6 Stars Who Couldn’t (or Wouldn’t) Play in Philly

Will Joel Embiid be the next athlete to crush our high hopes?


While the Sixers and their team of All Star surgeons are optimistic that Joel Embiid will make a full recovery from his latest foot surgery, the fact remains that the talented center’s future with the team is murkier than ever. As he prepares to sit out his second straight season, he inches closer to joining a strange Philadelphia fraternity: high-profile athletes who, for one reason or another, crushed Philly fans’ high expectations after their — in some cases high-profile — acquisitions. Some of these athletes were felled by injury, others simply refused to play in the City of Brother Love, and one — we’re looking at you, Andrew Bynum, was hurt and seemed to have no interest in playing here. Here are six athletes who could not — or would not — play in Philly.

1. Curt Flood 

Curt Flood began his career with the Reds and Cardinals back in the 1950s. But the reason he’s remembered in Philadelphia is because he never actually arrived here. When the outfield star was told he would be traded from St. Louis to the Phillies (for Dick Allen) in 1969, he refused.

Not only did he refuse, but he sued Major League Baseball for his right to choose whatever team he’d like to play for, which in effect was prohibited by the MLB’s now-defunct reserve clause. Flood was a three-time All-Star and a two-time World Series champ with the Cardinals, but when he was told he would have to go to Philly, he said nah and changed Major League Baseball forever.

2. Andrei Kirilenko 

Kirilenko became a Sixer and then, in the blink of an eye, was (effectively) no longer a Sixer. He was acquired through a trade in December 2014 that sent Brandon Davies to the Brooklyn Nets. However, after failing to report to the team this past January, he was suspended. Okay, no one really expected that Kirilenko would be a building block for the next competitive Sixers squad, but the team had hoped to work the 33-year-old star back into games in an effort to ship him off at February’s trade deadline, Yahoo! Sports said at the time of the suspension. But Kirilenko, dealing with a family issue, never showed up and was eventually waived.

3. Jeff Ruland

Ruland’s history in Philadelphia is controversial. Back in the ’80s, he was the ultimately broken toy the Sixers got in the unpopular trade of Moses Malone. Ruland had talent only rivaled by propensity for injury and he barely played for Philadelphia, appearing in just five games for the Sixers in 1986-87 before retiring. He did, however, come out of retirement and play 209 minutes in 13 more uneventful games for the Sixers in 1991-92.

4. J.D. Drew

He was drafted by the Phillies in 1997, but his agent, the notorious Scott Boras, demanded the Phillies pay Drew a $10 million signing bonus. The then-frugal Phillies, predictably, balked — offering $2 million instead — and as Boras promised, Drew did not sign with the Phillies. Instead, Drew and Boras exploited a loophole in MLB rules and Drew spent a season playing with the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League so that he could re-enter the draft in the following season. He was selected by St. Louis in ’98, and fans proceeded to throw batteries at him when he visited Philadelphia.

5. Andrew Bynum

In August 2012, Bynum was traded to the Sixers in a blockbuster four-team deal that also brought the Sixers Jason Richardson. The following October, the Inquirer reported that Bynum would be out three weeks after undergoing a knee procedure the month before, and in November, Bynum was considered “out indefinitely”  with bone bruises in his knees, and reported cartilage damage as well. He also exacerbated his knee woes by going bowling.

Let’s just say that Bynum, who was acquired to be a centerpiece for a resurgent Sixers team, never touched the court for a game as a Sixer, and the city was none too pleased (though at least his ever-changing hairstyles provided some entertainment). Philly Mag’s Michael Bradley wished him goodbye and good riddance soon after. And even after he signed with Cleveland, Bynum found ways to not play in Philadelphia.

6. Danny Tartabull

Back in 1997, the Phillies signed an oft-injured but still productive 34-year-old Danny Tartabull to a one-year contract, which Bleacher Report ranked as one of the Phillies’ five worst free-agent signings ever. Tartabull, who had seven seasons of 20-plus home runs to his credit and was coming off a campaign in which he’d hit 27 long balls and driven in 101 runs, only managed three games and seven hitless at-bats after fracturing his foot in his first swing as a Phillie. He never played in the majors again.

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