Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Karen Guenther

Basketball (Professional)

Professional basketball has a long history in the Philadelphia region, from the first professional league, formed in 1898, to the National Basketball Association (NBA). The city produced memorable teams, including the Warriors and 76ers, and Hall of Fame players such as Wilt Chamberlain (1936-99) and Dawn Staley (b. 1970). Philadelphia teams and players from the Philadelphia region contributed to the success of professional basketball in the region and beyond. 

Basketball dates to 1891, when James Naismith (1861-1939) invented the game at the YMCA in Springfield, Mass., as an indoor activity for the winter months. The sport incorporated elements of rugby, lacrosse, and soccer: passing, the jump ball, shooting toward a goal, and the shape and size of the ball. Naismith nailed two peach baskets to the lower rail of the balcony in the gymnasium and drafted rules for the new game. Basketball quickly became a popular winter sport, and by the end of the decade professional leagues formed in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. 

Professional basketball in Philadelphia began in August 1898, when the sports editor of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, Horace Fogel (1861-1928), organized the National Basketball League with three teams from the Philadelphia and three from South Jersey. In this era, a twelve-foot chain link cage ringed the court to separate players from fans, but the cage mainly led to hockey-style body checks and fans sticking pins and lit cigars into the players’ flesh. (Rope replaced the iron cages in the 1920s.) Players from the Philadelphia region competed on teams that included the Clover Wheelmen (also known as the Pennsylvania Bicycle Club), Germantown Nationals, and Hancock Athletic Association, but none of the Philadelphia-based teams won a title before the National Basketball League folded in January 1904.  

Early Game Venues 

During the early years, games took place in local armories and fraternal halls, and most players gained experience with the game by playing for fraternal organizations or athletic clubs. Squads representing fraternal organizations such as the Elks and Moose also played in professional leagues of the early twentieth century: the Philadelphia Basketball League (1902-09, revived 1923-28), the Eastern Basketball League (1909-17 and 1919-20, revived 1929-36), and the American Basketball League (1918-19, revived 1926-28 and 1933-49).   

[caption id="attachment_35165" align="alignright" width="204"]Black and white photograph depicting Eddie Gottlieb from chest up. He is leaning his head in his hand. Eddie Gottlieb, owner of the Philadelphia Warriors, watches as his team plays in this photograph from 1958. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

During the first half of the twentieth century, the Philadelphia SPHAS—named for the team’s original owner, the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association—reigned as the region’s top team. Owner Eddie Gottlieb (1898-1979) founded the team with sporting goods magnate Harry Passon (1897-1954) and schoolmate Edwin “Hughie” Black (1897-1986). The majority of the team’s players were Jewish, and enthusiastic fans jammed the ballroom of the Broadwood Hotel on North Broad Street on Saturday nights to watch them play. The team won eleven championships while playing in a series of leagues between 1930 and 1945, but after a change in ownership in 1950 became one of three touring opponents of the Harlem Globetrotters. 

Some of the SPHAS’ top players joined the region’s next professional basketball team: the Philadelphia Warriors, formed when Philadelphia received a franchise in the new Basketball Association of America (BAA) following World War II. Eddie Gottlieb (by this time no longer active with the SPHAS) became coach and general manager of the Warriors, whose players also included athletes from the University of Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s College, and Temple University. Playing in the Philadelphia Arena at Forty-Fifth and Market Streets, the Warriors attracted crowds of more than eight thousand fans as they won the inaugural league title following the 1946-47 season. After three seasons, the Warriors became a team in the National Basketball Association (NBA), which formed from a merger of the BAA and the National Basketball League. Splitting home games between the Philadelphia Arena and the higher-capacity Civic Center beginning in 1952, the Warriors won the league championship again in 1955-56 with a roster including homegrown players from LaSalle, Penn, and Villanova. 

