John Tomase

Where does this Celtics title rank among best Boston championships?

There are 13 titles to choose from in the 21st century alone...

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There are five-year-olds who had only experienced TWO Boston championships before the Celtics restored order to the sporting universe on Monday night. Thank god that nightmare is over.

The C's delivered the region's 13th title this century with their demolition of the Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals, and only in Boston do we get to undertake the appropriately self-absorbed exercise of ranking them all. This is my third iteration of this column following stops at the Herald and WEEI.

Imagine what they think of us in Minnesota, where no one has won anything since the 1991 Twins? Or Phoenix, where the Diamondbacks gave the city its last championship in 2001? Or even New York, where it's been nothing but heartbreak since Eli Manning and the 2011 Giants vanquished the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI?

We get to sniff, "That championship doesn't really move the needle for me," like some kind of entitled socialite. "They hate us 'cuz they ain't us," goes the saying, but maybe they hate us because we're hateable. In any event, we've busted curses, surmounted scandals, and proven that anything's posssssibbbbblllllle. You cannot tell the story of sports in America over the last 25 years without the Hub of the Universe.

So now to the matter at hand – where does this latest championship rank?

Seven years in the making, it might be the most purely satisfying, given all that went into attaining it. We watched Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum grow every step of the way, but there's a difference between satisfying and electrifying. So let's take a stab at this with the understanding that our perspective will shift in the coming years – when maybe we'll be trying to rank Banners 19 and 20, too.

1. 2004 Red Sox

It's hard to imagine anyone or anything unseating '04 as long as anyone who experienced it is still living.

The Red Sox hadn't won it all in 86 years. Just months after being Aaron Boone'd, they trailed the Yankees 3-0 in the American League Championship Series. Then came Dave Roberts' fearless steal, Big Papi's walkoff heroics, the Bloody Sock, Johnny Damon going deep, and a march to history.

No championship in any city in any sport meant more than this one. People celebrated at tombstones to honor the generations watching from heaven. It will never be topped.

2. 2001 Patriots

The title that started it all was easily the least expected of the baker's dozen.

The Patriots were coming off a five-win season in Bill Belichick's debut, and it took the Tuck Rule and a couple of iron-willed kicks from Adam Vinatieri just to escape the Raiders in the divisional round. The defense, special teams, and Drew Bledsoe led the Pats past the Steelers, and then came one of the great defensive game plans ever, silencing St. Louis's Greatest Show on Turf.

It may be hard to remember now, but until Vinatieri's game-winning field goal split the uprights, we were Loserville. The 2001 Pats changed that, always and forever.

3. 2016 Patriots

Patriots fans never wanted a championship more.

What felt like a league-sponsored assault on Tom Brady's character rallied the entire region. He overcame the indignity of a four-game Deflategate suspension, the Pats survived with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, and they capped it off with the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history vs. the Falcons.

When Brady held the trophy aloft after 28-3 and announced, "We're bringing this sucker home," the electricity crackled from Houston to Boston. From start to finish, this was a season fueled first by anger, and then defiance, and finally redemption.

4. 2008 Celtics

Only with time can we truly appreciate what Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen accomplished basically on the fly. The Celtics felt like Boston's most helpless franchise for most of the '90s and 2000s until the New Big Three arrived and immediately jelled to raise Banner 17.

They won 66 games during the regular season, vanquished LeBron James in the playoffs, and then capped it by dominating Kobe Bryant's Lakers in the Finals. Their 39-point demolition in Game 6 remains the standard for title blowouts.

As the green and white confetti rained, Garnett screamed that anything was possible, which Tatum would echo 16 years later to the day. The Celtics had been restored to glory.

Highlights from Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals as the Boston Celtics blowout the Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden to win their 17th NBA title.

5. 2013 Red Sox

No one saw this one coming, either. Fresh off the Bobby V. Era and hoping to build a bridge to respectability with stopgap veterans, the Red Sox instead dominated the American League from start to finish.

They were never seriously challenged in the playoffs, at least not once David Ortiz sent Torii Hunter tumbling in the ALCS. Ortiz then hit .688 in a one-man-wrecking-crew of a World Series vs. the Cardinals.

This one assumes added resonance because of the Marathon bombings, Boston Strong, and the team's impact on New England. A special team during a tragic time.

