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May 09, 2023

Ranking the biggest Philly sports villains

Who are the most hated players and figures in Philly sports history? We rank the biggest villains inside and outside of the city's sports landscape.

Philly sports fans' love for Allen Iverson, Brian Dawkins, Chase Utley and similar franchise linchpins is only matched by the hate they have for their most bitter rivals (or sometimes even their own players). This city gets a bad, clichéd rap from the national media about some of that venom, but that's always been the beauty of fandom: irrationality at both ends of the spectrum, adoration and animosity. 

Given that, it feels apt to create a list of the biggest Philly sports villains out there. Three PhillyVoice writers, Nick Tricome, Evan Macy and myself, created our own personal top-10 lists that were then aggregated together for our rankings. Anyone and everyone is eligible, from opposing players to executives to Philadelphia athletes themselves. 

With a group of writers in their 20s and 30s, this list certainly skews a little young, but we did get one old-school choice in these rankings (who was my No. 1 choice). It's all a matter of perspective. 

Prepare yourself to get riled up...

1. Scott Stevens

New Jersey Devils defenseman, 1992-2004

Nick Tricome: Seeing No. 4 on the ice was cause for anyone watching to hold their breath and made skating over the middle of it while he was out there an action taken at a player's own risk.

Because big Scott Stevens would be there to meet you and hit you as hard as he possibly could, be it with his shoulder, his elbow, through your entire body, your head, whatever got the job done. 

Eric Lindros learned that lesson the hard way with that infamous hit from the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals as he crossed the blueline. Head down, a shoulder straight to it, and in an instant, the end of the Flyers' season and the end of Lindros' run in Philadelphia. 

The ripple effect of that hit was monumental, not just to the trajectory of the Flyers and Lindros' career, but how hockey was taught around the Delaware Valley from that point on. 

There were many practices as a kid growing up where coaches would try to drill into us to keep our heads up while skating with the puck, "because you don't want to end up like Lindros" said every one of them from six up until I was 12. 

2. Sidney Crosby

Pittsburgh Penguins center, 2006-present

Nick: That 2012 playoff series was just as much about wanting Crosby and the Penguins to lose as it was about everyone wanting the Flyers to win. 

Undeniably one of the greatest players ever, but so many liberties taken between whistles and non-stop complaining to the refs made him – and that entire Penguins team for that matter (JAMES NEAL) – so damn unlikeable, and there was never any love lost either

To this day – as sad as it is to say now that 11 years have passed and Crosby has collected two Cups since while the Flyers have gone nowhere – there is no highlight more satisfying to watch than Giroux's first shift in Game 6 when he knocked Crosby straight to the ice off the draw then went right down and scored the opening goal to send the Wells Fargo Center into a frenzy. 

Ah, man, to get the rivalry to those heights again.

3. Al Horford

Boston Celtics center, 2017-2019, 2022-present; Sixers center, 2020

Shamus ClancyI don't care if it's irrational. I don't care how unlikely it is. A part of me, however slim, will never shake the feeling that when Al Horford left the Celtics to sign with the Sixers in free agency in 2019, he was a sleeper agent. The 2019-20 Sixers were the most detestable  group of this era and Horford's incessant mistakes and ensuing clapping remain infuriating in mind.

The fact that he's still nailing big shots and coming up with clutch defensive plays against the Sixers all the years later while back in Boston? Horrific.

MVP Joel Embiid needs to drop a 40-point game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Horford and the Celtics to wash these bad vibes away permanently. 

4. Ben Simmons

Sixers point guard 2018-2022

Nick: It's been over a year and I'm still trying to comprehend how Ben Simmons fell apart the way he did. He was a great player who should have been an absolute superstar, and I wanted to believe he was trying to be one for so long, but those gym videos... those damn gym videos, they were all lies! Honestly, in retrospect, I'm not even mad about the passed-up dunk against the Hawks. I'm just amazed Daryl Morey was able to turn that disaster into James Harden. The jury's still out on how far that actually can take the Sixers, but I'd hate to see where'd they be if that trade didn't happen. 