Enter Wilt Chamberlain

[caption id="attachment_35163" align="alignright" width="239"]Black and white photograph showing Wilt Chamberlain colliding into a player on the opposing team as he jumps to take a shot. 76ers star Wilt Chamberlain bumps Celtic player Bill Russell to win a rebound. (John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

A new star player came to the Warriors in the 1959-60 season. Seven-foot Overbrook High School graduate Wilt Chamberlain (1936-99), who also played for the University of Kansas and the Harlem Globetrotters, led the NBA in scoring and rebounds on the way to winning Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors. In March 1962, in a game against the New York Knicks played at Hershey Sports Arena to expand the Warriors’ fan base, Chamberlain scored 100 points. Remarkably, given Chamberlain’s record as a notoriously bad free throw shooter, he went 28-32 in the game while playing all forty-eight minutes. In Philadelphia and with other teams, Chamberlain ultimately played sixteen seasons in the NBA. 

Following the 1961-62 season, Gottlieb sold the Warriors to a group from San Francisco led by Franklin Mieuli (1920-2010), a radio and television producer. However, the NBA returned to Philadelphia in 1963-64 when investors Irv Kosloff (1912-95) and Ike Richman (1913-65) purchased and relocated the Syracuse Nationals. Renamed the 76ers (or Sixers), the team did not fare well in its first season. The next season, the team acquired Wilt Chamberlain from the Warriors, but it took two more seasons for the Sixers to achieve greatness. During 1966-67, Chamberlain led the 76ers to a 68-13 record and their first NBA championship. After the next seasonthe first season of play in the new, 15,000-seat Spectrum arena in South Philadelphia—the Sixers acceded to Chamberlain’s desire to play on the West Coast and traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers. The trade began a decline that reached its nadir in 1972-73, when the Sixers compiled a 9-73 record, the worst in NBA history. 

The Sixers found a winning path again after acquiring American Basketball Association star Julius Erving (Dr. J) (b. 1950) before the 1976-77 season. As new owner Fitz Eugene Dixon Jr. (1923-2006) increasingly invested in talent, the team reached the finals following the 1976-77, 1979-80, and 1980-81 seasons. Harold Katz (b. 1936), who bought the Sixers in 1981, continued improving the team. Then, after acquiring Moses Malone (1955-2015) from the Houston Rockets before the 1982-83 season, the Sixers swept the Lakers and won the championship. In later years, the Sixers reached the playoffs eighteen times and the NBA finals once. Comcast Spectacor bought the Sixers from Katz in 1996 and expanded the potential attendance for Sixers games to 21,000 with the opening of the CoreStates Center (later renamed First Union, Wachovia, and then Wells Fargo Center). Ownership changed again in 2011 when an investment group led by New York billionaire Joshua Harris (b. 1965) and actor/singer Will Smith (b. 1968), a Philadelphia native, purchased the team. Key players during the post-Erving era included power forward Charles Barkley (b. 1963), point guard Allen Iverson (b. 1975), and swingman Andre Iguodala (b. 1984), who later earned most valuable player honors in the 2015 NBA finals while playing with the Golden State Warriors. In 2019, the Sixers made it to the playoffs but lost to eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors on a last-second shot in the seventh game.  

Women’s Basketball 

[caption id="attachment_35167" align="alignright" width="300"]Color photograph depicting Dawn Staley holding a cellphone to take a selfie with Governor Nikki Haley and her team of women basketball players. Philadelphia-native and coach of the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team Dawn Staley (pictured furthest to the right) snaps a selfie with her team and Governor Nikki Haley. (South Carolina Office of the Governor)[/caption]

Women’s professional basketball came to Philadelphia in 1979during the second season of the first women’s professional league, the short-lived Women’s Professional Basketball League. The Philadelphia Fox played just ten games in November and December 1979, winning two and losing eight, before financial difficulties and ownership disputes ended the team. Nearly two decades passed before the 1996 gold-medal performance of the U.S. women’s basketball team at the Olympics ushered in a new generation of women’s professional leagues—the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBA) created by the NBA and the American Basketball League (ABL)Philadelphia gained a women’s team once again when the Rage, formerly based in Richmond, Virginia, moved before the 1997-98 seasonWith the Rage came team leader Dawn Staley (b. 1970), Philadelphia native who had been a standout player for Dobbins Technical High School, the University of Virginia, and the U.S. Olympic team. Despite Staley’s star power and a home court at the University of Pennsylvania’s Palestra, the Rage attracted lower than expected attendance and compiled a losing season of 13 wins against 31 loses. Staley left for the WNBA, and by December 1998 the bankruptcy of the ABL also brought an end to the Rage. 

