like 2006, which looked a lot like 2005, which looked a lot like 2004, and so on. For years, the Phillies had consistently been good enough to fall just short of the playoffs. But 2007 was different.
As the whole Delaware valley remembers, the Phils overcame a seven-game deficit with 17 to play to overtake the Mets and clinch the division on the final day of the regular season.
The ’07 Phils featured the best offense in franchise history, scoring a club-record 892 runs, while leading the NL in team triples, walks, slugging, and OBP.
Team leader Jimmy Rollins won NL MVP with one of greatest seasons of any leadoff hitter in history.
The Phils won their last eight games against the Mets during the season, as well as the final six at Shea Stadium. Had the Mets managed to win just one of those games, the whole season could have been different…
2007 resulted in the Phils’ first division title in 14 years and, of course, set the stage for bigger and better accomplishments in the years ahead…
No. 6: 2000 Eagles
The Eagles opened the new millennium with one of the most stunning victories in team history.
David Akers began the season with a perfectly executed onside kick, Duce Staley racked up 262 total yards, and the Philly defense knocked Troy Aikman out of the game in the first quarter, as the Eagles demolished the favored Cowboys, 41-14, at Texas Stadium.
The convincing Opening Day upset established the tone for a season in which the Eagles went 11-5 and won a home playoff game over Tampa Bay, 21-3, on New Year’s Eve.
In his first full season, Donovan McNabb became an instant superstar, consistently making miraculous scrambles and fourth-quarter comebacks (can you believe that now?). He finished second in MVP voting, accounting for nearly 75 percent of the Eagles’ offensive yards.
2000 wasn’t just crazily successful, but also outrageously exciting. The outcome of seven contests was decided in the game’s final three minutes. However, the 2000 Birds lost three times to the division rival Giants by a combined 42 points. The Eagles other three losses came by a combined eight points.
No. 5: 2003-2004 Flyers
Under second-year coach Ken Hitchock, the Flyers burst out to a 17-3-6-1 start en route to a 101-point season and the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed.
The Orange and Black took out the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the playoffs before hammering the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round Two.
The Flyers had lost all four of their regular season meetings with Tampa Bay, and they would fall to the eventual-Stanley Cup Champion Lightening in a hard fought, seven-game series.
During the season, Robert Esche emerged as one of the league’s most surprisingly good goaltenders, posting a 21-11-7 record with a sparkling 2.04 GGA.
The 2003-2004 season proved to be the final one for three fan-favorite Flyers: John LeClair, Mark Recchi, and Jeremy Roenick.
No. 4: 2009 Phillies
How to follow up the ’08 championship season. Hmmm...2009 was by all accounts a pretty damn good encore.
The Phils won their third consecutive NL East title, won the NL pennant in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever, and came just two victories shy of becoming the second NL team to win consecutive World Series titles in almost 90 years.
Almost all of the ’08 team returned in ’09, while Raul Ibanez and J.A. Happ became new fan favorites. Pedro Martinez joined the rotation in August. A few weeks earlier, the Phils traded for some guy named Cliff Lee. Yeah, he was pretty good.
Philadelphia became a full-fledged baseball town, as the Phillies set club records by drawing 3.7 million fans, selling out 41 consecutive games, and packing Citizens Bank Park to an average of 102 percent capacity. The 2009 season was a year-long party at CBP and also a daily celebration of the life of the great Harry Kalas.
The Phils steamrolled through the NL playoffs again, going 7-2 against Colorado and Los Angeles, before falling just short to the club from the Bronx in the World Series. The season in 2009 featured everything but a happy ending. That’s OK. Room for improvement in 2010.
No. 3: 2004 Eagles
This doesn’t need much of an introduction.
After losing the NFC championship game three straight years, 2004 was the Eagles greatest season since 1949. The club started the season 7-0 in route to a franchise-high 13 wins. The Eagles clinched the NFC’s top seed for the third straight year, winning 13 of their first 14 games while outscoring the opposition 369 to 202. They also swept their NFC East division for the first time ever.
McNabb had his greatest season passing, with 31 TDs against just 8 INTs, to go along with a 104.7 QB rating.
And then there was Terrell Owens. The NFL’s “Ultimate Weapon” racked up 1,2000 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first, and only, full season in Eagle green. Yet, T.O. missed the NFC playoffs with injury. No big deal. The Eagles bulldozed the Vikings, 27-14, and Falcons, 27-10, at Lincoln Financial Field to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1980.
Well, we all know what happened in the Super Bowl. And we all know what happened seven months after that. No reason to go there…
No. 2: 2000-2001 76ers
At first, I asked myself: Does this season only seem great because every other 76ers’ season of the decade was so terrible? The answer is no. This season was really just that great.
The Sixers began the year 10-0 and never looked back en route to the Eastern Conference’s best record of 56-26. They allowed fewer than 100 points in an incredible 21 of their first 22 games, while their 27-14 road record was best in the NBA.
Who could forget Iverson? He scored 31.1 points per game and led the NBA in steals per game on his way to the association's MVP award. He scored 40 or more in 17 of his final 54 regular season games. He put in at least 44 points in six playoff games. “The Answer” was never better than in 2000-2001.
In just four seasons, the great coach Larry Brown had taken Philly from the worst team in the league to the NBA Finals.
To say the Sixers have struggled since that time is an understatement. At least we as Philadelphia fans, will always have the memories of that incredible 2000-2001 season.
No. 1: 2008 Phillies
Was there any doubt here? The Phils had the talent to dominate the regular season. But when it comes to sports, nothing ever comes easy in Philadelphia. Ever.
That’s why it wasn’t surprising that this great bunch of Phillies needed another one of their patented, furious, late-season comebacks to finish with 92 wins and overtake the hated Mets (once again) to win the NL East.
In 2008, closer Brad Lidge finished a combined (regular season and playoffs) 48-for-48 in save chances.
Cole Hamels won both the NLCS and World Series MVP.
And overall, the Phillies won 24 of their final 30 games after September 11. The Phils also won 25 of their final 31 games at Citizens Bank Park after August 9. The Phillies dominated the playoffs from start to finish, going 7-0 at home and 11-3 overall.
But Philly fans had waited 25 years for a major professional sports championship. So in the Fall Classic, it was no surprise that torrential rain suspended the conclusion of Game Five until two nights later. Again, nothing ever comes easy in Philadelphia.
The ’08 Phils were inconsistent during the summer, but under the pressure of September and October, the team’s championship-starved fanbase got to see just how great these Phillies could really be.
The Phillies ’08 championship has made Philadelphia a baseball town for years to come, and this group of players has cemented an emotional bond with the city and its fans.
That’s the power that comes with winning a World Championship.