Boston's Top 50 Athletes of All-Time
With the Red Sox on the brink of kissing their season goodbye and nothing else really going on in the Boston sports world, it felt like a good time to take a look at history.
Boston is one of the most storied sports towns of all-time. Heck, it's one of the most storied towns of all-time period. Many great athletes have come and gone. Others have never left.
Fifty of those athletes stand out above the rest. They come in all shapes and sizes and each have their own unique skill-sets and personalities.
There is a lot that goes into a great player. Individual statistics are certainly important but in Boston the players that are valued the most are winners. Character also plays a very significant role.
This list is going to debatable because there is never going to be a consensus list. Players are going to get left off and that's just the nature of the beast. Players are going to get snubbed in terms of positioning. Once again, that's just the way it is. I also tried to stay away from players that were so retro that they played in the 19th century.
The one thing that matters is that all of these players have made unique, significant contributions to Boston sports. They all belong in the hearts and memories of the fans who cheered them on (or continue to cheer them on to this day).
These are the greatest players in the history of Boston sports. There will certainly be players that get off the list, but with so many to choose from it became difficult. Let's take a look at the players who did belong though.
Debate is welcome and encouraged. Don't be afraid to voice your opinion; that is exactly why I decided to create this list. There's nothing wrong with getting the blood flowing behind your computer screen as long as you stay classy about it.
#50 Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (2004-present)
While he may be a little guy, he has the biggest heart. Dustin Pedroia has been the face of the Boston Red Sox for a while now. He's accomplished a lot in his short career. It shouldn't be long before he moves up on this list. It would be unfair to not include him though. He has won the Rookie of the Year award, the American League MVP award and a World Series ring.
Pedroia has also won a silver slugger as well as a gold glove. The Red Sox struggled big time when he was injured in 2010 and dipped nearly 100 points in winning percentage without him.
He still has a long career ahead of him but his accomplishments speak for themselves.
Not only has he been great on the field, he's been a leader off the field. When teammate David Ortiz was struggling, he stood up for him and told everybody to "relax". Ever since, David has been one of the best players on the team.
It would not be doing the little guy his due diligence if he was left off the list. He's one of Boston's biggest stars and is a former MVP.
#49 Jonathan Papelbon, Boston Red Sox (2005-present)
Jonathan Papelbon is not the most beloved figure in Red Sox nation right now but it would be unfair to let that get in the way of his status as the Red Sox all-time saves leader.
He has been one of the best closers of the last decade and has been a strikeout machine. His numbers have slowly diminished but honestly the only reason fans are so upset about his decline is because of how badly the team is doing.
He is a four-time all-star an the only pitcher to record 25 saves in each of his first five seasons.
Papelbon's future in Boston is uncertain, but his past isn't. Pap was a monster and his track record of 180 career saves to go along with a 2.04 ERA and 392 strikeouts in 348.1 innings pitched should speak for itself.
#48 Steve Grogan, New England Patriots (1975-1990)
Before Tom Brady came to town, there was another star quarterback who played in Foxboro. Steve Grogan was the face of the Patriots offense in the 70's and 80's. He filled in for future Hall of Famer Jim Plunkett after he was traded away halfway through the 1975 season.
In 1978, Grogan led the Pats to the playoffs and division title with an 11-5 record. He threw for just over 2,800 yards and 15 TD but he also ran for 539 yards and five touchdowns. The Patriots set an all-time rushing record that season with 3,156 yards that still stands.
Grogan's standout season was in 1979 when he threw for 3,268 yards to go with 28 touchdowns. He also ran for 368 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots set a franchise record for offense that year with 411 points. Obviously, the 2007 team shattered that. It's still impressive though.
#47 Jason Varitek, Boston Red Sox (1997-present)
Jason Varitek has always been a very solid player. He has been the captain of the Red Sox since 2006. He is the only Red Sox player to catch 1000 games and holds the MLB record for most no hitters caught.
He has caught no hitters for Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. It's a testament to his ability to call a good game.
Varitek has a reputation for working hard on and off the field to make pitchers better. He studies film, scouting reports and hitters' tendencies. It has helped the Red Sox become one of the best teams in baseball.
A three-time all-star, Varitek has never been considered one of the best catchers of the era, but he has certainly garnered the respect of teammates and opposing players.
Varitek is the captain for a reason. His longevity has earned him the love and respect of fans. Oh, and punching A-Rod in the face is a nice little bonus as well.
#46 Randy Moss, New England Patriots (2007-present)
Randy Moss is arguably the greatest wide receiver in New England Patriots history. Unfortunately he doesn't have that much service time, but just look at what he's been able to accomplish in his short time in New England.
