10 biggest Boston sports stories of 2022


It was not long ago that top 10 lists in Boston sports were all about parades, championship games and significantly positive moments. Oh, but how just a couple years and a few generational player departures can change things. Now, it seems we remember frustration and failure more than titles and triumph. The debates in Boston sports now center more around disappointment and disasters than duck boats and dynasties. And for the record, it’s been almost four years since the winningest city of the 21st century’s last title. We admire your strength at this time.

2022 could have gone better for all the area pro teams, though things are certainly looking up for several franchises, or at least those that play their home games at TD Garden, at year’s close. But the stories that we’ll remember, the moments we’ll look back on as the most memorable, the most unforgettable, were largely ones we would like to forget. Perhaps years like this are penance for just how good we had it for so long.

10. Tom Brady 'retires,' doesn't thank Patriots

Leave it to Boston to make the retirement of the greatest football player of all-time, and arguably the greatest athlete in the history of Boston sports, about Boston. Though rumors had been swirling for days and weeks that the GOAT was ready to call it a career, nobody was ready to believe it. Yet just days after getting bumped from the NFC playoffs in the Divisional Round by the LA Rams, Tom Brady announced his retirement from the NFL after 22 incredible seasons. Well, Adam Schefter kinda spoiled the retirement on a Saturday, but Brady confirmed it with a lengthy love letter on Instagram the following Monday. A love letter that didn’t mention the New England Patriots, Pats fans, the Kraft family or anything tied to his former franchise once. And Pats Nation wasn’t happy at all. There were even stories there was displeasure within Gillette Stadium over the snub. Not a great look for someone who spent two years with one team, and 20 with the previous one. Six rings to one, Tommy.

A few hours later, after the initial note, Brady mentioned the Patriots in his Instagram stories, an acknowledgment of the dissent within the fanbase that worshipped his every move for two decades and still largely remained loyal to him out of town. Ultimately it was all for not as Brady’s retirement was like most deficits he’s faced: short lived. He was retired for all of 41 days. Whether he retired in a power play move to move on from Tampa to Miami, or to get his way with the Tampa roster, or because his now ex-wife wanted him to for family considerations, we'll never know. But possibly witnessing the end of the greatest football career ever (which Brady likely would agree should have been the end seeing how his 2022 has gone), and feeling jilted at the altar in the process? Quite the narrative in an area now and forever obsessed with football and its hero’s antics.

9. David Ortiz in a Hall of Fame class by himself

Acknowledging the immortal status of the most clutch player in Red Sox history is one thing. Saluting the induction of only the second designated hitter to get the call to the hall in Cooperstown is also a big deal. Seeing Big Papi, who faced accusations of performance enhancing product use during his career, be the only player to make the Baseball Hall of Fame in the Class of 2022 when players of A-Rod, Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds’ accomplishment were also ballot eligible? Says a lot about what David Ortiz meant to the league, the team, the city and more. Who knows if those players will ever join Ortiz in Cooperstown, but one thing’s for sure; the decade and a half Ortiz wore the Red Sox uniform were unforgettable, in victory and defeat. His clutch was almost always available and his personality and leadership magnetic. He delivered time and again when it mattered most, joining the greatest Red Sox player and Boston sports Mt. Rushmore conversation in the process. Plus who could forget the shirt he wore when he got the call? That alone deserved top 10 consideration.

8. Bruins fire Bruce Cassidy

Look what you get for winning and making the playoffs every season you’re at the helm in Boston: a kick to the curb. Hey, this is the new Titletown! Sports are a results-oriented business and Boston is a championship driven city. Sadly, Bruce Cassidy, who was liked regionally by most fans and media, seemed not to have been liked as much by his players, a bit too gruff, critical and "old school" for some of the modern and more sensitive players. Seems they may have grown tired of the intensity of his ways, and that happens sometimes, coaches getting tuned out after their hardcore ways help turn things around at first. Cassidy, whose record with the Bruins was pretty impressive, was not unemployed for long, as the Vegas Golden Knights scooped him up to be head coach shortly after dismissal. And if we’re looking to make lemonade out of unexpected lemons, the unexpected hiring of Jim Montgomery as coach of the Bruins has seemed to work out, with his team currently on pace to break the NHL's single-season points record. Still, if there’s one place a coach shouldn’t get complacent even in the face of statistical success? It’s the head coaching position of the Boston Bruins. Just ask Bruce Cassidy.