5. Cody Ross

San Francisco Giants outfielder, 2010-2011

ShamusLike most of Philadelphia, I assumed the 2010 Phillies were going to steamroll through the postseason on the way to their third-straight World Series berth. The Giants and Cody "Babe" Ross, as the Fox broadcast team took to calling him, thought otherwise. 

Ross hit .350 with a bonkers OPS of 1.385 and three homers in San Francisco's six-game NLCS win over the Fightins with Ross winning NLCS MVP honors along the way. The two home runs he launched in Game 1 off Roy Halladay in a 4-3 Phillies loss sting to this day.

6. DeMarco Murray

Dallas Cowboys running back, 2011-2014; Eagles running back, 2015

ShamusThe Eagles' Al Horford in a way, DeMarco Murray brought some sleeper cell energy after a career-best year with the Cowboys to Philly in 2015. It just so happened he got here as the Chip Kelly era was crashing and burning, playing the worst football of his life. His infamous third-down slide instead of going for a first down sums up his sorry Philly tenure. 

7. Tom Brady

New England Patriots quarterback, 2000-2019; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback 2020-2022

Evan Macy: Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time. This is is more respectful than it is spiteful. It also doesn't hurt that the Eagles finally got the last laugh, as Nick Foles ou- dueled him in one of the best Super Bowls of ever. In all, however, Brady has owned Philadelphia. In the regular season his teams are 5-1 against the Eagles — the lone win for Philly a random meaningless victory toward the tail end of the Chip Kelly era. In the postseason, Brady won Super Bowl XXXIX and also mopped the floor with Jalen Hurts' first playoff team. 

Eagles fans will forever be in his head, and for that, they should be grateful.

8. Drew Pearson

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, 1973-983

ShamusDrew Pearson ran his mouth about the Cowboys' history of championships from the era of black-and-white TVs when the NFL Draft was in Philadelphia in 2017. The Eagles won the Super Bowl 10 months later. Rough look for this guy! I also loved the video of him crying when he didn't get put into the Hall of Fame. A classic Cowboy caring way too much about individual accomplishments. 

It's a shame that the Hall of Fame eventually showed him some pity and let him in. 

9. Carson Wentz

Eagles quarterback, 2016-2020, Commanders quarterback, 2020

Evan: The Eagles had the last laugh with this one, too. After emerging as a franchise quarterback and signing a mega extension as such, Wentz — who was already dealing with a split locker room and accusations of being a bad leader and teammate — couldn't handle the competition when the team brought in Hurts as a rookie in 2020 and went on to play as the worst QB in the league that year. He was benched and demanded a trade, which he got

Wentz was a disaster in Indianapolis and even worse in Washington and is now out of the league. Meanwhile Hurts was an inch away from being the MVP last season, led the Eagles to the Super Bowl and is the second-highest paid player in the entire league. For the Eagles it couldn't have worked out better. But Wentz took all the good will in the world and wound up turning into a joke in Philadelphia. He's rightly hated here.

10. Jerry Jones

Dallas Cowboys owner, president, general manager, 1989-present

Evan: For all the hatred that Eagles fans have for their rival's dynamic owner and GM, he hasn't seen his club make it to the NFC Championship since 1995. The Eagles have been to seven in that span, including three Super Bowls.

Jones in recent years has let his football people make more of the decisions on personnel, but he's overseen a team that has overpaid a few extremely mediocre quarterbacks and has made more than a few questionable decisions — like re-signing Ezekiel Elliott, keeping Jason Garrett as coach for way to long, trading the farm for Amari Cooper and others. 

Others receiving votes: Mattress Mack, The Sodfather, Tony Romo, Ezekiel Elliott, Jalen Reagor, Terrell Owens, Patrick Kane, the St. Louis Cardinals Rally Squirrel, Eli Manning, José Reyes, Jonathan Papelbon, Marcus Smart, Adam Silver and James Neal