Tom Brady to Randy Moss has been the deadliest combination in football since 2007. He helped make the Patriots the first team to finish a regular season 16-0. In that year, he set the single-season mark for receiving touchdowns with 21. That is a record that is likely to stay for quite some time.
He also led the league in receiving touchdowns yet again in 2009.
Moss deserves a spot on this list because he's just been such an incredible player and really maximized his talents in New England.
#45 Gino Cappelletti, Boston Patriots (1960-1970)
While Gino Cappelletti is no longer the team's all-time leading scorer, he is an important part of the New England Patriots history. When he was on the team, they were still the Boston Patriots though.
Cappellletti was an extremely versatile player that was not only able to catch touchdown passes but kick field goals as well. He led the AFL in scoring five times and led or tied the NFL in scoring 5 times as well. Gino holds two of the top five scoring seasons in pro football history. He scored 155 points in 1964 and 147 points in 1961.
Gino was the AFL MVP in 1964 and is the all-time scoring leader in AFL history. He is the only AFL/NFL Player to run for a 2 point conversion, throw a pass for a 2 point conversion, catch a pass, intercept a pass, return a punt and a kickoff in the same season.
Gino did it all.
#44 Rick Middleton, Boston Bruins (1976-1988)
Rick Middleton was one of the most exciting Bruins players to watch. He may never get the historical recognition that other players in his era get, but he was one of the best players on those teams.
He's set playoff records that to this day haven't been broken. Even Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux haven't broken them. Those are the records for most points scored in the playoffs by a player not advancing to the finals (33) and for a single playoff series (19, in the quarterfinals against Buffalo).
Middleton was named co-captain of the Bruins in 1985 but his best season came in 1981-1982. Middleton scored 51 goals and was awarded the Lady Byng Memorial trophy for sportsmanship. He had skills and character.
#43 Troy Brown, New England Patriots (1993-2007)
Troy Brown is the epitome of Bill Belichick's vision of a football player. He was a long-time wide receiver for the Patriots and retired with them after 14 years. It isn't that simple though.
Near the end of his career, when the team needed him, Brown made a conversion to cornerback. They didn't have much in terms of secondary help, so Troy Brown took reps there voluntarily and ended up making a few big plays there.
He was also a very good kick and punt returner and had one of the big returns in team history in the 2001 AFC championship.
One of Brown's greatest moments came on the offensive side of the ball making a defensive play. In the 2006 playoffs, Tom Brady threw an interception and out of instinct Brown ripped the ball out of the Chargers player's arms. It defined him as a player. He's always been that type of player.
#42 Luis Tiant, Boston Red Sox (1971-1978)
Most people remember Luis Tiant for his unusual windup. He was a very good pitcher for the Boston Red Sox though. With 122 wins and an ERA of 3.36 in his eight seasons in Boston, Tiant gave Boston fans a glimpse of what he did in Cleveland.
Fans called him "El Tiante" and he was a big time fan favorite in Boston.
He helped lead the team to the World Series in 1975 and was basically their ace that year. He won 18 games that year despite having back problems.
Tiant was a great postseason pitcher and posted a 2.65 ERA in the playoffs for Boston.
#41 Ben Coates, New England Patriots (1991-1999)
Ben Coates is certainly the greatest tight end in Patriots history. He never played for Bill Belichick, but Belichick considered tight end the second hardest position to master on the offensive side of the ball. Coates did just that.
He helped to make Drew Bledsoe into a good quarterback. When Bledsoe was young, Coates was frequently his bailout option. What a bailout option he was. Coates was a five-time Pro Bowler and twice was named to the All-Pro team.
He played most of his career with the Patriots, sans the last year of his career where he played for Baltimore.
Ben retired as the fourth all-time leading receiver at tight end with 5,555 yards and 50 touchdowns.
#40 Fred Lynn, Boston Red Sox (1974-1980)
Fred Lynn didn't get a true crack at the big leagues until 1975. He got more than a crack though. Lynn won the Rookie of the Year award and the MVP award. He also won a gold glove.
It was a great start for Lynn and he wasn't finished. Lynn was a big part of the World Series team that year and the Red Sox likely would have won the title if Jim Rice hadn't been injured.
Lynn had arguably his best season in 1979 when he led the league in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage to go along with 39 home runs. Somehow, he came 4th in MVP voting though.
Lynn didn't play for the Red Sox long, but his time spent in Boston was memorable. He was an all-star every season in Boston. Fans loved him but he was injury plagued and the team eventually moved on after 1980.
#39 Bill Lee, Boston Red Sox (1969-1976)
Bill Lee is probably the most interesting player to step on a pitchers mound. He was known as "Spaceman" for his wacky personality. He was a well-known marijuana user. He also spoke out against many team issues, baseball issues and general political issues.
That doesn't begin to scratch the surface on Bill "Spaceman" Lee though. He was a very good left handed pitcher that won 94 games and had an ERA of 3.64 in the seven seasons he spent with the Sox. It's even more impressive because for the first four years of his career he was primarily a relief pitcher.
Lee made two starts in the 1975 World Series including Game 5, where he threw five shutout innings before leaving with a blister.
He wasn't the greatest pitcher but he had a very respectable resume. What makes him so beloved in Boston is his personality and passion for the game.
#38 Wayne Cashman, Boston Bruins (1964-1965, 1967–1983)
Wayne Cashman was the Boston Bruins' captain from 1978-1983. His time spent as captain wasn't necessarily the most important part of his career though. He was a career Bruin and the captain label was more of a reward for what he had done before that.
He was the left wing of the line with Phil Esposito and Ken Hodge and was the "grinder" who battled for loose pucks in the corners. Cashman helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972.
His best season came in 1974, when he scored 30 goals and finished the season fourth in the league in points.
#37 Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics (2007-present)
Kevin Garnett is not on this list for his years of dedication to the Minnesota Timberwolves or his status as one of the greatest power forwards of all-time.
He helped to change the culture of Boston Celtics basketball. The Celtics went from a 24-win team to a championship team after Garnett's arrival. Granted, there were other pieces that needed to fall into place, but has there ever been a bigger one-year shift in the history of the NBA?
When KG was traded to the Celtics in 2007, they were one of the worst teams in the league. Quite frankly they were embarrassing to watch.
He would win Defensive Player of the Year for the Celtics that year and lead them to the NBA championship. Even to this day, Garnett is still the heart and soul of the team. A player with his intensity hasn't been seen in this city in years.
#36 Babe Ruth, Boston Red Sox (1914-1919)
You may be asking why Babe Ruth is so low on this list. He's one of the greatest hitters of all-time and is a baseball legend. He only spent six years with the Red Sox and he was a full-time pitcher in Boston, while he was just a part-time hitter.
Granted, he was a good hitter, but his .304 average with the Red Sox was nowhere near his career average of .342.
While he was with the Red Sox, as a pitcher, he helped them win two World Series titles. In the postseason, Ruth's ERA was 0.64. He had just three appearances in the postseason though.
The reason Ruth isn't higher on this list is because he dominated as a pitcher in the dead-ball era, where the game was tailored for pitching.
#35 Terry O'Reilly, Boston Bruins (1971-1985)
Terry O'Reilly wasn't necessarily the greatest in the world at anything. He was a very good player though. He did everything well and was one of the toughest players the game has ever seen. He was so tough, people called him "Bloody O'Reilly".
His offensive peak was in 1977-1978, when he potted 29 goals and scored 90 points.
O'Reilly was one of the great all-around players in Bruins history. He could score, check, fight, set up his teammates. He always protected his teammates. When the Bruins retired his number, Ray Bourque noted that the banner "hangs next to mine, protecting me again. That's awesome."
#34 Dwight Evans, Boston Red Sox (1972-1990)
If Dwight Evans weren't on this list what type of credibility would it have? He was never considered one of the game's greats but he had a very solid 20-year career, including 19 years with the Red Sox.
Why is Evans here? He was one of the toughest players in Sox history. As an eight-time gold glove award winner, he was also one of the greatest defensive players in Red Sox history. It could be argued that he was one of the greatest defensive players in baseball history.
Evans deserves a lot more appreciation than he gets. He was the mark of consistency in the 1980's. Between '80 and '89, Evans hit the most home runs (256) and had the most extra base hits in the AL. Evans also holds the honor of being the only player to hit at least twenty home runs every year of the 80's.
#33 Nomar Garciaparra, Boston Red Sox (1996-2003)
Nomar was everything that Red Sox fans love and adore. He was a shortstop who could hit for average, hit for power, play great defense and entertain.
Just to put into perspective how good Nomar was, he was considered one of the great shortstops in the game right up there with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, two future first ballot Hall of Famers.
Nomar hit over .300 every year that he played a full season with the Red Sox. That leads me to the sticking point about Nomar. At the end of his stay in Boston, injuries played too big of a role. Injuries eventually forced management to move him.
It was a move that strained the Nomar/Red Sox relationship for years. He ended up retiring with the Red Sox though after signing a one day contract and his legacy has finally been settled.
He is one of the great Red Sox of all-time and probably the biggest fan favorite ever. It's unfortunate he couldn't stay healthy, but it happens.
#32 Tom Heinsohn, Boston Celtics (1956-1965)
I won't lie, I was tempted to put Tom Heinsohn higher on this list. He was a very good player but honestly he was just that. He scored over 12,000 points in his career but he was one of the highest volume shooters ever. He gets a bit overrated by Boston fans because of his involvement with the team as a coach and broadcaster.