7. Patriots blown out in Buffalo

After failing to make the Buffalo Bills punt a just a few weeks prior in a disappointing 33-21 regular season loss the day after Christmas at Gillette Stadium, the New England Patriots followed that frustrating loss with one of the most unwatchable defeats in franchise history in Buffalo in the Super Wild Card round, 47-17. And the funny thing is the game wasn’t even that close! It was the worst defeat in the Bill Belichick era and the most lopsided defeat in NFL playoff history. Fans were supposed to be happy that the Patriots made it back to the playoffs just two years after Tom Brady left town. Instead, fans were embarrassed to watch a team once known for dominating the Bills, let alone the playoffs, be decimated on national TV. Fans tuned the game out before its conclusion, a non-competitive affair that saw Buffalo troll New England in every way imaginable.

Afterward, the discussion immediately turned to how Bill Belichick and his players would turn that defeat into a motivating rallying cry to strike back and avenge the defeat this season. Instead, they’ve regressed offensively (more on that later), lost to Buffalo again, are fighting to make the playoffs and may have to attempt to beat those same Bills on the season’s last day to make the postseason. Not great.

6. Celtics beat Heat, advance to NBA Finals

Finally! The J & J Celtics, long conference bridesmaids but never invitees to the big dance, slay the dragon of not being able to make it past the Eastern Conference Finals and punch their ticket to the NBA Finals in a thrilling Game 7 in Miami against the Heat. A game that quite literally came down to the last seconds when a Jimmy Butler missed three gave the C’s the win. I’m certain many can remember where they were and how far their stomach sank when Butler launched that shot.

The Celtics traveled a tough road to get to the Finals, one they chose with the way their season ended, having to go through Brooklyn, Milwaukee and ultimately Miami, three teams that had previously bumped the Tatum & Brown Celtics from the postseason. A fitting path to their first Finals as a group. All the more impressive considering the team had a losing record in January when coach Ime Udoka, surging in popularity, helped turn the team around and unlock their full potential. Oh but what a turn so much of this would soon take, but what a moment that was late on the Sunday night before Memorial Day.

5. Celtics blow Game 4 of NBA Finals

Up two games to one in the Finals, seemingly on a road to glory, a team of destiny following their gritty path out of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Celtics had created a buzz in Boston, a palpable electricity that had fans and analysts alike envisioning banner 18 being raised to the rafters. The Warriors were near the ropes, if not on them, especially after the Garden rattled Draymond Green and the Warriors with their salty Game 3 chants. The Celtics took a lead into the half, and were only down by a point headed into the fourth quarter when they reverted back to their old ways and Steph Curry took over. The Celtics only took one shot from within the three-point line in the fourth while Curry and the Warriors, thrice champions prior, put on a masterclass in clutch shooting closing out a high stakes game that counts. What once felt like the beginning of a coronation ultimately, and quickly, turned into a funeral as the Warriors took the W, 107-97. This was basically the series, as Golden State dominated Game 5, then returned to Boston for the closeout and championship days later. The Celtics seemed to have it in their grasp, and had come so far…only to just come that far and be forced to chalk this up to yet another learning step in the process. But the core of the team was intact, and fans couldn’t wait for them to run it back, especially now that their coach of the future was there to guide the stars…

4. Ime Udoka scandal

Of all the stories that moved the needle, affected local teams and spurred dialogue, perhaps this one most came from out of nowhere.

Ime Udoka, the hottest coach in the NBA, and all Boston sports, fresh off of turning the Celtics around and leading them on an improbable run to the NBA Finals, was implicated in a scandal involving an inappropriate workplace relationship(s) and would be forced to step down as coach of the Boston Celtics. Well, step aside may be more the going term, but however you describe it the situation developed so fast even some of his players hadn’t heard of the coach’s suspension until social media or news outlets informed them. Assistant Joe Mazzulla would step in as interim coach for the Celtics, who were the betting favorite to win the NBA Finals. While the team has responded favorably to start the season, there will always be uncertainty within TD Garden as to exactly what happened to lead the organization to swiftly and summarily dismiss someone they sought out and heralded so recently. The Celtics were so disgusted, so done with Udoka that they were willing to let him go, freely, to the Brooklyn Nets to be their head coach. But even the Nets took the temp and read the room and decided Udoka was too toxic, too radioactive to bring aboard another team with championship dreams. He obviously proved he can lead a team from the depths to dominance…but he obviously also did something untoward and will remain shrouded in secrecy, joining “Why didn’t Butler play in Super Bowl 52” as one of Boston sports’ greatest mysteries for some time to come.

