Friday, October 24, 2014
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Philadelphia's 10 Best Teams of the Last 50 Years

We here at Philly.com would love to give you a list of the teams in the city's entire 331-year history, but that would be virtually impossible. Instead, we've decided to dwindle it down to the last 50 years.

Philadelphia's 10 Best Teams of the Last 50 Years

(AP file photos)
(AP file photos)

The city of Philadelphia is 331 years old, dating back to 1682. During those 331 years, Philadelphia has seen its share of great sports teams.

We here at Philly.com would love to give you a list of the teams in the city’s entire 331-year history, but that would be virtually impossible. Instead, we’ve decided to dwindle it down to the last 50 years.

One team that will not be on this list, however, is the 1960 Eagles. Yes, they were arguably the best team in franchise history, but they won that championship 52 years ago, not 50.

If we ever put together a list of the best teams over the last 52 years, I’m sure they’ll be high on our list.

More coverage
Who was the best Philadelphia professional team of the past 50 years?
1967 76ers.
1974/75 Flyers.
1983 76ers.
1980 Phillies.
2008 Phillies.
2004 Eagles.
1980 Eagles.
1985/1987 Flyers.
2001 76ers.
1993 Phillies.

10. 1993 Phillies (97-65, NL East Champs, NL Champs)

This team exemplified everything Philadelphia fans love. They were a blue-collar, fun-loving group of guys who won and had fun doing it.

Guys like Darren Daulton, John Kruk and of course Mitch Williams were what the ’93 Phillies were all about.

They embraced the city and the city was swept up in the hysteria that was the summer and fall of 1993.

We all know about the heart-breaking finish in the World Series against Toronto, but let’s look at the bright side here. They won the team’s first division and league titles in 10 years, won 97 games, and left a trail of fond memories behind them.

9.  2001 76ers (56-26, Atlantic Division Champs, Eastern Conference Champs)

To the rest of the country, this was not a great team. But in the minds of Sixers fans everywhere, this team is almost viewed among the glory years of Sixers basketball.

Although there were some better teams in the history of the franchise, this one in particular is still one of the more memorable.

Why are they so memorable? Was it the fact that their run to the NBA Finals happened only 11 years ago? Or the fact that they featured the single most popular star in basketball at the time, Allen Iverson?

This was a good team to watch, but this was clearly the Iverson show and he carried that team to the top seed in the East while earning his only league MVP honor.

Another reason why this team was so beloved was their grittiness and toughness, something that will always get teams on the good side of a blue-collar fan base like Philadelphia.

That was put on the forefront during the Finals against the glamorous Los Angeles Lakers. The Sixers were undoubtedly overmatched by L.A., but still managed to pull off a huge upset in Game 1.

Despite losing the next four games, this team fought hard to the bitter end.

8. 1985/1987 Flyers (Both won Prince of Wales Conference titles)

Neither one of these teams took home the Cup, but they were the top two or three teams in the NHL at the time.

If it wasn’t for Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers, the Flyers may have four Stanley Cup titles instead of two.

Both of these teams gained more than 100 points in their respective seasons with the ’85 team taking in 113 (tops in the NHL) and the ’87 team racking up 100 (second in the NHL).

As good as the 1985 squad was during the regular season and playoffs, they were no match for the Oilers that season, losing to them in five games, including an 8-3 rout in the series clincher.

But the 1987 team came back with a man named Ron Hextall who carried the Flyers all the way back to the series and to Game 7 where the Flyers fell, 3-1.

Although the Oilers celebrated their fourth title in five years, the Conn Smythe went to Hextall for his heroics throughout the playoffs, making him only the fourth player in league history to be given the award on a losing team.

7. 1980 Eagles (12-4, NFC East Champs, NFC Champs)

The 1970s were a rough decade for the Eagles and their fans. The team suffered through seven losing seasons while the Dallas Cowboys were becoming “America’s Team.”

The Eagles hired Dick Vermeil to get the team back on track in 1976, but suffered two more losing seasons. The team finally turned the corner in 1978-79 as they qualified for the playoffs both seasons and went a combined 20-13.

The momentum culminated in 1980 as Vermeil led the Eagles to the best in record in the league at 12-4 and an NFC East title.

In the NFC Championship Game, they knocked off “America’s Team”, 20-7, to punch their first ticket to the Super Bowl.

With quarterback Ron Jaworski having an off day, running back Wilbert Montgomery put the offense on his back and ran for 194 yards and a touchdown.

Although the season ended in bitter fashion with an embarrassing loss to the Oakland Raiders, the achievements of this team will not be soon forgotten.

6. 2004 Eagles (13-3, NFC East Champs, NFC Champs)

Twenty-four years after Jaworski and Montgomery won the hearts of Philadelphia, there was another group of Eagles who were primed to make a run to the Super Bowl.

The three previous years, Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb had their seasons end in the NFC Championship Game, including the last two coming at home.

A lot of blame went around, but one of the major things people looked at was the lack of a No. 1 receiver. During the offseason, the Eagles finally got one in Terrell Owens.

