PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was a memorable year for Philadelphia sports in 2019. From the Phillies signing Bryce Harper to the devastating quadruple-doink that knocked the Sixers out of the playoffs, Philly sports fans went through a roller-coaster of emotions this past year.
Here are the most memorable sports moments of 2019:
12. The Fultz Saga Ends
The drama surrounding Markelle Fultz’s shooting form left many confused. He played just 33 games with the Sixers in two seasons before general manger Elton Brand decided it was time to move on. Brand traded Fultz to the Orlando Magic for Jonathan Simmons and a 2020 top-20 protected first-round pick on Feb. 7.
The Sixers traded up in the 2017 NBA draft to seal the deal on Fultz, who they expected to be a promising addition to the Sixers’ core. Fultz, however, showed poor shooting form throughout his rookie year and into his second season with the team, leaving many — including head coach Brett Brown — dumbfounded. Fultz lost his starting position when Jimmy Butler was acquired from the Timberwolves. Last December, he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome — which involves compression or irritation in the area between the lower neck and upper chest.
11. Flyers Hire Alain Vigneault
This year brought change and a lot of it to the Philadelphia Flyers. Most importantly may have been the head coach. On April 18, the Flyers hired Alain Vigneault as head coach. Vigneault came to the Flyers with a lengthy history of success in the NHL, coaching two teams to Stanley Cup Final appearances, a Jack Adams award and twice coaching a team to the Presidents’ Trophy. Vigneault brought with him structure, accountability and a résumé that demanded respect. Vigneault has quickly turned the Flyers into an exciting team to watch, a team that plays fast and aggressive. The Flyers have dealt with their fair share of adversity with injuries and losing Oskar Lindblom, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, for the season. But the Flyers currently sit in the mix for the playoffs around Christmastime. Vigneault has the Flyers positioned well to be playing the Stanley Cup Playoffs. From there, anything is possible.
10. Carter Hart Emergence
If 2019 brought the Flyers anything, it’s a goalie — a young netminder with a bright, bright future. Hart’s NHL call-up came on Dec. 18, 2018, but the 21-year-old made a name for himself in the second half of the 2018-19 season and now has established himself as a bonafide No. 1 goalie in his first full season. Over his first 365 days in the NHL, Hart posted a 2.65 goals-against average with a .915 save percentage and a 27-20-4 record in 51 games. He matched Jocelyn Thibault’s NHL record for most consecutive wins by a goalie before his 21st birthday with eight. He made this save earlier this season.
Mikko Rantanen tvrdo vystrelil z prvého dotyku, ale Carter Hart vytiahol úžasný zákrok lapačkou a udržal Flyers v hre pic.twitter.com/ca0ssWAKtc
— NHL Slovenčina (@NHLsvk) December 12, 2019
This season, Hart’s teamed up with Brian Elliot to form as strong a goaltending duo this franchise has ever had. This was a great year for Hart, and this is just getting started.
9. DeSean Jackson Comes Home
Fans weren’t ready to part ways with DeSean Jackson back in 2014 and have been calling for him to come home ever since. After being cut by the Eagles during the Chip Kelly era because they “wanted to go in a different direction,” Jackson didn’t hold any grudges against the organization. He always felt Philadelphia was home. Jackson told reporters there was “something special here” after the Birds traded a sixth-round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in order to sign him to a three-year deal. Carson Wentz hit Jackson for a 51-yard touchdown to kickoff the 2019 season against the Redskins and in the following quarter, they connected again for a 53-yard touchdown.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 8, 2019
But, the excitement of Jackson’s return was overshadowed by an abdominal injury he suffered during a tough Week 2 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Jackson opted against surgery and returned to the field in Week 9 against the Chicago Bears but left the game after one drive when he aggravated the core muscle. The next day the Eagles revealed he would be undergoing surgery and placed him on injured reserve.
8. Harper’s Epic Home Runs
Bryce Harper sure knows how to put on a show. In his first game back against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, the Phillies superstar launched a monstrous two-run bomb into the right field seats, sending Phillies fans who were at the game into a frenzy. He also unleashed a bat flip for the ages.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) April 3, 2019
And who could forget when Harper launched a second-deck, walk-off grand slam against the Chicago Cubs in August.
BRYCE HARPER, YOU ARE THE MAN!
— MLB (@MLB) August 16, 2019
7. Sixers Shuffle The Deck Once Again
Having expectations often leads to disappointments, but in this case, the disappointment led to something special. After the 2019 playoff run, many Philly fans expected free agent Jimmy Butler to sign a max deal with the Sixers, but that’s not quite what happened. On a Sunday evening in June, the Sixers signed Tobias Harris to a five-year, $180 million contract, sparking the beginning of three big moves. Hours later, news broke the Sixers were sending Jimmy Butler to Miami in a sign-and-trade, acquiring Josh Richardson. In that same time frame, they landed All-Star power forward Al Horford on a four-year deal worth $109 million. Horford is one of the only players who can guard center Joel Embiid and taking him away from Eastern Conference rival Boston Celtics was huge. While some fans felt betrayed, Butler wanted to be the leader on his own team — not share the role.
6. Nick Foles Signs With Jaguars
The man, the myth, the legend. Nick Foles led the Eagles to the promised land, hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy for the first time in franchise history in 2018. He brought us the Philly Special, a parade we will never forget, and an all-around experience of a lifetime.