It's not fair to let those personal feelings get in the way though. Tom was one of the most important players for the Celtics during the dynasty years. He helped them win 8 titles and his most memorable performance came in Game 7 of the 1957 Finals. Heinsohn scored 37 points to lead the Celtics to victory.
He played with grittiness and intensity. Heinsohn was well respected by his teammates and for good reason.
#31 Wade Boggs, Boston Red Sox (1982-1992)
Wade Boggs is one of the greatest contact hitters of baseball's modern era. He never hit many home runs, although he did hit 24 in 1987, but that was almost a fourth of his 118 career dingers. He never had a defining moment. He was just a great hitter.
While he was with the Red Sox, Boggs hit .338 with a .428 on base percentage. Not only was a consistently great hitter, Boggs had incredible patience. He walked (1,004) over twice as much as he struck out (470).
Unfortunately, Boggs left the Sox for the evil empire, the Yankees. It left a bitter taste in the mouths of Sox fans. His individual greatness and consistency as a hitter has to be recognized though.
#30 Adam Vinatieri, New England Patriots (1996-2005)
Adam Vinatieri is one of the most clutch kickers in the history of the NFL. It would be weird to include a kicker on any "greatest" list, but Adam is the exception and always will be in Boston. He is the all-time scoring leader in New England Patriots history with 1,158.
Oh, and he helped win three Super Bowls for the Patriots with his strong, accurate leg.
The legend started in 2001 at the end of regulation in the "Snow Bowl" against the Raiders. He kicked a 45-yard field goal in the blizzard to tie the game 13-13. In overtime, he also kicked the game winner to send the Pats to the AFC championship game. They would make it to Super Bowl XXXVI that year and he would kick the Patriots to a 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams.
He did it again in Super Bowl XXXVIII as the Pats defeated the Carolina Panthers 32-29 on a Vinatieri kick as time expired. He remains the only kicker in NFL history to be the deciding factor in two Super Bowls.
#29 Dave Cowens, Boston Celtics (1970-1980)
While John Havlicek was the bridge between the Russell era and the 70's Celtics, it was Dave Cowens that bridged the gap between Russell and Bird.
Cowens is mostly remembered for his famous hustle play in Game 6 of the 1974 NBA Finals. The play is usually played in NBA Finals montages and is fairly famous. It's a testament to his playing style. Cowens never took a play off.
He was named the NBA MVP in 1973 and helped lead the Celtics to titles in 1974 and 1976.
Cowens was skilled in almost ever facet of the game. He is one of four players in NBA history to lead his team in all five major statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals (1977-1978). The other three are Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James.
#28 Tedy Bruschi, New England Patriots (1996-2008)
Tedy Bruschi was without question the backbone of the Patriots' defense during the dynasty years. Think about it. People came and went but one player was there through it all. He brought toughness, aggression and personality to the team.
Bruschi played in five Super Bowls with the Patriots and they were victorious in three of them. A lot of people forget that Tedy played on the Super Bowl team in 1996.
He wasn't just a gritty player though. Bruschi made things happen. He's returned four interceptions along with two forced fumbles and a blocked punt for touchdowns.
How could anybody forget his heroic return from the stroke in 2005?
Fans loved Bruschi and Bruschi showed that love back. He is without doubt one of the great players in Patriots history.
#27 Bill Sharman, Boston Celtics (1951-1961)
Bill Sharman made up one half of one of the greatest backcourts in NBA history along with Bob Cousy. He was one of the great shooters in NBA history.
It's too bad that the Celtics dynasty didn't really take off until after he retired. He won four titles with the Celtics and was a very good shooter. He is the only player in the history of the NBA to lead the league in free throw percentage seven times.
He was one of the first players to have a field goal percentage in the 40's and consistently did that.
Sharman was a four-time All-NBA player and in 1955 was named the MVP of the all-star game.
#26 David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (2003-present)
The one word that Red Sox fans will always associate with David Ortiz is "clutch".
How could you ever forget his performance in the 2004 ALCS? The Red Sox came back down 3-0 in the series and Ortiz practically carried the team on his back. It goes without mentioning that his walk-off home run in game 4 and walk-off single in game 5 were two of the most important hits in Boston Red Sox history.
Since joining the Red Sox in 2003, Ortiz has hit 285 on his career 343 home runs. He has redefined the designated hitter position since Edgar Martinez retired.
Ortiz is also a big-time fan favorite in Boston. Also known as "Big Papi", he has an extremely magnetic personality and that was never more evident than when he participated in (and won) this year's home run derby.
#25 Milt Schmidt, Boston Bruins (1936–1942, 1946–1955)
While Milt Schmidt's numbers may not jump out at you, the era of hockey that he played in is probably the reason for that. Schmidt led the league in scoring in 1940 with 52 points.
