Philly March Madness: Choosing the Greatest Philly Athlete of the Last 30 Years

Philly March Madness: Choosing the Greatest Philly Athlete of the Last 30 Years

With Selection Sunday officially behind us and the NCAA tournament awaiting, we here at The 700 Level have decided it's time to have a little March Madness of our own. Over the next three weeks, we'll be holding playoffs to conclusively decide who, among 64 prime candidates selected, is the greatest Philly athlete of modern times. One by one, we'll be holding seeded match-ups, for which we ask you to cast your vote to help decide who should advance, until just one lucky soul remains, standing in adulation with "One Shining Moment" blaring in the background.

And how did we decide on the field of 64? Well, we took a nice cross-section of the statistically-accomplished, the post-season proven, and the fan-favorite Philly-based jocks of recent years. Here were our selection qualifications:

  • Only athletes from the four major Philadelphia professional sports teams. Extending to college and individual sport-based athletes blurs the line too much between Philly vs. not Philly, and we're more comfortable dealing with the Big Four types anwyay.
  • Only athletes who played more than half their Philly career after the year 1980. Not too many of us were around for the years before that, and you gotta draw the line somewhere before you start trying to compare Cole Hamels and Brian Dawkins with Grover Cleveland Alexander and Chuck Bednarik. 
  • Only athletes who played at least four full years in the City of Brotherly Love. It hurts to exclude recent sensations like Roy Halladay and Michael Vick, as well as one-or-two-season wonders like Terrell Owens and Dikembe Mutombo, but we wanted this to be a contest for those athletes who had really put in the time to become permanently associated with Philadelphia, and figured that a full presidential term was a good minimum amount of service.

As for how you should be voting, you can use whatever criteria you like (and undoubtedly will), but we'll be casting our votes for the athletes that did the most for their respective squads during their tours of duty, that accomplished the most on a team and individual level, and that best defined what Philly Sports were essentially about for the last three-plus decades.

We hope you enjoy voting for your athletes of choice, and encourage you to have it out in the comments section below to make a case for your particular selections. Of course there will be no right answer to many of these, and one man's obvious chalk selection will be another's likely upset pick. But rather than getting too hung up on the solitary matchups, we also hope that you take this entire project as a larger tribute to the last 31 years of Philly sports, and the standard-bearers that made those years so memorable.

Enjoy, and let us know how you do in your office pool.

Click here to start voting on the matchups.

Ben Simmons, Robert Covington react to Ersan Ilyasova trade

Ben Simmons, Robert Covington react to Ersan Ilyasova trade

On Wednesday, the Sixers traded Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks in exchange for Tiago Splitter and a 2017 second-round pick, as well as the option to swap 2017 second-round selections (see story).

"I want to thank Ersan Ilyasova for his positive contributions to this organization both on and off the basketball court," president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said in a statement. "Ersan is a true professional whose daily examples of hard work, focus and consistency have helped facilitate the ongoing growth of our program and culture."

The Sixers took to Instagram to express their appreciation for Ilyasova’s leadership. Ilyasova quickly embraced the role of a veteran go-to when he was traded to the Sixers in early November. Both posts below exemplify his team-first mentality.

✊🏼 A true Pro @ersanilyasova7

A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Thanks for being a great teammate @ersanilyasova7. Wishing you the best in ATL

A post shared by Rob Covington (@atf_33) on

Best of NHL: Rickard Rakell, Ducks snap Bruins' win streak at 4

Best of NHL: Rickard Rakell, Ducks snap Bruins' win streak at 4

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rickard Rakell broke a tie with his second goal with 2:34 to play, and the Anaheim Ducks snapped Boston's four-game winning streak under new coach Bruce Cassidy with a 5-3 victory over the Bruins on Wednesday night.

Rakell also scored in the second period for the Ducks and has 24 goals in his outstanding season. Ondrej Kase, Josh Manson and Andrew Cogliano also scored for Anaheim, and Jonathan Bernier made 26 saves in his first victory since Jan. 23.

Frank Vatrano scored the tying goal in the third period for the Bruins, who hadn't lost since Cassidy replaced Claude Julien on Feb. 7. Defensemen Brandon Carlo and Zdeno Chara scored early goals, and Tuukka Rask stopped 20 shots.

Anaheim beat Boston for the seventh straight time (see full recap).

Rare goal from Russell lifts Oilers over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Russell's goal with 7:58 left was his first in more than a year and lifted the Edmonton Oilers over Florida 4-3 on Wednesday night to snap the Panthers' five-game winning streak.

Russell's goal was his first since Feb. 11, 2016, when he played for Calgary. He went goalless in his first 48 games with the Oilers.

Fellow defenseman Oscar Klefbom also scored for Edmonton, as did forwards Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Connor McDavid, who came into the night leading the NHL scoring race, had an assist on Russell's goal.

Aleksander Barkov, Colton Sceviour and Jonathan Marchessault scored for Florida. Keith Yandle had two assists for the Panthers, giving him 400 points for his career.

Cam Talbot stopped 31 shots for the Oilers, who have won their last eight games at Florida -- last losing on the Panthers' ice in 2002. James Reimer made 31 saves for the Panthers, who just completed a 5-0-0 road trip (see full recap).