After a one-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, the John Wanamaker Athletic Award, the most prestigious honor in Philadelphia sports, will be presented this year for the 50th time.
The award, which was first bestowed in 1961, “honors the athlete, team or organization which has done the most to reflect credit upon Philadelphia and to the team or sport in which they excel.” The most recent winner was former Temple and Penn head basketball coach Fran Dunphy in 2019.
Eleven nominees are on the ballot for the award, which is presented by PHL Sports, the Wanamaker Office Building, The Inquirer, and CBS3.
The nominees are (in alphabetical order):
Natasha Cloud – Former St. Joseph’s star now playing for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.
Sean Couturier – Flyers center entering his 11th season with the team.
Drexel athletics – The Dragons made the NCAA Tournament in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and wrestling.
Joel Embiid – 76ers center entering his fifth season with the team.
Brandon Graham – One of the longest-tenured Eagles, in his 12th season at defensive end.
Bryce Harper – Phillies outfielder wrapping up his third season with the team.
Carli Lloyd – Member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team.
Gary Martin – Archbishop Wood High School runner who broke the Pennsylvania state record in the mile run as a junior.
The Union – Winners of the 2020 Supporters Shield for having Major League Soccer’s best record in the regular season.
Dawn Staley – Head coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team at the Tokyo Games.
Upper Providence Little League baseball team – Reached the 2021 Little League World Series.
The public can vote on the award at https://www.discoverphl.com/meet/phl-sports/wanamaker/. The voting deadline is Oct. 4. Voters are permitted to write in their favorite player, team or organization.
Staley has won the Wanamaker Award three times, in 2005 and 2017 honoring her coaching career at Temple and South Carolina, and in 1997 when she shared it with fellow Olympians David Reid (boxing) and Michael Matz (equestrian).
The first Wanamaker Award was given in 1961 to Chuck Bednarik, the star two-way player for the NFL champion Eagles. It was presented every year until 1985 and was reinstituted in 1991 when 76ers All-Star Charles Barkley won it.
The previous five winners of the award were the Little League Taney Dragons (2015), Villanova’s national championship men’s basketball team (2016), Staley (2017), the Eagles Super Bowl champion team (2018), and Dunphy.