Top 5 Philly Sports Heroes of 2021
2021 was a rough year for sports in Philadelphia. We covered that ground in detail in last week’s definitive list of the top 5 villains of Philly Sports for the past year. In the interest of making sure this site isn’t all doom and gloom, especially given the recent wave of ominous COVID news, I’ve decided to brighten up your day.
The Top 5 Philly Sports Heroes of 2021
5. Claude Giroux
Poor Claude is a tragic hero if there ever was one. Last year he led the Flyers through an abysmal and disappointing season. At the end of the 2020-21 season he finished tied as team leader in points with 43. Ultimately he played Sisyphus again. Watching his injury prone and underperforming supporting cast let the boulder of Stanley Cup dreams roll back and crush us all yet again.
This season he’s come out firing once more. In the midst of coaching staff turmoil, injuries, more injuries, and a sea of paper bags, Giroux remains stalwart. 2021 has been a brutal year for the Flyers. That makes Giroux’s continual grinding all the more heroic.
4. DeVonta Smith
Few moments have been as electrifying for Eagles fans as the selection of DeVonta Smith on draft night. At the bare minimum, the pure rage the pick inspired in Giants fans makes him worthy of a spot on this list.
That’s not all he’s done though. His first reception in the NFL was for a touchdown. Week after week he earned his place as the clear cut number one receiver. He gave us one of the great defenses of McDonald’s cuisine we’ve heard in years. He’s a hero not just for Eagles fans, but for the common man as well.
3. Zack Wheeler
The Phillies ace put together what should have been a Cy Young campaign for the ages. Unfortunately it was torpedoed at the last second by a capital “C” Clown from Cincinnati.
This is not a time to be bitter, but I will ask how in the name of all that is good and sacred can any baseball man look at Wheeler’s output this season and rank him fifth? How?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to spend all of Zack Wheeler’s entry complaining about Cy Young voting. Even though I feel like Charlie should be banned from entering the city of Philadelphia for life.
I’m also going to remind you of his signature victory of the season. August 8, 2021. Against the Mets on Roy Halladay’s jersey retirement day, Zack Wheeler was all business. He pitched a complete game shutout and struck out eleven batters. He also appeared to break the Mets mentally. That alone gets him a spot on this list.
2. Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid is a generational talent. Arguably the greatest center since Shaq. It sickens me physically that the Sixers haven’t won a title with him yet. His performance is only part of what makes him a Philly sports hero. It’s the attitude. It’s coming back from death’s door after a three week battle with COVID and dragging the team into double overtime his first night back.
Then there was his cutting response to Ben Simmons ridiculous workout videos.
1. Bryce Harper
I don’t think you could honestly put anybody else at the top of a list like this with a straight face. Bryce Harper had a historically great year. In a season when the front office punted on making serious additions at the trade deadline.
In the midst of a severe lack of production by the top of the batting order, Bryce nearly pulled the Phillies into the playoffs kicking and screaming all by himself. Seriously look at his stats and note the paltry 84 RBI’s compared to the level of production he put out in every other category. He really was on his own out there a lot of nights.
He was recognized as NL MVP for his efforts. Even though a trip to the playoffs would have been preferred, it was the only hardware any Philly athlete took home in 2021. So there you have it, Bryce Harper is your top Philly sports hero of 2021.
Hopefully in 2022 one of these guys wins a championship.