Best of the 2010s: Picking our favorite sports moments of the decade
Naming the best Boston sports moment of the decade is an impossible task.
With so many options to choose from, it's eye-opening just how fortunate New England has been over the last 10 years to witness countless unforgettable moments across all of its teams.
From Malcolm Butler's Super Bowl-winning interception to Koji Uehara closing out a World Series at Fenway Park, Boston sports has had a little bit of everything for everyone. As difficult as it is to narrow it down to one favorite moment, our NBC Sports Boston staff came up with a great variety of choices.
Here were their picks. . .
Malcolm Butler intercepting a Super Bowl.
I put it that way intentionally; that game was gone and everyone in New England could sense it. If not for that brilliant play, the Patriots would have developed a reputation as Super Bowl chokers.
They’d already lost on surreal plays in 2007 and 2011. They were a few yards away in 2014. For my money, Butler’s play is unquestionably the best one in Super Bowl history.
A. SHERROD BLAKELY
Isaiah Thomas’ career-high 53 points in Game 2 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Wizards was reason enough for this game to be memorable.
But for Thomas to score at such a prolific clip on what would have been his sister Chyna’s 23rd birthday — she was killed in a car accident the day before the playoffs began for the Celtics — was a performance for the ages that forever endeared him to Celtics fans.
There was just something about a screaming Zdeno Chara losing his balance as he raised the Cup.
I'll put Chara up against any of the Boston sports legends of the last 10 years.
Super Bowl LI with 2:28 to play and the Patriots down eight to the Falcons after falling behind 28-3. Brady from his own 36 fires down the center of the field and eventually hits Julian Edelman with the greatest catch I have ever seen.
Atlanta CB Robert Alford deflected the pass and JE11 took control of the ball no more than a half an inch from the turf. This play serves as the most accurate illustration of Edelman's career.
This guy never, ever stops trying to make a play.
I suspect a lot of responses in this category will focus on what happened after 6:30 p.m. — and that was indeed magical — but the Super Bowl LI appetizer was pretty darn tasty, too.
Paul Pierce, then with the Los Angeles Clippers, made his final visit to TD Garden that day. The Celtics celebrated him with a video tribute that left Pierce tearing up on the sideline.
But the best moment came in the final seconds with the fans basically begging Pierce to give them one last bucket. Isaiah Thomas backed off to give Pierce some space and the Truth nailed a 3-pointer with 11 seconds to play as the crowd lost its mind (even co-owner Steve Pagliuca was videotaping the moment with his phone from his courtside seat).
TOM E. CURRAN
The rules said “Boston sports-related” event so I’m forced to eliminate Tiger Woods winning the Masters last April. But I enjoyed that. I also liked Billy Cundiff’s missed field goal, Nathan Eovaldi’s 97 pitches, the Mona Lisa Vito press conference, Malcolm Butler’s pick or Julian Edelman’s catch.
But I’m going off the board and replacing favorite with surreal. In June of 2017, when I was doing the research to co-write Edelman’s memoir “Relentless,” his father Frank insisted I stay at the family’s home in Redwood City, California. He’s really not the kind of guy you can move off his spot once he makes a declaration, so that was that. And where did I sleep? Julian’s room. Julian’s bed.
That weekend with Frank, Edelman’s mother Angie, and his sister Nicole helped get me in the right mindset to write in Edelman’s voice. And I had a blast with Frank. But restful and restorative sleep for 49-year-old me while sleeping in the bed Julian Edelman used in high school? Elusive. It was not a place I thought I’d be when the decade began.
I didn't even see my favorite moment until I got home, but I'll never forget the sound of it.
When Jayson Tatum dunked on LeBron in Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, I was in the auxiliary press box directly behind the Cleveland basket. With fans on their feet, I couldn't see a thing.
But the collective "WHOAAA!!!" that rocked the Garden when Tatum rocked The King is something I'll never forget. It signified everything we loved about that overachieving, defiant, why-not-us? team in one rim-rattling, ear-piercing moment.