Women also played a role in coaching and management. Although Philadelphia has never had a WNBA franchise, in 2019 Collingswood, New Jersey, native and former Lehigh University player Cathy Engelbert (b. c. 1965) became commissioner of the league.  Former WNBA player Lindsey Harding (b. 1984) in 2019 served briefly as an assistant coach for the 76ers before leaving to coach for the Sacramento Kings. A developmental professional women’s team also began play in Philadelphia in 2019 with a goal of growing into a WNBA franchise. The Reign, of the Women’s Basketball Development Association, played home games at Chestnut Hill College during the 2019 season. 

Beyond Philadelphia 

Professional basketball players from the Philadelphia area made their mark elsewhere in the NBA and other leagues. A player from Villanova, Paul Arizin (1928-2006), became the league’s first great scorer and one of the top NBA players of all time. Earl Monroe (b. 1944), who played college basketball at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, helped the New York Knicks win the NBA title in 1973. Rasheed Wallace (b. 1974), who played at the University of North Carolina, led the Detroit Pistons to the NBA title in 2004. Joe Bryant (b. 1954) of LaSalle played eight seasons from the Sixers, San Diego Clippers, and Houston Rockets, and his son Kobe Bryant (1978-2020) went straight from Lower Merion High School to the Los Angeles Lakers and led them to five NBA championships. Louis “Red” Klotz (1920-2004), who started with the Philadelphia SPHAS, later formed the teams that played the Harlem Globetrotters. Dawn Staley, in addition to her play in the ABL and WNBA for more than a decade, was a three-time Olympic gold medalist and coached at Temple University, the University of South Carolina, and the women’s national basketball team. Adding to a professional basketball heritage extending over 120 years, these Philadelphia-area basketball players contributed to the success of Philadelphia teams and others in professional leagues.  

Karen Guenther is Professor of History at Mansfield University and author of Sports in Pennsylvania, published by the Pennsylvania Historical Association. 


In 1917, a group of Jewish high school graduates in Philadelphia formed a basketball team that competed against other local teams. Affiliated with the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) at first, the team soon became known as the SPHAS (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) after the YMHA withdrew its sponsorship because it considered the sport too violent. Except for a couple of seasons in the 1920s, the team kept the name SPHAS until it disbanded in 1959 after achieving a long record of success.

Eddie Gottlieb (1898-1979), Harry “Chickie” Passon (1897-1954), and Edwin “Hughie” Black (1897-1986) organized the team after graduating from South Philadelphia High School. Black and Gottlieb, who then attended the School of Pedagogy at Temple University, joined with Passon and other friends to compete in the minor league American League of Philadelphia for two seasons with the support of the YMHA. Next, the SPHA sponsored the team, and even though the organization soon withdrew its support, the team retained the name. By the early 1920s, the SPHAS no longer needed sponsorship after Gottlieb, Black, and Passon opened a sporting goods store to provide their own uniforms (by the end of the decade, Passon bought out his partners to form Passon Sporting Goods, which became Philadelphia’s leading sporting goods store). The SPHAS played in the American League until 1922, then spent one season in the Manufacturer’s League, which mostly consisted of company teams.

[caption id="attachment_27847" align="alignright" width="300"]A group portrait of the SPHAS (c. 1940) A Philadelphia SPHAS team photo (c. 1940) pictures players along with the team’s coaches and staff. Active as a team from 1917 into the 1950s, the SPHAS were moderately successful in both the Eastern Basketball League and American Basketball League. After being sold by Eddie Gottlieb in 1950, the SPHAS became the Washington Generals, the team best remembered for consistently losing to the basketball entertainment team, the Harlem Globetrotters. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

Philadelphia Jews ardently supported the team, which continued to play with a majority of Jewish athletes. Other teams also had Jewish players, but they were most dominant on the SPHAS. Fans packed the ballroom of the Broadwood Hotel on North Broad Street to watch the SPHAS Saturday night games, then went dancing after the games. The team also retained a connection with Temple University, which served as a local college pipeline for players. The team won its first professional title at the end of the 1923-24 season, while playing in the Philadelphia League. Under Gottlieb’s leadership, the SPHAS became one of the top teams in Philadelphia and traveled to play outside the regional league. After one season (1926) in the short-lived Eastern League, Gottlieb scheduled games against teams competing in the American Basketball League and prominent barnstorming teams, including the Original Celtics and New York Renaissance (the Rens).