6. 2014 Patriots

Before DEFLATEGATE, the scandal that consumed us for the better part of two years, there was Deflategate, the annoying eczema chafing the Patriots before Super Bowl 49 against the Seahawks. These were innocent times, when only scientists, Physics 101 students, and maybe Mona Lisa Vito could recite the Ideal Gas Law.

Patriots fans used the burgeoning scandal as motivation, and then Brady ended a 10-year title drought with the (previous) biggest comeback in Super Bowl history by erasing a 10-point deficit before Malcolm Butler sealed it with his stunning goal-line interception.

We didn't think it could possibly get better. We were wrong.

7. 2024 Celtics

It will be fascinating to see where this ranks in the coming years. It could rise as we fondly recall the start of the Brown-Tatum dynasty, or it could be a one-off. The team itself was so good that no one ever seriously challenged it, either in the East (64-18) or postseason (16-3).

What makes this one special is all the work it took to get here. The Celtics knocked, knocked, and knocked before finally kicking the door in, and it's not their fault no one could hang with their deep assemblage of talent.

If anything holds them back, it's that they were almost too good – the playoffs felt like a formality from the start, and the Celtics made sure they stayed that way.

A complete look back at the highlights of the Boston Celtics 2024 playoff run to win their 18th NBA title

8. 2018 Red Sox

Along those lines, the Red Sox dominated from start to finish, opening 17-2 and finishing 11-3. It's hard to believe they were this good only six years ago before making a concerted effort to become irrelevant.

Back then, we had Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Nathan Eovaldi, and even the postseason heroics of David Price. We've seen teams in similar positions, like the 116-win 2001 Seattle Mariners, fold under lofty postseason expectations, but the Red Sox found another gear.

They dispatched the 100-win Yankees, 103-win Astros, and defending NL pennant-winning Dodgers in what should've been the hardest road any local champion traversed en route to a title. The Red Sox simply made it look easy.

9. 2011 Bruins

The Bruins decided they deserved a piece of the fun, too, riding goalie Tim Thomas to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. They did so with a memorable resilience, winning three overtime games against the Canadiens to escape the first round -- including the decisive Game 7 on a Nathan Horton blast -- and then rallying from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 in the Finals to dispatch the Canucks.

Boston hadn't hoisted the Cup since the days of Espo and Orr, and though its success would prove fleeting, no one can ever take away 2011.

10. 2003 Patriots

In any other city, this would be a signature title.

The season started with Tom Jackson's memorable assertion that Patriots players hated coach Bill Belichick after Lawyer Milloy's surprise release. It ended with the Pats taking an underrated classic of a Super Bowl from the Panthers, who turned a defensive battle into a shootout before Vinatieri delivered his second title-winning kick in three seasons.

11. 2004 Patriots

On the list of greatest Patriots teams, this one belongs at the top.

The Pats could score (27.3 ppg, fourth in the NFL) and they could defend (16.3 ppg, second). They went 7-1 against teams with winning records. They were a machine, riding Corey Dillon's 1,635 yards and 12 touchdowns to the postseason, where they barely broke a sweat en route to their third Super Bowl. They beat the Eagles 24-21 for the championship, but the game was never in doubt.

12. 2007 Red Sox

If you're sensing a trend at the bottom of this list, it's teams that were simply too good. The Red Sox assumed first place on April 18 and stayed there for the final 150 games of a season that mostly lacked drama.

The notable exception came in the ALCS when the Indians opened a 3-1 lead, but J.D. Drew's grand slam and the dominance of series MVP Josh Beckett propelled the Red Sox to the World Series, where they swept the Rockies.

13. 2018 Patriots

Someone must come in last, and it's this most dreary of our Super Bowls. We could sense that Brady already had one foot out the door, and the entire season played out as a Last Dance. The Pats started 1-2, blew their chance at homefield advantage on a ridiculous walk-off loss to Kenyan Drake and the Dolphins, and then barely held off the Chiefs in overtime of the AFC Championship.

In a nice bit of symmetry, the final Super Bowl of the Tom Brady Era came against the team that started it, though whereas the first game became an instant classic, this 13-3 victory might be the least-entertaining Super Bowl ever played. A win's a win a win, but the preceding 12 on this list were better.

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