Owens not only brought his wealth of talent; he also brought his Philadelphia-sized ego and swagger, which during the 2004 season had a positive effect on the team. After that, not so much.

With Owens in tow, the Eagles set out on destruction on the rest of the NFC, as they were clearly a cut above the rest of the conference.

The offense scored what were then the second-most points in franchise history and only one team gave up fewer points that season.

It’s probably the best team in Eagles history not to win a championship and if it wasn’t for the horribly-dramatic offseason that followed, could have played in one or two more Super Bowls before it was all said and done.

5. 2008 Phillies (92-70, World Series Champs)

This team will always hold a special place in the heart of Philadelphia fans.

This team broke the 25-year drought of championships in the four major sports for the city and was the height of probably the most successful stretch in Phillies history.

From 2007-2011, the Phillies won five straight division titles, and two NL pennants, but the crown jewel is obviously the World Series title in ’08.

This team had a solid pitching staff behind ace Cole Hamels, but also boasted a lineup that teams simply could not keep in check.

The Phillies bopped their way through the NL playoffs and slugged the Tampa Bay Rays in five games that not only won a championship, but invigorated an entire city.

4. 1980 Phillies (91-71, World Series Champs)

The precursor to the 2008 Phillies was the 1980 Phillies. There's no doubt that this was as beloved a team as any championship team in Philadelphia.

But the names on this team roster are names that will last forever. Names like Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa, the late, great Tug McGraw and of course Michael Jack Schmidt.

Despite all of the great names, this team only posted the third-best record in the National League and the sixth-best record in all of baseball.

The team finished with the ninth-best batting average (.270) in baseball and the third-best ERA in baseball (3.43)

But when October came around, the Phillies turned it up and defeated the Houston Astros in the NLCS in five games and the Kansas City Royals in the World Series in six games.

3. 1983 76ers (65-17, NBA Champions)

The great Moses Malone said this team would go “Fo, fo, fo!” through the playoffs and they almost did. They went “Fo, fi, fo!”

This is not only one of the best teams in the history of the city, but in the history of the NBA.

The ’83 Sixers had two of the biggest stars in the game at the time in Malone, who won league MVP, and Julius Erving.

The dynamic duo was a bit of a prequel to the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal tandem two decades later.

The irony is that each tandem went through a postseason with only one loss.

The supporting cast of the Sixers was probably better than the Lakers had during any of those three championships.

That group consisted of Andrew Toney, who averaged almost 20 points per game, Maurice Cheeks and Bobby Jones.

The Sixers posted a record of 65-17 during the regular season, which was the best record in the league by an incredible seven games.

The team continued its dominance by sweeping the New York Knicks in the Eastern semis and eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference finals.

The NBA Finals was all Philadelphia as the Sixers swept past the Lakers by scoring more than 100 points in three of the four games.

2. 1974/75 Flyers (Two Stanley Cup championships)

What more can be said about the Flyers of the 1970s that hasn’t already been said by fans, hockey experts and even documentarians.

If there were one single team that exemplified the attitude and the spirit of Philadelphia, you could point to either of these two editions.

The names are obvious: Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach, Bill Clement, Bernie Parent, Bill Barber and, of course, the fiery Dave Schultz.

These teams did more than just win Stanley Cups. They galvanized a city and changed the game of hockey.

Hockey purists may have thumbed their nose to the rough and tumble style of the Flyers, but it bred results and made Philadelphians fall in love with the game of hockey, a game they had become familiar with only seven years prior.

Hockey is the way it is today partly because of the Flyers of the ‘70s.

The team presented a style of play that no one was prepared for — not even the Soviets, who the Flyers defeated by a score of 4-1 in 1976.

This team changed the face of hockey and continues to put smiles on the faces of Philadelphians even in 2013.

1. 1967 76ers (68-13, NBA Champions)

Best team ever. Period.

Not just in the last 50 years of Philadelphia, not just in the history of Philadelphia, but in the history of the NBA.

A couple of teams on this list may have been the best teams of their particular era, but this is the only team that is routinely in the conversation as one of the best teams in the history of their respective league.

The only team that is mentioned in the same breath as this team is the 1996 Bulls, and they had to win 72 games to get mentioned.

Before the Bulls came along, this was the undisputed best team in NBA history, being voted as the best by an expert panel for the NBA’s 35th anniversary.

The team had the best player in the game in Wilt Chamberlain, who won league MVP by averaging 24 points and 24 rebounds.

It also had Hal Greer who was voted to the league’s 50th anniversary team, all-star forward Billy Cunningham and newly inducted Hall of Famer Chet Walker.

All of those pieces helped the Sixers fly out to the best 50-game start in league history at 46-4.

The team finished with 68 wins, which at the time was a league record.

The team cruised through the postseason en route to the NBA title, including a triumphant five-game series win over the rival Boston Celtics in the Eastern Division Finals.

What makes their accomplishment even greater was there were only 10 teams in the NBA back then, meaning that every team had a wealth of talent.

The Bulls of the ‘90s played against some teams that collectively didn’t belong in the league, but Chamberlain and the Sixers went up against star power night in and night out and still came out on top.

Vaughn Johnson Sports Producer
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