After playing for one season (1926-27) as the Warriors in the American Basketball League, the team once again became the SPHAS and joined a revived Eastern Basketball League for 1929-30. Clearly the best team in the league, with a new star in future Temple University basketball coach Harry Litwack (1907-99), the SPHAS won the league’s championship in three of the four years of its existence.

[caption id="attachment_27843" align="alignright" width="300"]A comic sketch commemorating the SPHAS 1936-37 championship victory This pen-and-ink cartoon sketch commemorates the Philadelphia SPHAS’ 1936–37 American Basketball League championship victory. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

Success continued between 1933 and 1947, as the SPHAS reached the playoffs twelve times and won seven championships in a new American Basketball League (ABL), formed in 1933. The team continued to play in the ABL after it reverted to a minor league following the 1945-46 season, with less success. Meanwhile, Gottlieb became coach and general manager of the Philadelphia Warriors as a franchise in the new Basketball Association of America (forerunner of the National Basketball Association) and he brought some of the SPHAS’ top players with him. Litwack, who also coached Temple’s men’s basketball team, took over as coach of the SPHAS.

In 1950 Gottlieb sold the SPHAS, and former star Louis “Red” Klotz (1920-2014) found a new role for the team as one of three touring opponents for the Harlem Globetrotters. Klotz changed the team’s name, first to the Washington Generals in honor of President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) and later to the Baltimore Rockets. Under Klotz’s leadership, the SPHAS went from being a championship-caliber team to the brunt of the Globetrotters’ hijinks. The SPHAS officially ceased operations in October 1959 but could look back on success as one of Philadelphia’s championship basketball teams from the first half of the century. To the end, the team retained its predominantly Jewish identity.

Karen Guenther is Professor of History at Mansfield University and author of Sports in Pennsylvania, published by the Pennsylvania Historical Association.

Whiz Kids

[caption id="attachment_26738" align="alignright" width="300"]Team Photo of the 1950 Philllies Team, Known as the Whiz Kids. The Whiz Kids, shown here in their 1950 team photo, had a roster dominated by young players. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

The 1950 Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, which surprisingly won the National League pennant but lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series, gained the nickname the “Whiz Kids” from Newspaper Enterprise Association sports editor Harry Grayson (1894-1968)  during spring training in Clearwater, Florida. The team had a roster dominated by young players, including future Baseball Hall of Famers Robin Roberts (1926-2010) on the mound and Richie Ashburn (1927-97) patrolling center field.

Owner and club president Bob Carpenter (1915-1990) built the young team through signing bonuses, and the investment paid off in 1950. Manager Eddie Sawyer (1910-97) managed the Phillies to a 81-73 record in 1949, the first winning season since 1932, and set the stage for success the following year. In 1950, Roberts (20 wins, 11 losses) and Curt Simmons (b. 1929 ) (17 wins, 8 losses) led the starters, and reliever Jim Konstanty (1917-76) pitched a then-record seventy-four games in relief.  Konstanty won 16 games, saved 22, and was the National League’s Most Valuable Player. Right fielder Del Ennis (1925-96) led the team with a .311 batting average, 31 home runs, and 126 runs batted in. Ashburn batted .303. Catcher Andy Seminick (1920-2004) had 24 home runs, while third baseman Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones (1925-1983) hit 25. Other key players included shortstop Granville “Granny” Hamner (1927-93), first baseman Eddie Waitkus (1919-72), and left fielder Dick Sisler (1920-98).