3. Bill Russell passes

The term “legend” gets thrown around too easily in modern times. And while some athletes that have played in Boston recently may lay claim to legendary status this past year, one who defines what being a legend is in every sense of the word left us. Bill Russell’s impact on the game and in the community can never be overstated. An 11-time NBA champion, he was a leader, winner and pioneer on and off the court. He never lost a Game 7 and helped set the standard for what winning means, what titles mean, in Boston with all the banners he helped raise. He’s in the Basketball Hall of Fame TWICE; once as a player and once as a coach. A member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, he has the NBA Finals MVP Award named after him and upon his passing became the only player in NBA history to have every team retire his jersey number. Plus, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 for his work in social justice. He was a true leader and greatness followed him wherever he went. Revered by all who played against or admired him from afar, Russell’s ability to inspire and remain true to his values and still relevant in the modern age is yet another of the numerous accomplishments in a storied life that came to an end this past July 31. The celebration and appreciation began long before his passing, and perhaps now more in a younger generation will understand his impact and learn of what a legend No. 6 really was.

2. Xander Bogaerts departs

Losing one of your best players, a fan favorite who’s proven to be durable and able to thrive in one of the most difficult markets in all of professional sports, is always tough in the age of outrageous contracts and free agency. But when your organization, the only team said four-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger and two-time World Series Champion has ever known insults said player with insanely below market value contract offers before he accepts an inflated 11-year deal to play baseball across the country? It’s a slap in the face of the player who gave your team his all every day for almost a decade, and a slap in the face of the fanbase who loved him and valued who he was as a player and a member of their community. Plus, Bogey’s departure is a troubling sign of the direction the franchise could potentially be headed, as the Red Sox have shown little desire to keep their own homegrown talent in recent years (Lester, Betts, etc), and could be facing another troubling scenario with All-Star third baseman Rafael Devers.

Bogaerts may not be what he once was, and certainly isn’t worth the $280 million, but it’s funny money, and not your money, and it’s not the point. The point is he wanted to stay, you probably wanted him to stay, and now he’s going to finish his career somewhere else. Hell of a way to end a truly forgettable year for the Red Sox and Fenway Faithful.

1. Josh McDaniels 'replaced' by Matt Patricia

Eleven months. Eleven months this topic has dominated the Boston sports landscape. Ever since Josh McDaniels, so instrumental in shaping the offenses of the Patriots for over a decade, helping lead the team to three Super Bowl victories, left to take his second head coaching job, this time in Las Vegas, the Patriots have been in offensive freefall in more ways than we can count. McDaniels was criminally underrated in his time here, and now Raiders fans consider him a criminal out west. But the real crime was not giving second-year QB Mac Jones a legitimate, established coordinator and play-caller after McDaniels left, instead going with two trusted allies in Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, neither of whom had ever directed an NFL offense. Belichick’s faith in his cohorts has led to disastrous results, with the Patriots trotting out their most futile and inept offense of the Belichick Era, not to mention the statistical regression of every player not named Rhamondre Stevenson on the roster (and don’t get us started about how he’s finished the last two games!) Worse is that their guidance has made the team a mockery and caused the once-believed-to-be-franchise QB in Jones to take steps backwards in his second pro season. Where we once thought Jones was the answer in New England, now questions surround him as well as the offense and especially the judgment of Belichick to make this decision. Even if reports are true and Bill O’Brien returns to guide the offense next season, there could be damage done to the QB, the team, the allure of players coming to Foxboro, the legacy of the coach and more. If we never have to hear another breakdown about screen passes, missed blocking assignments, receiver spacing and petulant QB antics again it will be a day too soon! The biggest topic and hardly the Patriots conversation we wanted to have for sure.

Here’s hoping for a new year where more positive than negative stories make the list and generate waves here in the greatest sports city in the world. One thing’s for certain: win or lose, in victory and defeat, scandal or success, there’s always plenty to talk about in Boston sports.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports