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Philadelphia Black Athletes Who Helped Shape Philly Sports

In honor of Black History Month, Philadelphia has had many great African-American athletes that made their marks in their respective sports and forever linked with Philadelphia sports.

The notable absence is with the Flyers. In the history of the sport, perhaps Edmonton goalie Grant Fuhr was perhaps the greatest African-American to play the sport. But still, in hockey, African Americans are in limited number in the sport.


Richard “Dick” Allen. His first season in the majors, 1964, ranks among the greatest rookie seasons ever. He led the league in runs (125), triples (13), extra base hits (80) and total bases (352); he finished in the top five in batting average (.318), slugging average (.557), hits (201), and doubles (38); and won Rookie of the Year.

Allen enjoyed several years in Philadelphia where he was as good as any player in baseball, making All-Star teams from 196567.

An outspoken athlete for many seasons with the Phillies, Allen also played for St. Louis, the Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox. In 1972, he was the American League Most Valuable Player,

He led the league in home runs (37) (setting a team record), RBI (113), walks (99), on base percentage (.422), slugging average (.603), and OPS (1.023), while winning a well-deserved MVP award, 1972.

He came back to Philadelphia in 1975-76.

With a strong stroke, his balls would barely clear the second baseman’s head and continue to rise, finishing well over the center field wall.

He cleared the way for many black athletes to play for the Phillies.

Jimmy Rollins

In January, 2007, Rollins stated:

"The Mets had a chance to win the World Series last year. Last year is over. I think we are the team to beat in the NL East, finally. But, that's only on paper”

Rollins became the seventh player to collect at least 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs, in one season in 2007. He was named the National League MVP in 2007.


Rollins continues to be the heart and soul of the Phillies. Finally, an African-American athlete in Philadelphia steps up as the team’s leader.

His confidence continued to 2008, when the Phillies won the World Series.

It would have not happened without him.


Wilt Chamberlain

Among other notable accomplishments, he is the only player in NBA history to average more than 40 and 50 points in a season or score 100 points in a single NBA game. He also won seven scoring, nine field goal percentage, and eleven rebounding titles, and once even led the league in assists. Although suffering a long string of professional losses, Chamberlain had a successful career, winning two NBA titles, earning four regular-season Most Valuable Player awards, the Rookie of the Year award, one NBA Finals MVP award, and being selected to 13 All-Star Games and ten All-NBA First and Second teams. Chamberlain was subsequently enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978, elected into the NBA's 35th Anniversary Team of 1980, and chosen as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History of 1996.

Chamberlain won World Championships with the 1967 Sixers and 1972 Lakers.

His matchup with Boston’s Bill Russell is legendary.

Julius Erving

The Philadelphia 76ers had some bad seasons after Chamberlain left town, but when George McGinnis came, they got better.

However, the biggest signing was that of Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, from the ABA New York Nets.

It all came together in the 1982–83 season, when the Sixers obtained the missing element to combat their weakness at their center position, Moses Malone. Armed with one of the most formidable and unstoppable center-forward combinations of all time, the Sixers dominated the whole season. The Sixers went four-five-four, losing one game to the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference finals, then sweeping the Lakers to win the NBA title.

Erving maintained his all-star caliber of play into his twilight years, averaging 22.4, 20.0, 18.1, and 16.8 points per game in his final seasons. In 1986, he announced that he would retire after the season, causing every game he played to be sold out with adoring fans.


Randall Cunningham

The are many notable African American athletes in Eagles history, including Reggie White, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick.

But to me, the African American who paved the way was one Randall Cunningham.

Not the greatest quarterback in Eagles’ history, he was certainly the most talent athlete to play the position.

In 1989, Cunningham, who had been an all-conference quarterback and punter while at UNLV, unleashed a 91-yard punt against the Giants on December 3, the longest in Eagles history (and the fourth-longest ever). He had 20 punts during his career, with an average of 44.7 yards per punt.

In a 1990 game against the Buffalo Bills, when Cunningham, throwing from his end zone, was about to be sacked by Bruce Smith from his blind side. Cunningham ducked and threw a pass 60 yards to wide-receiver Fred Barnett, resulting in a 95-yard touchdown. That same year, Cunningham finished with 942 rushing yards, 3rd most ever for a quarterback, 10th best in the league.

Ironically, Cunningham enjoyed the greatest season of his career in Minnesota during the 1998 campaign when he guided the Vikings to a 15–1 regular season record with 34 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions.

But who will ever forget the 90-yard punt or the Monday night game against the Giants, when he was hit by Carl Banks on the Giants' 20-yard line, did not go down, and threw a touchdown pass.

**Note: Much of the information from this story was obtained from Wikipedia.


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