[caption id="attachment_26741" align="alignright" width="300"]Crowd Shot From the First Game of the 1950 World Series at Shibe Park. The first game of the 1950 World Series, shown here, was played on October 4 in Philadelphia at Shibe Park, located at Twenty-First Street and Lehigh Avenue. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

The Phillies opened the 1950 season with a 9-1 defeat of the Brooklyn Dodgers, defending league champions, with Roberts earning the win. The early success did not last, as the team had a .500 record and was mired in sixth place at the end of April. The season soon turned around, however, as the Phillies reached third place, half a game behind Brooklyn and St. Louis, on June 1. For the remainder of the season, the Whiz Kids were in first place at the beginning of each month and opened up a seven-game lead with eleven games left. The team then lost eight of the next ten games before facing the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field in the season finale. The Whiz Kids won the clincher 4-1 in extra innings, avoiding a best-of-three playoff.  Sisler bashed a three-run home run in the top of the tenth inning, and Roberts pitched a complete game.

[caption id="attachment_26740" align="alignright" width="271"]Phillies Shortstop Granville Hammer Sliding Across Home Plate in Game Three of the 1950 World Series Phillies shortstop Granville “Granny” Hammer, sliding across home plate in the seventh inning, gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead, their first lead of the 1950 World Series. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

The magic, however, ran out in the World Series. Konstanty started for the first time that season in Game 1, losing 1-0 to the Yankees. Roberts lost Game 2, 2-1 on a tenth-inning home run by Joe DiMaggio (1914-99). Game 3, started by Simmons, resulted in another one-run loss, 3-2.  The “Whiz Kids” then lost Game 4 5-2, swept by the Yankees in that team’s second of five straight world championships between 1949 and 1953.

The 1950 season raised hopes for a continuing string of Phillies titles. The following year, however, the team fell to fifth place, and it had only two more winning seasons the rest of the decade. Seminick and Sisler were traded to Cincinnati following the 1951 season. Carpenter fired Sawyer in June 1952 but rehired him in 1958. Other members of the Whiz Kids either were sold or traded, and by the end of the decade only Ashburn, Roberts, and Simmons remained on the team.  By 1958, the Phillies fell to last place and remained there until expansion in 1962.  The Whiz Kids, however, continued to remain in the hearts of Phillies fans.

Karen Guenther is Professor of History at Mansfield University and author of Sports in Pennsylvania, published by the Pennsylvania Historical Association.

Big 5

The Big 5, an association of Philadelphia-area college basketball programs that have competed locally while also belonging to different conferences, formed in 1955 among five universities: La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova. Showcasing the basketball talent of the region, the round-robin doubleheaders between Big 5 teams have attracted raucous fans and produced intense rivalries.

[caption id="attachment_24488" align="alignright" width="239"]A Saint Joesph's University player battles two University of Penn players for a loose ball Members of two Big 5 teams—Saint Joseph's and Penn—battle for the ball during a game in 1982. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

The competitors in the Big 5 have included some of the nation’s strongest men’s basketball programs, including teams that made it to the NCAA Final Four (Saint Joseph’s in 1961, Penn in 1979, and Villanova, which advanced to the Final Four in 1971 and won the NCAA title in 1985 and 2016). Big 5 teams also excelled in the NIT (National Invitation Tournament), including champions Temple in 1969 and Villanova in 1994 and finalists La Salle (1988) and Saint Joseph’s (2005). Among women’s teams, which began to complete in the Big 5 in the 1970s, Villanova reached the NCAA tournament ten times.

Big 5 players with roots in Philadelphia basketball added to the games’ hometown appeal. Lionel Simmons (b. 1968) led South Philadelphia High School to the Philadelphia Public League Championship before going on to play for La Salle. Ed Pinckney (b. 1963) played in the Sonny Hill League during the summer before going to Villanova. Joe Bryant (b.1954), who starred at John Bartram High, led the La Salle Explorers to the 1975 NCAA tournament; his son Kobe (b. 1978) later went straight from high school to the NBA. Some Big 5 players also advanced to Philadelphia’s professional teams. Matt Guokas (b. 1944) of Saint Joseph’s played on the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers championship team, which also included Philadelphia native Wilt Chamberlain (1936-99).

From the time of its formation until 1986, the Big 5 played in the University of Pennsylvania’s Palestra arena, which expanded in 1955 to 9,100 seats. The participating colleges shared the profits after reimbursing Penn for the building’s maintenance. In 1986, the games shifted to the gyms at individual campuses, with each team playing a Big 5 game at home and the rest on the road. Villanova withdrew from the round-robin in 1991, claiming it could not fit Big 5 games into its nonconference schedule, but resumed participation in 1999 after a coaching change.

