The 10 biggest Philadelphia sports moments of 2020

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals
Jalen Hurts’ takeover of the Eagles’ starting QB spot over Carson Wentz was one of the biggest moments of the year in Philadelphia sports.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

1. Jan. 5: Josh McCown’s playoff debut

In the NFC Wild Card Round against the Seattle Seahawks, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was forced out of action after a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jadeveon Clowney. In stepped 40-year-old Josh McCown, who became the oldest quarterback in NFL history to make his postseason debut after the journeyman played for 10 other teams over 16 years without making the playoffs.

The Eagles fell 17-9 and were bounced from the playoffs, but McCown’s completed 18-of-24 passes for 174 yards while battling through a torn hamstring suffered in the second quarter of that game. It was his postgame comments, however, which will long live in the memory of Eagles fans despite a disappointing early exit.

“Thankful. Just you know — my wife and my family moved around a lot. Been a lot. Been there for me,” a tearful McCown said. “And mom and dad, so to go out there and play in a playoff game, [it’s] special. I can’t thank them enough for their support. It was a heck of a ride. I left it all out there, I know that much. It’s different playing at 40. Your body talks to you a lot. I think more than anything — I’ll reflect on that later — but it was fun to be out there… Man, I’ve had the time of my life. I told those guys in there, I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful that they called me.”

2. Jan. 26: Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash

One of the greatest players in NBA history, the Philadelphia native who attended high school at Lower Merion, was killed along with his daughter, Gianna, baseball coach John Altobelli, and five others when his helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California. Bryant had a complicated relationship with Philadelphia over the years. He was booed at the 2002 All-Star Game after his Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Sixers in the NBA Finals a year earlier. As time passed, the relationship thawed, and in his final game in Philadelphia in 2016, he was treated like a hero at Wells Fargo Center.

3. Aug. 24: Brett Brown, “The Process” is axed

After seven seasons, “The Process,” and the subsequent high expectations, the Sixers fired head coach Brett Brown following a disappointing sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the first round of the Orlando playoff bubble. The Sixers were expected to be a force in the Eastern Conference in 2019-20, but the sputtering relationship between Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid — along with the lack of roster depth — was exacerbated by an inability to win on the road. They went just 12-26 away from Wells Fargo Center in 2019-20.

4. Flyers improbable postseason run

In a year that many believed would feature a rebuild under new head coach Alain Vigneault exceeded all expectations as the Flyers were a top-four team in the Eastern Conference by the time the NHL shut down because of the coronavirus. It won them a round-robin chance of taking the top spot in the conference when play returned to the Toronto bubble over the summer, and they did just that, nabbing the best record in a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and Washington Capitals. They took down the Montreal Canadiens in seven games before overturning a 3-1 deficit against the New York Islanders and forcing a Game 7 before bowing out.

Philadelphia Flyers left wing Oskar Lindblom (23) at the Wells Fargo Center. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

5. Sept. 3: Oskar Lindblom’s triumphant return

Less than a year after he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom returned to the ice for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Islanders. He didn’t play much in the Flyers’ victory that night, but his presence was so much bigger than hockey. The 24-year-old sparked rallying cries or support as #OskarStrong adorned every corner of the league. He completed his treatments on July 2 and is cancer-free.

6. Sept. 11: Couturier wins the Selke

Sean Couturier joined Dave Poulin (1987) and Bobby Clarke (1983) as the only Flyers to win the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.” Couturier recorded 22 goals and 37 assists in 69 games along with a 59.6% face-off win percentage. He beat out Patrice Bergeron — a four-time winner of the award — and the 2018-19 winner, Ryan O’Reilly.

“It’s a great honor,” Couturier said. “It wouldn’t be possible without my teammates, coaching staff, management, and the whole organization believing in me. I’d like to congratulate Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly as well, two great players who I respect a lot and also had great years.”

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers talks with guard Isaiah Joe. Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

7. Oct. 1: Doc Rivers hired

After firing Brown, the Sixers responded by bringing in one of the most well-respected, veteran coaches in the NBA by hiring Doc Rivers — who failed to bring the Los Angeles Clippers to the mountaintop. Rivers helped develop the Boston Celtics into a powerhouse in the 2000s, winning an NBA title in 2008. He ranks 10th all-time in NBA history with 945 wins and has the Sixers off to a solid start for the 2020-21 season.

8. Dec. 6: Carson Wentz benched for Jalen Hurts

After 12.5 nightmarish outings from Carson Wentz, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson finally made the decision to bench the former golden boy for rookie Jalen Hurts in the third quarter of a Week 13 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Hurts has been a revelation under center over the last three weeks as he’s remained the Eagles’ starter in a disappointing season, but the future of Wentz in Philadelphia is very much up in the air. Recent reports have hinted that Wentz wants out of town if the team continues to go with Hurts as their No. 1 man.

9. Dec. 7: Dick Allen dies

One of the biggest Phillies’ stars through the 1960s, Dick Allen was also a prevalent sports star who fought against racism during his playing days. He is also one of the top players in franchise history, batting .290 and hitting 204 of his 351 career home runs over nine seasons with the Phillies. His No. 15 jersey was finally retired by the Phillies back in September — an honor that was long overdue — and he finished just one vote shy of Hall-of-Fame enshrinement last year.

10. The Phillies’ disaster

Sure, baseball returned and the Phillies were the first major Philadelphia team to play competitive sports in the city since the pandemic, but it was a disastrous first season for manager Joe Girardi and Co. The bullpen was one of the worst in baseball history, starting pitching depth was non-existent behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, and the Phillies missed the playoffs for a ninth-straight season.

Things have only gotten weirder during the offseason. The organization lost an estimated $145 million that saw a pursuit of re-signing JT Realmuto abandoned and Wheeler on the trade block… until it wasn’t. Dave Dombrowski was brought in and Realmuto could very well return to Philadelphia to make Bryce Harper’s dreams come true. But this is a team that’s filled with holes that aren’t going to be filled in just one offseason.

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