Malcolm Butler's interception has to stand out as among the greatest singular moments in New England sports history, never mind this decade. But the reason that play is my choice here is because it's still hard to fathom just how unlikely it was that Butler was there in that moment to begin with.
Ran a 4.6-second 40 at the Alabama pro day, coming out of Division 2 West Alabama. Pegged by a Patriots scout as looking faster than that. Tried out with the Patriots. Signed. Made plays through training camp. Made the roster. But . . . was a complete non-factor for most of that season. He didn't play between Week 4 and Week 8. He sat another stretch between Week 9 and Week 15.
He was such a microscopic piece to the overall success of the team that he never avoided the locker room when media were present. Didn't matter to him. No one ever wanted to talk to him anyway. On days when it was otherwise barren in there, I'd strike up conversations with him. We'd talk about how he was adjusting to the weather, West Alabama, how his diet before going pro consisted primarily of McDonald's, and how much had changed for him in the previous six months.
To see him get the nod to play more in the Super Bowl once the team had removed Kyle Arrington, to see him make the play that won them a championship, to see him sit at a podium after the fact — swarmed by reporters for the first time — was one of the truly unbelievable moments I've covered.
There are so many to choose from in a great sports town like Boston, but for me it’s got to be standing on the ice in Vancouver following the Bruins winning the Cup in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
I interviewed jubilant winners on the ice, saw Bruins players celebrating with their families like the Boychuk brothers (and their dad) hugging, laughing, crying and chugging in one corner of the dressing room, watched Shawn Thornton smoke a cigar and tell Felger to “suck it” on camera and witnessed Patrice Bergeron lying on the ground in exhaustion after giving absolutely everything he had on the ice to make sure the B’s won that game.
When Des Linden crossed the finish line at the 2018 Boston Marathon, she wasn’t the fastest woman to ever win the race, but she was the toughest.
It’s no secret I love distance running (just ask Gary Tanguay!) and even I didn’t have FOMO that year. A nasty Nor'easter was tearing through New England that brought pounding rain, freezing temperatures, and wind gusts that could easily knock over a 97-pound marathoner.
Instead, the diminutive but relentless Linden — who stopped to wait for fellow U.S. runner Shalane Flanagan earlier in the race! — crossed the finish line as the first American woman to win the prestigious Boston Marathon since Lisa Larsen Weidenback did so in 1985. I still get tears in my eyes thinking back on the incredible moment.
My favorite sports moment of the last decade is the Celtics' hiring of Brad Stevens. It came completely out of nowhere.
No one knew Brad could be lured away from Butler off of his incredible runs to the Final Four. And it was kept completely quiet until the news was official. I remember being at a bar for happy hour, seeing the news alert, not believing it and being completely blown away by the Celtics' savvy. It marks the jumping-off point for this current era of the storied franchise: one filled with optimism, hard work, and strong culture (2018-19 was the exception).
It also sparked a movement of other NBA teams hoping to find their own “Brad Stevens,” scouring the college ranks and bringing that transition back in vogue. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, Brad is clearly one of a kind.
Having only worked in Boston for a short time, my favorite moment of the decade is recent history, but special nonetheless for several reasons. Watching and covering the Red Sox 2018 World Series season is something I’ll never forget. It was the first title run I’d experienced in this city, and it didn’t take long. It was only five months after I began working at NBC Sports Boston that they won it all. And they did so for the ninth time in the organization's history and on the day after I got married: October 28, 2018.
Boston was the better team going in (sorry, Dodgers fans) but for many of us it wasn’t a question of if — but when. That entire season was magic. From a rookie manager who flawlessly executed nearly all year, to Mookie’s AL MVP season, and 108 wins, it was special. And the cherry on top was experiencing my first duck boat parade. The city showed out for the fourth Red Sox parade in the past 15 seasons and I really started to understand what makes this city the most special sports town on Earth.
The sense of community and pride was felt by everyone in town and it was special to be a part of it. I can still hear Michael Holley in my mind saying “My man, Markus Lynn Bettsssssssss!” He loves that guy. That 2018 World Series team was an easy one to love.