Despite the universities’ memberships in different conferences (in 2015-16, Ivy League for Penn, Big East for Villanova, Atlantic 10 for Saint Joseph’s and La Salle, and American Athletic for Temple), the teams continued to play round-robin games and declare a City Series Champion. A great rivalry developed and became nationally known for competitive games and civic pride.

Karen Guenther is Professor of History at Mansfield University and author of Sports in Pennsylvania (2007), published by the Pennsylvania Historical Association.

Mighty Macs

The Immaculata College women’s basketball teams of the early 1970s, known as the Mighty Macs, won the first three national tournaments of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) in 1972, 1973, and 1974. Basketball brought the Immaculata community together, and Immaculata’s success showcased the high quality of basketball played by Philadelphia’s Catholic schools.

The success of the Mighty Macs built upon a tradition of basketball at Immaculata that began in 1939 and drew skilled Philadelphia area female basketball players to its all-women’s campus. The highlight during the early years was defeating the Temple Owlettes in 1946, winning the unofficial City Championship and handing Temple its first defeat in four years.

After the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CIAW) experimented with full-court basketball during the 1969-70 and 1970-71 seasons, women’s college basketball officially changed in 1971 with the formation of the AIAW, and the game transitioned from the half-court game (three players on each side) to the full-court game with five players on the court. At Immaculata, Coach Cathy Rush (b. 1947), a graduate of West Chester State College (later West Chester University), implemented strategies used in the men’s game. Players trained by running to gain endurance, and during the 1971-72 season the training paid off. The Mighty Macs went 24-1, with their only loss to West Chester in the regional finals.

[caption id="attachment_23955" align="alignright" width="300"]A team portrait of the 1973 Mighty Macs women's basketball team. This team photo shows coach Cathy Rush (standing, left) with the 1973 Mighty Macs women’s basketball team. The 1973 Mighty Macs, following in the footsteps of the winning 1972 team, repeated as AIAW champions in dramatic fashion, recording an undefeated season. (Immaculata University)[/caption]

As a small private liberal arts college, Immaculata did not have a recruiting budget or athletic scholarships, and its starters carpooled to campus for morning practices. Seeded fifteenth in the 1972 national tournament, the team almost did not make the trip to Illinois because of the cost. To raise money, players sold toothbrushes. Sister Mary of Lourdes (1915-2005), the college president, persuaded each of the trustees to pay for plane fare for one player. Ultimately, they raised enough money to fly eight players (out of twelve) and one coach on standby to the tournament. They won their first three games, then defeated archrival West Chester for the national championships.

The 1973 team went undefeated, beating Queens College in the finals, and the 1974 team defeated Mississippi State College for Women in the finals. In addition, the Mighty Macs participated in the first televised women’s college basketball game, defeating the University of Maryland on January 27, 1975. The 1975 and 1976 teams also reached the finals, losing to Delta State University in Mississippi both years.

Cathy Rush left Immaculata in 1977 after compiling a record of 149-15. Some of her star players went on to become successful women’s college basketball coaches. Among them, Marianne (Crawford) Stanley (b. 1954) led Old Dominion University to the AIAW championship in 1979 and 1980 and to the NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship in 1985. Theresa (Shank) Grentz (b. 1952) coached Rutgers to the 1981 AIAW national championship, and Rene (Muth) Portland (1953-2018) coached for twenty-seven seasons at Penn State University.

