With the Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals starting this week, this is a good opportunity to discuss the top championship teams in a historical context. I’m not even going to get started on some of the things we’re hearing this week about Lebron James being compared to Michael Jordan. It amazes me that people actually forget just how good Jordan was. He’s hands down the best athlete we’ve seen in the past 35 years. Lebron is not in the same league. Here’s where I need to focus on tonight’s post and not a start Lebron rant. This post will focus on the ten best Boston Championship Teams since 1980. There have been twelve championships since 1980 which means two championship teams are left off of this list. I expect there to be some disagreements and debates on these rankings. Please keep in mind that these are opinions on the best teams. It’s not a list of which championships were the most important or most gratifying. These lists would be different. Here are my rankings.
Missing The Cut
2013 Boston Red Sox
This was a great team, but they’re not making the Titletown Ten. If you’ve watched this team three of the past four years, you’ll understand why. Having said that, what a season and a fun ride.
2001-2002 New England Patriots
I can feel the anger coming my way. Again, this is not a list of most important or gratifying championships. In ranking the four Patriots championship teams, this team is clearly fourth. This is not to take anything away from the impact this team had on Boston. There was a fifteen year span between championships in the city and this was needed.
The Titletown Ten
#10. 1980-1981 Boston Celtics
This team often gets forgotten in historical context. This was Larry Bird’s second season and he was not in full domination mode yet. We’ll get to that later. This team finished 62-20. They had a very strong core with Bird, Robert Parish, Cedric Maxwell, Kevin McHale, and “Tiny” Archibald leading the way. One of the reasons they’re forgotten is that they beat a Rockets team in the Finals that actually finished below .500 in the regular season. However, the Eastern Conference Finals win over Philadelphia was possibly the greatest non-Finals series win in the Bird-era. Bird vs. Dr. J was the best rivalry in the NBA at this point. Two championship teams slugged it out knowing the winner was going to be the champion. The Celtics prevailed and started a trend of greatness for years to come.
#9. 2010-2011 Boston Bruins
This team does not stand out as an overly dominant team, but that doesn’t change their greatness. This is one of the best team efforts in the history of Boston sports. Every player knew his role and played within the system. Tim Thomas dominated in goal and had one of the best overall seasons of any goaltender of all time. David Krejci raised his game to another level and led the NHL in playoff scoring with 23 points. What’s most memorable about this team was it’s ability to handle adversity. There were three Game 7 wins including winning the Stanley Cup over favored Vancouver after being down 2-0.
#8. 2014-2015 New England Patriots
Being fresh in our minds, many people will think this team should be higher. The Patriots finished with a 12-4 record. Darrelle Revis was a game changer and changed the entire dynamic of the Patriots defense by taking away an entire side of the field for the opposing quarterback. The Pats were down 14 twice to the Ravens in the divisional round. The comeback was historic and memorable. We’ll save the story for the next game for another post. I won’t bring up the D-word here! The Super Bowl win over Seattle could be argued as the best ending to a NFL game in history. Malcolm Butler! Brady’s second half performance was incredible and put him in elite company.
#7. 2007 Boston Red Sox
Similar to the 1981 Celtics team, this team gets forgotten at times. They weren’t as flashy as the 2004 and 2013 Sox, but they actually had the most wins in MLB with 96. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez led the way offensively. No one wanted to face those two guys at that point in their careers. In the playoffs, they dominated with the exception of being down 3-1 against Cleveland in the ALCS. They came back to win the series on the backs of JD Drew and Dustin Pedroia in Games 6 and 7. Remember the grand slam that made Drew worth every penny?! Josh Beckett was dominant in the regular season and even more so in the playoffs. In four postseason starts, he gave up a total of four earned runs and had a 4-0 record.
#6. 2007-2008 Boston Celtics
The fact that this actually happened is still amazing in itself. We were all waiting for ping pong balls to go the Celtics way and, of course, it’s didn’t happen just like it didn’t with Tim Duncan. Another last place finish… Danny Ainge pulled off a miracle by trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen making the Celtics the best team in the NBA. Paul Pierce carried the team in the playoffs which included outplaying both Lebron and Kobe Bryant in the playoffs that year. You can look at stats and debate this, but this wasn’t about stats. When the game was on the line, Pierce was the best player on the floor that year. Like KG said, “anything is possible!”
#5. 2003-2004 New England Patriots
This was one of the two years the Patriots completely dominated the league. Their defense was first in the NFL, allowing just 14.9 points per game. This team was nasty on defense. They hit teams hard and no one wanted to go over the middle with Rodney Harrison waiting back there. The offense was very balanced and came up big several times at the end of games. They finished 14-2 and pretty much coasted in the playoffs. Brady really came into his own and began his legacy of being a big game player who was clutch at the end of games. His performance in the Super Bowl against Carolina was one the best big games of his career.
#4. 1983-1984 Boston Celtics
Let’s start with this: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and Dennis Johnson all in their primes. This where Bird began to separate himself from the other elite players in the league and fully dominated the league for three years. You can match up these three years with any player of all time and Bird would win. If the game was on the line, it was close to automatic. He was the MVP of the league both in the regular season and the playoffs. In an epic NBA Finals against a Lakers Team that was equally as talented, the Celtics prevailed in seven games. These two teams are arguably both in the top five in league history from a dynasty rankings standpoint which made this championship quite an accomplishment.
#3. 2004 Boston Red Sox
This was the championship that would top the list for many of us in terms of gratification and need. They were a fun group to watch and they were equally as good. They had strong pitching led by Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez with a dominant lineup. There was not an easy out and that even included Mark Bellhorn. This team was special and also was extremely talented. There were all stars all over the field. They didn’t win the division which may make some people shy away from putting them this high. In my opinion, they belong here because of how talented the team was top to bottom. The 2004 comeback against the Yankees couldn’t have even happened in any of our wildest dreams. Ortiz put the team on his shoulders and carried them to the World Series. 86 years and the title was finally in Boston!
#2. 2004-2005 New England Patriots
The defending champs had a 14-2 record and cruised through the playoffs. This was one of the two teams on this list that you just knew was going to win. There really wasn’t a time where we thought there was a real threat because the Patriots were just that good any everyone else knew it. Brady was dominant. The defense was once again elite at #2 in the league. This was where the Brady-Manning rivalry really started to heat up and the Patriots D just said “no” by allowing the Colts to score three points in the divisional playoff game. The Super Bowl against the Eagles was close enough by score, but there was never really any doubt. This was a truely dominant season.
#1. 1985-1986 Boston Celtics
In my opinion, this team is the best we’ve seen in the past 35 years. In addition to the “Big Three”, they added Bill Walton as a sixth man and Danny Ainge really came into his own making the starting lineup impossible to stop. This team had six players who were legitimate All Stars at various points in their careers. In other words, there were five elite players on the floor at all times. These were not individual contributors. This wasn’t Lebron-ball where a guy gets the ball and puts his head down into the lane hoping for a foul. Five players were looking for the open man. There were four or five passes until an easy shot came out of it. And if that isn’t working, Bird got the ball and took over. Looking to foul someone? Good luck. These guys could actually shoot. Bird was again the MVP, but it was at a different level this time. He was at his absolute peak along with McHale and Parish. The regular season was easy. They had a 67-15 record and it could have been better if they didn’t get bored. Bird actually played a game shooting left-handed just for fun. The playoffs were even easier. They breezed through the Finals and beat the Rockets 4-2. Do you want to talk about dominance? How about a combined 50-1 record at home for the regular season and playoffs? Case closed!
Great memories! As always, I look forward to feedback!