Although the days of Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Bobby Orr and Ted Williams are well over in Boston, Beantown currently has a plethora of superstars who have achieved "celebrity status" not just within the community, but around their respective leagues.
I have compiled a list of the most popular professional athletes currently playing in Boston based on the hype that surrounds them on the court/field/ice as well as off.
Each member of the top ten has his own slide with a picture/video.
Here are the notable mentions in no particular order:
Kevin Garnett (Celtics) - After Danny Ainge pulled the trigger to acquire KG, his jersey was immediately tops in sales in the league. Now, with more than three seasons with the C's under his belt, the hype surrounding the one-time MVP has gradually worn away along with his knees.
David Ortiz (Red Sox) - Ortiz will still get you 30 home runs and quite the reaction in Boston, but people are just getting bored with him. He is still a beloved hitter, however with the offseason additions combined with Ellsbury, Pedroia and Youkilis, Ortiz will be lucky if he sees the sixth spot in the lineup this season.
Ray Allen (Celtics) - It's no doubt that Allen will go down in history as one of the greatest 3-point shooters the NBA has ever seen. Unfortunately, he is on a team with 5 possible Hall of Famers and gets overlooked the majority of the time. If this list ranked top players in crunch time however, Allen would be right at the top.
Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox) - Just two years removed from his remarkable MVP season, Pedroia missed half the year with a broken foot and was a primary reason for the Red Sox depletion at the end of the season. Local fans didn't pay much attention to him nor to the rest the team at the end of the 2010 season, thus the Crawford/A-Gon singings.
The Bruins offense- Unfortunately for hockey fans, the B's come fourth in Boston sports when it comes to hype and media attention. They have no true superstars on offense and the recent storylines surrounding them seem to be focused on their present and future plans in net.
Clay Buchholtz (Red Sox) - Buchholtz has emerged as the second best pitcher on the staff of a team that seems to be going in an offensive direction. The pitching is pretty much there for the Sox, but the hitting is arguably the best in baseball. This list only has room for one Sox ace.
Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox) - The "Youk" chants will never get old in Boston, but if Youkilis re-injurs himself this season, fans will start to get frustrated and pray that a repeat of 2010 is not in store.
Sorry B's fans, this is all you are going to get.
Thomas is tops in the league in both major saves categories and has truly had a bounce back year after a somewhat disappointing '09/'10 season. His stellar play in net is taking playing time away from up-and- comer Tuukka Rask and has been the groundwork for a great goaltending debate in Boston.
Captains on defense, Pro-Bowlers, stars in the league and in the Boston community.
Lester has become the ace of the Red Sox staff and one of the most popular pitchers around the league. Whether it was his no-hitter, his 19 wins last season or his heroic battle to beat cancer, Lester has truly won the hearts of Sox fans around the world.
The Red Sox were in dire need to make some adjustments at the end of the 2010 season. The answers to their prayers—Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Each superstar has found success throughout his career and it would be unfair to rank one above the other. Each possesses so many qualities that the Sox were looking for and the additions will finally get "Red Sox Nation" rumbling once again come Spring Training.
Whether you want to call this guy a running back or a wide receiver, Woodhead has been truly amazing in his short time with the Patriots. Aside from his incredible numbers and the fact that New England stole him from the Jets, his size makes him so relatable to the common man. He is such a humble young man and athlete and rarely goes out of his way to draw attention, however their is such an immense hype and reaction for him that just comes naturally because of what he has accomplished.
Wes Welker has consistently been the top receiver in New England and like Woodhead, has drawn so much attention because of his size. His lightning speed and consistent production catching passes and returning punts have truly made him a fan-favorite all throughout the New England region.
Shaq has made an immediate impact both on the court and off since arriving to Boston. He obviously is not the player he once was but is still playing an enormous role on a first place squad that is without Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O'neal. He has made his presence known around the community and has been spotted in public on countless occasions. His hilarious off-court antics have won the hearts of many New Englanders who don't even follow the Celtics. His most notable moment thus far had to be his "Shaqita" costume this past Halloween.
Rondo has emerged as one of the top point guards in the league and has the assist numbers to prove it. He is the only current Celtics starter who is not a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame but he has become the leader of a team full of superstars. Many members of the Boston media along with fans are already comparing Rondo's dribbling and passing abilities to those of Celtic great, Bob Cousy.
Paul Pierce has been the face of the Boston Celtics through good times and bad and is currently the captain of what some might say is the deepest Celtics team in years. "The Truth" has delivered time and time again for the C's and is making his way up the ranks in Celtics scoring history. He is truly a leader on and off the court and is simply the player Boston fans associate with the color green.
This is a no-brainer. Tom Brady is the New England Patriots and has been the biggest name in Boston sports for years. He has won Super Bowls, Pro Bowls, MVPs and most importantly, has brought fans to Gillette Stadium over the past decade. He has completely turned one of the worst franchises historically in NFL history into one of the greatest dynasties professional sports has ever seen. And for that Tom Brady, New Englanders Thank You!