It was a forgotten era of hockey but Schmidt was one of the great players of the era. He helped guide the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 1939 and 1941.
Schmidt was part of the legendary Kraut line, which featured himself, Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart.
Had it not been for World War II, the Bruins likely would have won three or four more Cups. After returning from service in 1946, Schmidt returned to form. In 1951, he was the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP.
The Bruins wouldn't win another Stanley Cup but fans should always remember Schmidt for what he did for the Bruins on the ice and our country off it.
#24 Bobby Doerr, Boston Red Sox (1937-1951)
Before Dustin Pedroia's parents were born, there was another second baseman that held the hearts of the Boston faithful. That man was Bobby Doerr.
Doerr was one of the greatest second basemen of his era and was a nine-time all-star. As a long-time teammate of Ted Williams, Doerr earned a lot of praise from Teddy Ballgame.
Williams considered Bobby "the silent captain of the Red Sox".
Bobby Doerr is a hall-of-fame player but his numbers don't jump out at you. It was a different time though.
Unfortunately Doerr, much like Ted Williams, lacks any rings. That shouldn't keep him out of the discussion for the fifty greatest Boston athletes though. He has the distinct honor of being one of seven Red Sox to have their number retired.
#23 John Bucyk, Boston Bruins (1957-1978)
When the Bruins traded Terry Sawchuck to the Red Wings for John Bucyk, it would be one of the best trades they ever made. Believe it or not, given Sawchuck's status as an all-time great goaltender.
John Bucyk, also known as "Chief", was one of the great Bruins player of all-time. At the time of his retirement, he was the fourth highest scorer in NHL history.
Chief was the long-time captain for the Bruins and his mark of consistency helped him play in the NHL for 21 seasons. For years he held many of the Bruins records for seasons and games played.
#22 Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox (2001-2008)
Manny Ramirez is one of the greatest left fielders in Red Sox history and that's saying a lot considering Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice played the position. Manny brought power, fear, hard work and personality to the Red Sox.
His exit in Boston may not have been the most appealing of exits, but you can't discount what he did for the city.
Manny was the MVP of the 2004 World Series and helped to bring the first World Series title to Boston since 1918. He was also a key contributor to the 2007 World Series team.
#21 Andre Tippett, New England Patriots (1982-1993)
Andre Tippett is one of the best linebackers of the 1980's. Heck, he's one of the best linebackers ever. Tippett is a hall-of-famer that was a sack machine. He's always been appreciated as a Patriots great, but it wasn't until recently that he finally was given the credit he deserved nationally.
In 1984 and 1985, Tippett set the NFL record for sacks in a two season period with 35. As far as sacks are concerned, he ranks seventh all-time with 100. He averaged 0.662 sacks per game, which ranks fourth all-time.
Tippett is without question the greatest defensive player in New England Patriots history. He owns an unbelievable amount of team records and it is unlikely those marks will ever be broken.
#20 Robert Parish, Boston Celtics (1980-1994)
It says a lot about the 1980's Celtics that Robert Parish was the third option at best on those teams. He is a hall-of-fame player and during his time spent with the Celtics established himself as one of the best defensive centers ever.
Parish was very strong in the low-post on both sides of the ball. Parish was actually strong outside of the low-post as well. He had a very good high-arc jump shot and was a strong free throw shooter. He helped the Celtics win three titles in the 80's.
Parish came out on top a lot of the time when matched up with other top centers of the era. He was part of "The Big Three". While Larry Bird and Kevin McHale were the more premier players, Parish was no slouch; he was a nine time all-star.
#19 Eddie Shore, Boston Bruins (1926-1940)
There is not much on Eddie Shore other than first and second hand accounts. He played in an age where TV wasn't quite where it is today. Regardless, Eddie Shore is one of the best defencemen in NHL history.
Shore was the recipient of four Hart trophies, the most for a defencemen. He was known for his toughness and physical play. That helped make him a Bruins legend.
Not only was Shore a tough, gritty player, he was a winner. Shore led the Bruins to two Stanley Cups.
He is considered the greatest, most important pre-World War II player in NHL history.
#18 Cam Neely, Boston Bruins (1986-1996)
Cam Neely was one of the greatest power forwards in NHL history. He didn't have the longest career, mostly because of a cheap shot by Ulf Samuelsson in 1991 to his knee. It caused problems that would force Neely to retire early.
Neely was known for being the complete package. It wasn't rare that he would score a goal or two, get an assist and get in a fight in the same game. He was one of the most feared players in the league because he was willing to lay out big hits and back it up with his fists.
He was somewhat of a cult hero in Boston because of his reputation as a "big, bad Bruin". Fans loved the passion he played with.