But, all good things must come to an end. Carson Wentz was going to be healthy for the first time in two seasons and Nick Foles deserved a starting role. Foles voided his $20 million option in February and signed a four-year, $88 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars in March. The news was bittersweet for Eagles fans as they waited decades for a championship, only to watch their Super Bowl MVP quarterback head south the following season. One thing is for sure, Foles will always have a special place in the hearts of Philadelphians.
5. Foles Leads Eagles On Playoff Run Again
The 2018 Eagles season was inconsistent, to say the least, and after Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending injury in December for the second straight year, many gave up on playoff hopes. But Saint Nick came in and snuck the Birds into the playoffs as a Wild Card. They faced the Bears in Chicago and a mind-blowing scenario had Philadelphians feeling they were destined for another Super Bowl win. Nick Foles hit Golden Tate for a two-yard touchdown with just 56 seconds left against one of the best defenses in the league. The Bears’ offense set former Eagles kicker Cody Parkey up for a 43-yard field goal with 10 seconds left to win the game — but along came the double-doink. The ball hit the left upright, then the crossbar, silencing Bears fans as they watched their season come to an end. It was later found out the ball was tipped by Eagles defensive tackle Treyvon Hester.
Eagles fans would later learn what they thought was fate, was really just luck. The following week they traveled to New Orleans to take on the Saints, who previously embarrassed the reigning champs, 48-7, in Week 11. But the Birds came out strong and went up 14-0 early in the game but it wasn’t enough to stop the Saints from coming back. The Saints scored the go-ahead touchdown on a two-yard toss to Michael Thomas, just two plays after Drew Brees converted a 3rd-and-16 on the Eagles’ 32 with a 20-yard completion.
The Eagles were driving down the field when heartbreak struck with 1:52 left in the game. Foles’ pass went right threw the hands of Alshon Jeffery and landed in the waiting arms of Marshon Lattimore. Jeffery looked lifeless laying on the field, knowing the game was over. Foles ran right over and picked his guy up — showing his leadership.
— Sports Photos (@sportsphotos) January 14, 2019
4. Ben Simmons’ First Three-Pointer
Silencing the haters. Ben Simmons developing a three-point shot was the talk of the NBA offseason and everyone was waiting to see if his training would pay off. Simmons made it a point to let doubters know they didn’t phase him, and he would take the shot if and when it was there. A month into the season, he sent fans into a frenzy. On Nov. 20, with eight minutes left in the first quarter against the New York Knicks, the Wells Fargo Center became electrified when Simmons took a three-point shot from the corner and drained it for his first regular season NBA three. And boy was it a beauty. While Simmons doesn’t have to use his three-point shot often, his ability to hit them makes him a bigger threat. There’s nothing fans love more than seeing Ben hit a three-pointer as they erupted with excitement again when he hit his second three on Dec. 2.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) November 21, 2019
3. Phillies Fire Gabe Kapler, Hire Former Yankees Skipper Joe Girardi
“September baseball matters.” That’s what Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said a day after Gabe Kapler was removed as manager. And that’s also the reason why the Phillies hired former World Series-winning manager Joe Girardi. Kapler was canned after failing to get the Phillies back to the postseason in his two seasons as manager. Kapler faced criticism for his handling of the rotation, bullpen usage and the development of players, but fingers have also been pointed at the front office for not giving him the arms needed to compete. To prove that they are all in, the Phillies hired former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who guided the Yanks over the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. In 10 seasons as New York’s manager, Girardi won 910 regular-season games and held a 28-24 record in the postseason. He also managed the Florida Marlins in 2006, winning the NL Manager of the Year but was fired after just one season.
2. Kawhi’s Quadruple-Doink
The shot heard around the world. It felt like time went into slow motion as fans waited for the basketball to take the right bounce off the rim to send the game into overtime. But, Toronto Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard broke the hearts of Philadelphians with a shot that took four bounces at the buzzer before ending the Sixers’ playoff run in a Game 7 that will be remembered for decades. The Sixers went back and fourth with the Raptors during the Eastern Conference semifinals, sending the series to Game 7 in Toronto. Jimmy Butler’s driving layup tied the game 90-90 with 4.2 seconds left in regulation — but that left the Raptors with just enough time to get the ball in the hands of Kawhi. Leonard took a shot from the corner over Joel Embiid at the buzzer and after four bounces, it dropped in giving the Raptors a 92-90 win over the 76ers. It was a heartbreaking way to end a season, but almost destiny for the Raptors. They went on to win their first NBA championship in franchise history.
🚨 THE SHOT. THE BOUNCE. THE WIN. 🚨
— NBA (@NBA) May 13, 2019
1. Phillies Sign Bryce Harper
Phillies owner John Middleton made it known he was going to spend “stupid money” during the long MLB offseason and that’s just what he did, inking superstar Bryce Harper to a 13-year, $330 million deal, with no opt outs. Harper instantly stole the hearts of Philadelphians. He didn’t choose the deal that would keep him on the West Coast, near his Las Vegas home, he chose where he wanted to spend the rest of his career. Harper chose the City of Brotherly Love because it was somewhere he could “dig his roots.” He chose Philadelphia. And while the Phillies season didn’t end the way we hoped, watching Harper bring life back to Citizens Bank Park was electrifying. Harper hit .260 with 35 home runs and a career-high 114 RBI — giving fans something to look forward to as the team continues to grow.