Kobe Bryant ended his NBA career scoring 60 points in his final game, on 22-of-50 from the field in one of the most Kobe-esque stat lines of his long, illustrious, first-ballot HOF career. After the game, Kobe addressed the crowd at Staples Center, and before his “Mamba Out” mic drop, he talked about how much he grew up a die hard Lakers fan, thanking the Los Angeles fans for 20 years of support and love.
Bryant is a Los Angeles basketball icon, but he got his start here. And whether he likes it or not—at times in his career it has felt like both—Kobe’s a Philly kid.
For a great sports city, the list of all-time great Philly athletes isn’t that long. Sure, there have been a lot of really good professional players to come out of Philly, but if we’re talking “Mamba Out” legends, the list is rather slim.
Kobe. Wilt. Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. Joe Frazier. Bernard Hopkins. Roy Campanella. Marvin Harrison.
Eddie George was great. Mike Piazza was too. If we’re being generous, and considering his amazing high school career, let’s include Rasheed Wallace. Reggie Jackson—Mr. October—was born in Abington and went to Cheltenham High School. Certainly he was great.
And yet, like Kobe, none of those Philly natives are playing anymore. Philly is not only legendless on each of its professional rosters—if not for Jay Wright’s vaunted status, the city might be legendless in all sports right now—but the city is pretty much legendless among all active players, in any sport, anywhere.
Bryant had an interesting relationship with his hometown, and for years he really didn’t have one at all. But as his career comes to a close, it’s fitting to honor him, and try to figure out who’s next. With Mamba officially out, here is a look at some of the candidates for best active athlete from Philadelphia.
The best player from Philly left in the NBA is probably Villanova’s Kyle Lowry. A role player in Memphis and Houston for the first six years of his career, Lowry has blossomed in Toronto, averaging a career-best 21.2 points per game this season, leading the Raptors to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Lowry has made the All-Star team each of the last two years. He has a ways to go to match Kobe’s 18.
Next on the NBA list is Jameer Nelson, who is still hanging on in the NBA, playing 39 games for Denver this season after playing for three teams in 2014-15 following a 10-year run in Orlando.
Tyreke Evans, born in Chester, has played seven seasons in the NBA for Sacramento and New Orleans. He was a big part of the Pelicans making the playoffs last season—averaging 16.6 points and 6.6 assists—but missed most of this season with a knee injury that required surgery.
There are some other young players from Philly in the league, but as of now, none look like they’re going to be challenging Kobe for Hall of Fame credentials. Still, Dion Waiters can light it up. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was developing into a decent player before a shoulder issue derailed his entire season this year and the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, have both been double-digit scorers the last two years.
How far outside the city limits are we allowed to go to still consider someone “from” Philly?
Matt Ryan is from Exton, and is perhaps the most notable player from the Philly area currently active in the NFL. Ryan has had a solid career with the Atlanta Falcons, and was fifth in the NFL in passing yards last season. He has nearly 33,000 passing yards in eight seasons in the NFL with 202 touchdowns to 107 interceptions and a passer rating of 90.9. Good, but not elite.
Speaking of elite, Joe Flacco was born in Voorhees and raised in Audubon. In his eight seasons in the NFL he has more than 28,000 passing yards, 162 touchdown passes to 102 interceptions and a passer rating of 84.7. He also has a Super Bowl MVP.
And speaking of Super Bowl winners from the Voorhees area, Logan Ryan, from Berlin, won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2014 and has been a starter at cornerback the last two years in New England. We’re really grasping here, folks.
Bernard Pierce is an Ardmore native who went to Temple and also won a Super Bowl with Flacco and the Ravens. Now with the Jaguars, his career hasn’t exploded like some thought it might when he had a chance to be the starter in Baltimore in 2014.
Brent Grimes has made the Pro Bowl four times in his nine-year career with Atlanta and Miami. A solid corner in the NFL, Grimes, now with Tampa Bay, may be most famous for his wife’s social media accounts thanks to the Dolphins recently admitting that’s part of the reason they cut ties with him.
The best current NFL player from Philly may not be current anymore. Jahri Evans was released by the New Orleans Saints after refusing to take a pay cut this off-season and is, per this post, still looking for a team. Evans played 10 seasons in New Orleans, making the Pro Bowl six times and being named first-team All-Pro every year from 2009 through 2012.
The number of current MLB players from Philly is…limited. The last player from the city to make the bigs was Rafael Lopez who played seven games with the Cubs in 2014. And he went to high school in Florida. Chance Ruffin was born in Philly and went to school in Texas, and he played a total of 24 games in the bigs almost half a decade ago.
Brandon Guyer is an outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays, averaging nearly 350 plate appearances the last two years. He’s from West Chester. Also from West Chester is Philip Gosselin, who has played four years in the majors with Atlanta and, currently, Arizona, getting at most one or two cups of coffee so far.
In other words…MIKE TROUT!
Sort of. Trout was born in Vineland, NJ and went to Millville High School, both of which are sort of suburbs of Philadelphia. Also, he’s the best player of this generation and could legitimately have four MVP awards in his four full seasons in the majors and loves the Phillies. So that all counts!
Todd Frazier would be a bit of a stretch, probably, as the Home Run Derby champ was born in Point Pleasant, NJ but raised in Toms River. We’re doing all we can.
Fun(?) Fact: The only “active” player in the NHL, per hockey-reference.com, born in Philadelphia is Eric Tangradi, who appeared in one game for Detroit this season and has 144 games in his seven year career. Mike Richter, born in Abington, is the best player in history from the area, but he hasn’t played in nearly 15 years.
In other words…Bobby Ryan! Or Johnny Hockey!
Ryan, from Cherry Hill, hasn’t be a great NHL player, but he has been good in his nine years, split between Anaheim and Ottawa. He has 447 points in 607 career games, including 22 goals and 34 assists this season. He finished second in voting for the Calder Trophy in 2008-09 to Steve Mason and played for the United States in the 2010 Olympics.
Gaudreau might be the area’s next great hope. Born in Salem, he was drafted in the fourth round in 2011 out of Boston College, and has been very good in his two years in the league, tallying 78 points in 79 games this season, including 30 goals and 48 assists. In the 2015 NHL playoffs, he scored four goals and five assists in 11 games for Calgary and he played in the 2014 World Cup for the United States.
Finally, after slogging through the major team sports to find the best active Philly athlete, we’ve come to the answer. No, it’s not Bobby Convey or Chris Albright, both Philly natives. The answer is New Jersey’s own local legend Carli Lloyd.
The Delran native and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year is, thanks to Kobe’s retirement, the best active Philly athlete, city limits notwithstanding.