Neely wasn't just a tough guy who could score though. He led the Bruins to the playoffs every season he was there. They probably would have won the Stanley Cup in 1991 if he wasn't injured. That year, in 49 games, he scored 50 goals. That is absolutely unheard of and the only players who have accomplished that feat are Mike Bossey, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Maurice Richard and Brett Hull.
#17 Jim Rice, Boston Red Sox (1974-1981)
Jim Rice, the most recent player to have his number retired by the Red Sox, was one of the most feared power hitters in the game between 1975 and 1986.
He didn't have outstanding career numbers, and the steroids era may have helped to get him into the Hall of Fame. Even though he didn't have the greatest numbers in the world, he was a very good hitter at a time when hitting wasn't exactly at it's peak.
Rice was never the biggest media favorite, but his most shining moment didn't involve hitting a home run or making a big catch.
In 1982, a fan was hit in the face with a line drive. While nobody else would do anything because they were in such shock, Rice was the first one to rush into the stands. He likely saved the boy's life.
He's always been a fan favorite in Boston and is actually a TV analyst for a local network.
#16 Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins (1967-1976)
Phil Esposito was one of the most exciting offensive forces in NHL history. Many would argue that he benefited from Bobby Orr's presence, but he did about as well as any player could do in his situation.
In 1969, Espo became the first player to score 100 points in a season when he scored 126. He would go on to score over 100 points in six of his eight plus seasons with the Bruins. Between 1970 and 1970, Espo scored 687 points. Considering he played 389 games in that stretch, that is absolutely unbelievable.
He led the league in goals for six straight seasons and led the league in points for five straight seasons.
A two-time Hart Trophy winner, Espo is one of the greatest players in Bruins history.
#15 Kevin McHale, Boston Celtics (1980-1993)
While he may be built like Frankenstein, Kevin McHale was far from that. He is one of the greatest offensive power forwards in NBA history. His low post moves are among the game's greatest and before he retired McHale was probably the best power forward ever.
In McHale's first four seasons, he played all 82 games. Interestingly enough, the end of his career was plagued by injuries and his presence on the court was a blessing for the Celtics.
He was the league's first "sixth man of the year" and for most of his career came off the bench backing up fellow hall of famers Larry Bird and Robert Parish. He was the perfect sixth man because he brought offensive energy in monstrous spurts.
At his peak, McHale averaged over 26 points per game. That was in '86-'87 when he started every game. His career average of 17.1 points per game doesn't really show how good he was. It was tainted by the injuries late in his career.
To put McHale's basketball skills into perspective, he's right up there with Duncan, Barkley, Garnett and other modern superstars. He was just always overshadowed by Larry Bird.
Boston fans will forever member McHale for his clothesline on Kurt Rambis, but his offensive prowess will forever define him as a player.
#14 Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox (1984-1996)
While Roger Clemens' career has been tainted by performance enhancing drugs, based on the evidence that has surfaced it is likely that he never actually used them while he was with the Red Sox. Many believe that he used them when he went to Toronto after a mediocre ending to his career in Boston.
Despite all of this controversy surrounding Clemens, he actually had a hall of fame career during his time spent in Boston. He may not have been a first ballot Hall of Fame because of the sample size, but it's impossible to ignore his dominance.
Clemens was a three time Cy Young winner and even won the MVP award in 1986. He also struck out 20 batters twice. He's the only player to ever accomplish this feat.
#13 Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics (1998-present)
The Boston Celtics have a lineup full of future hall-of-famers, such as Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. However, the last decade plus in Boston Celtics history will forever be defined by one man -- Paul Pierce.
He has been a Celtic for his entire career and has provided fans with unforgettable moments. It wasn't until he finally got help that he was able to get that championship ring he's been chasing since day 1. Pierce did win MVP of that Finals though. It isn't as if he had never carried the team on his back before.
In 2002, Pierce practically single-handedly carried the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. He also led the league in scoring that year (total points).
Pierce has already surpassed Larry Bird as the team's 2nd leading scorer and has been hailed as the greatest pure scorer in Celtics by various alumni such as Tom Heinsohn,
#12 Carlton Fisk, Boston Red Sox (1969-1980)
Carlton Fisk is one of the greatest catchers in baseball history. He is also one of the most durable catchers ever.
"Pudge", is a Hall of Famer but he likely wouldn't be this high on the list if it weren't for his home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. He waved fair the home run that would send the Red Sox to Game 7 against the "Big Red Machine", the Cincinnati Reds (as pictured above).
It's not fair to look at his lack of awards or his lack of World Series rings. He played in the same era as some of the greatest catchers ever, such as Johnny Bench of Cincinnati and Thurman Munson of the New York Yankees.
