The days after Villanova wins the national championship should be a time for the city to rejoice, so as we collectively make our Friday parade plans and search online for vintage Ed Pinkney or Kerry Kittles jerseys, allow this somber realization to depress the living hell out of you.
Moments after Kris Jenkins nailed the buzzer beating three pointer that sealed the NCAA title for the Wildcats, this tweet went somewhat viral.
April 4, 2016 was a great day for Philadelphia sports. From a basketball standpoint, it may be the greatest day in most of our lifetimes. The last basketball championship in the city came when Rollie Massimino’s Villanova squad improbably won the 1985 national title, but certainly the bigger basketball moment came two years prior, when Moses, Dr. J and the Sixers took home the NBA title in four/five/four.
Iverson’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame coming on the same day that Villanova won the national title is nothing more than coincidence, and certainly less of a big deal than the Cats’ title. (Consider that the actual induction is a few months away and he found out a few days earlier.) But the combination of the two basketball moments puts April 4, 2016 on a very short list of the greatest days in Philadelphia sports history.
So here’s the depressing part.
That short list of greatest days in Philadelphia sports history is woefully short. Point of fact, there are only a dozen such days that can even be considered on the short list of candidates.
Sure, winning the NFC championship and getting to the Super Bowl was great and momentous and, for a crazed football city like Philly, probably a bigger deal than a school out on the Main Line cutting down some college nets. But from a historical perspective, winning a championship means something more. It’s a really huge deal. And it’s only happened 12 times in Philly history.
That’s it. That’s — horribly, frustratingly, embarrassingly — it.
Philadelphia, arguably one of the best sports cities in the country, has won a total of 12 major championships between the city’s five top tier professional teams and six Division I college programs. Ever. Well, it’s actually 13 if we include the 1938 NIT, which Temple won back when the NIT actually mattered. So fine, a baker’s dozen.
The only other college national championship for Philadelphia, outside of Villanova’s title in 1985, was LaSalle’s NCAA Championship victory in 1954.
The Eagles have won three titles in their history, though none in the Super Bowl era, taking home the professional football championship in 1948, 1949 and 1960. The Flyers won two Stanley Cup titles, in back to back seasons in 1974 and 1975, and have hoisted a whole helluva lot of nothing since. The Sixers won the NBA title in 1967, a decade and a half before winning again in 1983. They’ve only really been close once since then, while the Phillies hold the distinction of the most recent professional title in Philly, winning the World Series in 1980 and again in 2008.
And that’s it.
Well, wait. That’s not it, actually. Not if you count the teams that have gotten the hell out of here.
The Athletics won five titles while playing in Philadelphia, winning the Series in 1910, 1911, 1913, 1929 and 1930. But they aren’t a Philly team anymore, leaving town in 1954 to go to, of all places, Kansas City, before settling out west in Oakland.
And speaking of Oakland, the Golden State Warriors may be Bay Area darlings now, but their championship history goes back nearly 60 years and 3,000 miles, when the Philadelphia Warriors won a title in 1957, 10 years after their 1947 title, before ditching Philly for the West Coast in 1962.
So, sure, Philly has had more than a dozen title teams in history, and even more than the baker’s dozen we can claim with Temple’s post prohibition NIT. Villanova’s title is technically the 20th title, if we count the teams that literally moved as far away from here as they possibly could. If that makes you less depressed, go ahead and count them. Heck, let’s count the Wings and the Soul and the Phantoms if we want to feel better about ourselves, too.
Or, let’s be happy with the dozen we have from the teams still here. After all, it could be worse. Jenkins’ shot could have missed, Villanova could have lost in overtime and Philly could still be waiting for another title for however long it will be until the next one.