We’ve learned a lot about winning here over the last 20 years – or at least we think we have. But in the wake of Bill Russell’s passing, maybe there is a far simpler explanation for why Boston has won so much in the past and the present.
Singular, individual greatness.
The Celtics have 17 championships, after all, but maybe we’ve missed the point: eleven of those came during Bill Russell’s tenure as a player and coach. And of Boston’s 12 championships in the last 20 years or so, let’s remember that 10 of those came from the Patriots (six) and Red Sox (four). Of those 10, nine were effectively built around center pieces Tom Brady and David Ortiz.
Get the picture? The Chicago Bulls won when they had Michael Jordan. The Edmonton Oilers built their empire around Wayne Gretzky. The Yankees won 16 of their World Series when they had either Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio.
So here’s a question: if Russell, Brady and Ortiz (in that order) are the greatest winners in Boston sports history, who are Nos. 4 and 5?
1. Bill Russell
<> on February 15, 2011 in Washington, DC.
2. Tom Brady
FOXBORO, MA – JANUARY 18: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots calls out a signal before a play against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game on January 18, 2004 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
3. David Ortiz
BOSTON, MA – JULY 26: Former Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz is honored at Fenway Park following his weekend induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, prior to the game against the Cleveland Guardians on July 26, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)