#11 Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox (1998-2004)
Pedro is probably the player with the least "service time" in Boston that is this high on the list. He was that dominant though. For his entire tenure in Boston, Pedro was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He was an undersized guy who could throw 98 MPH and had one of the most devastating changeups in the history of the game.
One could argue that Martinez's 1999 and 2000 were the two most dominant back-to-back seasons a pitcher has ever had. Especially when you consider that was the peak of the steroid era. He went 41-10 with a 1.90 ERA and 597 strikeouts in 430.1 innings pitched.
Martinez's 2000 is generally considered the best or second best statistical season in the modern era. Bob Gibson's 1968 season is what his 2000 season has generally been compared to.
It is without question that Martinez was the most dominant pitcher in Red Sox history. His postseason pedigree solidifies that argument. The better question is "Who was No. 2?".
#10 John Hannah, New England Patriots (1973-1985)
The most under-appreciated position in sports is the offensive lineman. John Hannah was one of the greatest of all-time at the position. At offensive guard, Hannah was a bruiser and was named to the All-Pro team ten times.
It is tough to statistically analyze offensive linemen. Hannah was so good that you didn't need stats to understand how dominant he was. He was named to the 1970's All-Decade team along with the 1980's All-Decade team. He's a Hall of Fame and spent his entire career with New England.
It's unfortunate that the Patriots didn't play in the Super Bowl until 1985, Hannah's last year. In his prime, he would have been able to combat that dominant Bears defense.
#9 Carl Yastrzemski, Boston Red Sox (1961-1983)
Carl Yastrzemski was never considered the greatest player of his era, but he is the mark of longevity and consistency in sports. Yaz spent 23 years with the Red Sox and no player had a long career with a single team. He shares the record with Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles.
Yaz is the last player in baseball history to hit for the triple crown (batting average, home runs and runs batted in). He collected 3,000 hits, 400 home runs and was seven gold gloves in left field. He was an all-around great player and is considered one of the greatest Red Sox players of all-time.
#8 John Havlicek, Boston Celtics (1962-1978)
As the Boston Celtics all-time leading scorer, John Havlicek, also known as Hondo, certainly has built quite a resume. Havlicek helped to transition the Celtics from the Bill Russell era into the 1970's. He is an eight-time champion and was part of one of the greatest plays in NBA playoffs history.
When fans think of the biggest steal in NBA history, they either think of Larry Bird or they think of John Havlicek. "Havlicek steals the ball!" by Johnny Most is one of the greatest calls in sports history. It wouldn't be possible though if John Havlicek didn't have the instinct to make that timely steal after Bill Russell turned the ball over.
Hondo will likely never be challenged as the Celtics all-time leading scorer at 26,395 points. Even Larry Bird and Paul Pierce are fairly far behind.
#7 Ray Bourque, Boston Bruins (1979-2000)
Ray Bourque is one of the greatest defencemen in NHL history; coincidentally he played for the same team as THE greatest defenceman in Bobby Orr. He didn't win a Stanley Cup until he was traded to the Colorado Avlanche, but Bourque's individual accomplishments are impossible to ignore.
Bourque is the NHL's all-time leader in points (1,579) and goals (410) for defencemen. Bourque won five Norris Trophies as the league's top defenceman. He played 21 seasons for the Bruins and is their longest-serving captain. Bourque's most shining moment as captain came on Phil Esposito's retirement night. Esposito wore the number seven. As did Ray. Ray did the courteous thing and changed his number to 77, as Esposito's number seven was retired and lifted to the rafters.
He epitomized what it means to be a Boston Bruin.
#6 Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics (1950-1963)
As the floor general of the Boston Celtics during the 1950's and 1960's, Cousy was the player that made the six NBA championship teams he was on "go." It was Bill Russell's team, but even Russell will tell you it was Cousy that made them great on the offensive end. He revolutionized the point guard position and was on the All-NBA team twelve times.
Bob Cousy is the only player in NBA history to be a member of the NBA 25th Anniversary Team, the NBA 35th Anniversary Team, and the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Cousy led the NBA in assists eight consecutive years and is generally regarded as the player most responsible for making passing and dribbling "cool". Cousy developed moves that seem routine today, but at the time were revolutionary.
Even though he may not be appreciated on a national level because of the era he played in, Cousy will always be regarded as one of the greatest Boston athletes of all-time. At the end of his farewell speech in the Boston Garden, you could hear a fan yell out, "We love ya, Cooz." It sent the Garden into a frenzy of cheers. It just goes to show you how much Celtics fans loved "Cooz".
#5 Tom Brady, New England Patriots (2000-present)
Tom Brady is in every sense of the word an underdog. Originally a sixth round draft pick, Brady wasn't expected to become much more than a backup at the pro level. Brady was a great college quarterback that didn't get an opportunity until he beat out Drew Henson for the starting job his junior year in 1998. He would start every game for the next two years and leave Michigan a winner after leading them to an overtime win in the Orange Bowl against Alabama. That performance would be a little sneak preview for what he would do at the NFL level.
