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June 06, 2023

Ranking the best Philly sports nicknames

What's the best nickname in the history of Philly sports? Looking at Eagles, Flyers, Sixers and Phillies greats, we rank the top 20.

Philadelphia sports history is filled with colorful characters and some of the best nicknames the NFL, NHL, NBA, and Major League Baseball have ever seen. Which nickname was the best in this city though? There were tons of worthy candidates throughout each sport, but I have narrowed it down to a top-20 list. Everyone loves rankings, right?

To note: this isn't a ranking of which player is the best, simply resting on the greatness of a given nickname and how it applies to their play, their connection to the fan base, and their respective personality. I also didn't include nicknames that are just an abbreviation of a given name. You won't find "Jaws" or "Schmitty" or "J-Roll" on here. Team nicknames were fair game for this as well. 

Let's get after it...

20. The Secretary of Defense: Garry Maddox

Phillies OF, 1975-1986

Maddox won eight-straight Gold Glove Awards patrolling the Phillies' outfield at Veterans Stadium, providing elite defense. 

19. The Big Piece: Ryan Howard

Phillies 1B, 2004-2016

The greatest Phillies power hitter I've ever seen, Howard had big hits and home runs galore during the Phillies' Golden Age. Winning Rookie of the Year in 2005, National League MVP in 2006 and bringing playoff heroics throughout the 2008 and 2009 pennant runs, Howard stepping to the plate was a sight to behold during his peak. 

18. The Round Mound of Rebound: Charles Barkley

Sixers PF, 1985-1992

The best rebounder of all time? Barkley, generously listed at 6'6", used his width to become a fearsome rebounder and one of the game's great players during his Sixers run. 

17. The Hammer: Dave Schultz

Flyers LW, 1972-1976

The quintessential Broad Street Bully, Schultz was the Flyers' enforcer during their 1970s heyday and still holds the record for most penalty minutes in a single season, logging 472 during the Flyers' Stanley Cup-winning 1975 campaign. 

16. The Legion of Doom: Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg

Flyers forwards, 1995-1997

Those '70s Flyers were defined by their grit. The Flyers' run during the '90s was defined by the skill of its top line. With Hart Trophy winner and Hall of Famer Eric Lindros leading the way, the Flyers finished top four in goals scored in both 1996 and 1997 with this attack, advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals in '97. 

15. Doc: Roy Halladay

Phillies SP, 2010-2013

Possessing the intense demeanor of Old West gunslinger Doc Holliday, Halladay was a dominant force on the mound for the Phillies. Winning the National League Cy Young Award in 2010, he tossed a no-hitter in his first ever playoff game in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS against the Reds. 

14. Chooch: Carlos Ruiz

Phillies C, 2006-2016

How great was it hearing 40,000-plus people scream, "CHOOOOOOOOCH!!!" whenever Ruiz came to the plate?

13. The Whiz Kids: 1950 Phillies

A young Phillies squad with an average roster age of 26.4, the Fightins finished two games ahead of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the NL Pennant race, advancing to the World Series for the first time in 35 years. 

12. The Process: Joel Embiid

Sixers C, 2015-Present

The last vestige of Sam Hinkie's dream, Embiid's success and MVP play summed up what Hinkie wanted to create when The Process was put into place. 

11. Chocolate Thunder: Darryl Dawkins

Sixers C, 1976-1982

The Sixers have had so many cool players. The bone-shaking, backboard-breaking Dawkins was actually given this nickname by Stevie Wonder! 

In an interview with Dime Magazine in 2011, the late, great Dawkins said the following about how he got his nickname:

Stevie Wonder used to come [sic] the ball games and they would have a guy sitting with him. And the guy would be holding on to his arm, telling him what’s going on, and he would say, “Hey, the big chocolate guy just put down a thunder dunk. The chocolate guy with another monster dunk.” And Stevie Wonder actually gave me the nickname Chocolate Thunder. So a guy who never saw me can give me that name. I think I can wear that well. I don’t even know if he remembers, it’s been so long, but I’ll keep that.

Dawkins was a part of three different Sixers teams that had trips to the NBA Finals. 

10. The Flyin' Hawaiian: Shane Victorino

Phillies OF, 2005-2012

A freewheeling Wailuku native, Victorino brought great vibes, Gold Glove defense and clutch grand slams with him to the Phillies. 

9. The Axe Man: Jeremiah Trotter

Eagles LB, 1998-2002, 2004-2006, 2009

The name was taken from Trotter's days chopping wood with his father in Texas. His axe-chopping move after huge tackles was an elite celebration. 

8. The Boston Strangler: Andrew Toney

Sixers SG, 1981-1988

The dude straight up destroyed the Celtics. In Game 7 of the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals, Toney dropped 34 points at the old Boston Garden to take down the defending champions and advance to the NBA Finals.

7. The Minister of Defense: Reggie White

Eagles DE, 1985-1992

An ordained minister off the field, White was a terror on it, making six-straight First-Team All-Pro selections for the Birds from 1986 to 1991. His greatest feat? Leading the league with 21 sacks in just 12 games in the strike-shortened 1987 season. 

6. Concrete Charlie: Chuck Bednarik

Eagles C/LB: 1949-1962

Bednarik, from a bygone era of football, was a concrete salesman in the NFL offseason, but the name was also apt because of his crushing hits as the Eagles' Hall of Fame linebacker. "The Last of the 60-Minute Men," Bednarik two-way play only added to his hard-nosed style and reputation. 

5. The Answer: Allen Iverson

Sixers G, 1997-2006, 2010

"The Answer" is simple and so perfect for one of the most influential players in the history of the sport and a player whose ethos was everything Philly fans asked for. 

4. BDN: Nick Foles

Eagles QB, 2012-2014, 2017-2018

You know what this one stands for. In case you needed a reminder, Nick Foles out-dueled Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in Super Bowl LII, beating the New England Patriots 41-33. 

3. Weapon X: Brian Dawkins

Eagles S, 1996-2008

Channeling his Marvel Comics alter ego of Wolverine, Dawkins went berserker mode whenever he took the field for the Birds.

2. The Broad Street Bullies: 1970s Flyers

A name that summed up a city! Bringing an unprecedented toughness to hockey, the Flyers won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975 while thrashing opponents. The domino effect of this team's attitude is felt to this day in the way Philly fans feel and demand the best of their athletes. 

1. Dr. J: Julius Erving

Sixers SF, 1977-1987

Not only is this the greatest Philly nickname ever, it's one of the best in all of sports. I'd have it No. 3 all-time behind "Air" Jordan and "Babe" Ruth.  

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