[caption id="attachment_23954" align="alignright" width="225"]Mural painted at Spike's Trophies in Philadelphia depicting the Mighty Macs championships 1972-1974. “City of Champions” is the title of a mural painted in 2015 on the side of Spike’s Trophies at 2701 Grant Avenue in Philadelphia. The mural pays homage to Philadelphia championship winners from multiple sports, and this detail from the mural depicts Mighty Macs player Mary Scharff and the three AIAW Basketball championships won by Immaculata College (now Immaculata University) between 1972 and 1974. (Immaculata University)[/caption]

The implementation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the subsequent inclusion of women’s sports in the NCAA spelled the end of the Mighty Macs’ dominance, as they did not have the financial resources to offer athletic scholarships to team members as their competitors did. However, the Mighty Macs continued to be remembered. The adventures of the first championship team were loosely portrayed in the award-winning feature film The Mighty Macs (2009). Coach Cathy Rush was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, and the 1972-1974 national championship teams were inducted in 2014. Rush (2000), Grentz (2001), and Stanley (2002) have also been inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Karen Guenther is Professor of History at Mansfield University and author of Sports in Pennsylvania (2007), published by the Pennsylvania Historical Association.

Broad Street Bullies

[caption id="attachment_22917" align="alignright" width="300"]Flyers players engage in a brawl on the ice Philadelphia Flyers players brawl with Vancouver Canucks players during a game in 1973. The brawl led to players being ejected, exemplifying the rough playing style of Philadelphia's "Broad Street Bullies." (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

The Philadelphia Flyers, formed as a National Hockey League expansion team in 1967, became known as the Broad Street Bullies for their aggressively physical play during the 1972-73 season. As the Flyers racked up penalty minutes at a record pace, Philadelphia’s press corps tried to create a colorful nickname for the team. Jack Chevalier and Pete Cafone of the Philadelphia Bulletin called them the “Broad Street Bullies” following a brawling 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Flames, and the nickname stuck to the team also known for winning two Stanley Cup championships and for renditions of “God Bless America” by Kate Smith (1907-86) at home games.

The Flyers acquired the band of tough players via the 1967 Expansion Draft, amateur drafts, free agency, and trades. The team took Gary Dornhoefer (b. 1943), Bernie Parent (b. 1945), and Ed Van Impe (b. 1940) in the 1967 Expansion Draft. Bobby Clarke (b. 1949), Don Saleski (b. 1949), Dave Schultz (b. 1949), and Bill Barber (b. 1952) came through the amateur draft, and Rick MacLeish (1950-2016) arrived from Toronto in a trade that sent Parent to the Maple Leafs. Clarke became the team’s leader, winning awards for sportsmanship and the NHL’s Most Valuable Player in 1973, 1975, and 1976. Schultz (also known as “The Hammer”) was the most physical of the Flyers, setting the NHL record for penalty minutes in the 1974-75 season.

Traditionally, the Flyers played a recorded version of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” before the game, but she performed it live for the 1973 season opener. It proved to be a good omen, as the team finished with a 50-16-12 record. The Flyers defeated the Atlanta Flames, New York Rangers, and Boston Bruins to win the Stanley Cup in 1974, with Parent (who returned to the Flyers in 1972) winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie. Coach Fred Shero (1925-90) won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. The Flyers became the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup, and two million people turned out for the parade down Broad Street to celebrate the victory.

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignright" width="300"]Flyers Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent celebrate with the Stanley Cup in 1974 Philadelphia Flyers center forward Bobby Clarke (left) and goalie Bernie Parent celebrate on the ice after winning the Stanley Cup in 1974. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

The following season, the Flyers finished with a 51-18-11 record, winning the division again. The Flyers defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, and Buffalo Sabres in the playoffs, as they secured their second Stanley Cup. This time, nearly 2½ million people turned out for the parade on Broad Street. Parent again won the Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophies, while Clarke won the Hart Trophy (MVP). The Flyers returned to the playoffs each of the next four years, but they failed to win the Cup, losing in the finals in 1976. After Dave Schultz was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1976 and coach Fred Shero left to become head coach and general manager of the New York Rangers in 1978, the Flyers were no longer the dominant intimidating team of the mid-1970s. The Flyers subsequently reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1980, 1985, 1987, 1997, and 2010.

The exploits of the 1972-73 Flyers became the subject of the 2010 HBO documentary Broad Street Bullies, narrated by Liev Schreiber (b. 1967). Goalie Bernie Parent (1984), forward Bobby Clarke (1987), left wing Bill Barber (1990), and head coach Fred Shero (2013) have been enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Karen Guenther is Professor of History at Mansfield University and author of Sports in Pennsylvania (2007), published by the Pennsylvania Historical Association.

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