Not only has Brady been a winner for the New England Patriots, he's been one of the greatest winners in NFL history. Brady to this day carries the greatest regular season and playoff winning percentages for a quarterback in NFL history.
With three Super Bowls (including two Super Bowl MVP awards) under his belt, Brady is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history with three or more Super Bowl titles. The other three are Joe Montana (4), Terry Bradshaw (4) and Troy Aikman (3).
Brady also holds the single-season record for touchdowns with 50, a mark he set in 2007, a year in which he was also named the league's MVP.
#4 Larry Bird, Boston Celtics (1979-1992)
When the Celtics drafted Larry Bird 6th overall in 1979, they knew they were getting something special. Bird was one of the most dominant college players and had a game that would translate well in the NBA. He was a big man that could shoot from long range and created mismatch problems. He was an excellent rebounder and an excellent passer. It's too bad (or is it?) that there were five other teams who looked passed so many good attributes just because Larry wasn't the most athletic player.
His lack of athleticism never held him back though. Bird was a three-time league MVP and a three-time NBA champion. The 1980's was arguably the most competitive era in NBA history and Larry Bird (along with Magic Johnson) was a standout. That says a lot about his abilities.
There has been controversy surrounding Larry Bird because he was such a great player and he's white. A lot of that controversy should have no place when discussing Bird on the basketball court. He did things that nobody could do and he was well-respected because he was great, not because he's white.
#3 Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox (1939–1942, 1946–1960)
Considered by many the greatest hitter of all-time, Ted Williams presents an interesting case to be considered the greatest athlete in Boston history. Williams is the last MLB player to hit .400 in a single season (.406) and holds the highest career batting average of any player with 500 or more home runs (.344).
Williams served in the military during World War II and those four years of absence from the game are likely the greatest aberration in the history of sports. Williams still put up all-time great numbers despite his time spent in the military. He hit 521 home runs and knocked in 1,839 runs.
There are a few things that hold Williams back. He was not the most popular athlete at the time because of his disdain for the media. He also never won a World Series championship. Granted, the Red Sox as an organization waited 86 years between 1918 and 2004 to win a World Series. Can you really fault Williams for their inability to field a championship team?
The lack of a ring is definitely the biggest road block for Williams. He's still arguably the greatest hitter ever though and retrospectively is a hero in Boston. In 1999, when the All-Star game was held in Boston, Williams was honored in one of the greatest pre-game ceremonies of all-time.
Williams died in 2002, but the legend lives on. Whether you know him as "The Kid", "Teddy Ballgame" or "The Splendid Splinter", Ted Williams should be considered the greatest player in Boston Red Sox history.
#2 Bill Russell, Boston Celtics (1956-1969)
Bill Russell will forever be known as the greatest winner in sports history. Russell won eleven championships and that is a mark that has never been matched by an individual player in the history of North American sports. The unquestioned leader of the Boston Celtics in the 1960's, Russell gained a reputation as the league's best defensive player.
Russell was the league MVP five times and was the best player on the best team ever. He never put up gaudy statistics on the offensive end, but he was so good on defense that he made his teammates better.
In a day and age where defense is finally being appreciated, many NBA fans consider Bill Russell a top ten talent. His greatness goes way beyond the statistics. Even without stats to back up their argument, fans still consider Russell the greatest defensive player ever. That has to say a lot about Russell as a player and as a champion.
#1 Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins (1966-1976)
Bobby Orr is the epitome of the Boston athlete. As the greatest defenseman in NHL history, Orr revolutionized the position. Not only was he incredible in his own zone, he was one of the greatest skaters and offensive forces of all-time. Orr holds nearly every offensive record for a defenseman in NHL history.
Orr was the recipient of the Norris Trophy eight consecutive times as the league's best defenseman. He is also the only defenseman to ever win the Art Ross trophy as the league's leading scorer, which he won twice.
His greatness lies much deeper than his individual accolades though. Orr was the epitome of a team player and that attitude helped to win the Boston Bruins two Stanley Cup titles at the end of the 1960's. Orr was honored as the league's MVP, the Hart Trophy, three consecutive times between 1970 and 1972.
Orr's greatest moment was "The Goal" on May 10, 1970 against the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup. Considered one of the greatest goals in NHL history, Orr's overtime goal won the Boston Bruins their first Stanley Cup since 1941.
Bobby Orr is generally regarded as one of the two or three greatest players in the history of hockey and is still well renowned in Boston. The Boston Bruins even built a statue of "The Goal", which can be seen outside of the TD Garden.