One of the greatest yet fun debates any sports fan can have is who ranks on the “Mount Rushmore” of a certain city.
The issue is with Boston, our fabled professional sports franchises have enjoyed so much success – individual and team – that it’s hard to pick just one legend from the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins who stand out.
In a situation like this, there’s never a “right or wrong.” But since we’ve got some downtime before the Sox clinch the American League East and the Patriots take care of business against Carolina on Sunday, I’ll unveil my Boston “Mount Rushmore.”
Patriots: Tom Brady. The greatest quarterback to ever play the game should be one of the easiest choices for a list like this.
Brady’s legacy was cemented in Super Bowl LI, when he turned a 28-3 Atlanta Falcons’ lead from a seemingly insurmountable deficit to the butt of Internet memes, billboards, hats and T-shirts.
Over his career, Brady has had a way into turning guys like Deion Branch, David Givens, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman into outstanding players, and refining careers of Hall of Fame-caliber players such as as Randy Moss.
I don’t know what will happen first, Brady retiring or my son’s first foray into organized sports. Given the way the GOAT has started the season, I’m guessing the latter.
Celtics: Bill Russell. I was fortunate to grow up in an era where Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson turned the NBA into must-see TV, but long before that, William Felton Russell, along with Red Auerbach, were architects of the league’s first dynasty.
Russell embodied what it means to be a Celtic. He played with class, he won with class, and he was an outstanding leader. Late in his career, he was a player-coach.
Russell’s Celtics won 11 championships over a 13-year span, a run that we’ll likely never see in the modern NBA, with superstars constantly hopscotching from team to team (yeah, LeBron, I’m talking to you).
The NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy now bears his name. And Russell’s excellence paved the way for African-American superstars who followed him.
Red Sox: David Ortiz. I know, I know, “what about Ted Williams?” We’ll get to that.
The factor for me here, and it’s a small one, was championships. Williams was a great player, but on the rare occasion where his Red Sox teams got to the World Series, he was a non-factor.
The same can’t be said for Big Papi, whose heroics in the 2004 playoffs are immortal. He holds the Red Sox’ single-season record for home runs (54 in 2006), and retired last season after winning three World Series titles.
A lot of Sox fans would argue that Williams is the best player in franchise history, but if you’re looking at importance and impact on the franchise and the city, it’s Ortiz. Perhaps none was bigger than his bombastic “This is our bleeping city!” before the team’s first game back in Boston following the Boston Marathon terror attacks.
That October, Ortiz was chosen World Series MVP as the Sox won their third world championship in 11 years. His impact has certainly been missed on and off the field this year, but the Sox are on the verge of something they’ve never accomplished: Consecutive division titles.
Bruins: Bobby Orr. Perhaps the most famous Stanley Cup winning goal was scored by the Bruins’ legend in 1970 to beat the St. Louis Blues.
Images of Orr soaring through the air after the puck crossed the goal line hang in living rooms, office cubicles and sports bars from Fort Kent to Stamford, Connecticut.
Two years later, Orr and the Bruins won another Stanley Cup, which would be the franchise’s last until the 2010-11 season. He embodied what the “big bad Bruins” were all about, but had the skill and skating ability to change a game.
There are plenty of players on each franchise who would certainly qualify as wild cards. Among them: Drew Bledsoe, Larry Bird and Pedro Martinez.