The Red Sox won the World Series title in October, and the Patriots claimed another Super Bowl championship in February. If Boston sports fans had their way – and they often do these days – they’ll roll out the duck boats for the Celtics and the Bruins in June.
They’re calling it the Boston Slam, since Boston would own all four major professional sports titles at once.
And only the Bay Area likely can stop it.
Boston has been on an incredible run since 2001, winning six Super Bowls, four World Series, one Stanley Cup and one NBA championship. Such dominance breeds contempt, although you’ll find none here. I lived in Boston for five years and loved every minute of it. Well, maybe I could’ve have gone without all the snow.
Dominance also breeds arrogance, and that too is on display in some corners of Boston. Winning championships went from a dream to a birthright in only one generation, and as haters began to, well, hate, Bostonians adopted this mantra: “Hate Us ‘Cause You Ain’t Us.” The fighting revolutionary spirit is alive and well in New England.
While we don’t hate many folks in Northern California – we’re way too laid back for that – we do know something about winning titles, particularly with the Warriors. And that’s where the prospect of stopping this Boston Slam attempt begins.
The Warriors, who are one blown 3-1 NBA Finals lead away from chasing a fourth consecutive Larry O’Brien Trophy, could be considered the Patriots of the Association. Perennial champs accused of gaming the system. The game circled on every opponent’s calendar. The No. 1 topic on the morning sports scream-fests.
A Warriors-Celtics NBA Finals has been forecast for a few years, and while it could happen now, there are notable obstacles. First, the Warriors need to take care of business in their first-round playoff series after the Clippers forced a Game 6 by virtue of a 129-121 win Wednesday night. Then, the Rockets, who will challenge the Warriors in the next playoff round if the defending champs indeed advance, definitely will not be an easy out. They had Golden State on the ropes last season but couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.
The Celtics, meanwhile, finished fourth in the Eastern Conference this season, and must beat the Milwaukee Bucks, then either the Toronto Raptors or the Philadelphia 76ers, to even make the Finals. All three of those teams had better regular-season records than Boston, but the Celtics often show flashes of greatness and might have unmatched top-tier depth, with Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford.
That lineup is fully capable of reaching the Finals and giving the Warriors all they can handle, as was the case in their two regular-season meetings. The 33-point loss last month at Oracle Arena was particularly brutal for the Dubs, but the playoffs typically are their time. They know what it takes to win, no matter the foe, their recent wobbles against the Clippers notwithstanding. The Celtics certainly won’t scare the Warriors when championship glory is on the line.
On the ice, the Bruins’ path to the Cup Final seems clear, with top Eastern Conference contenders such as the Lightning, Capitals and Penguins all falling in the first round. Possibly meeting the Bruins at the end are the Sharks, who similarly don’t have to worry about top contenders in the West, with the Flames, Predators and Jets already out, meaning San Jose could be the West’s best left standing.
A Sharks-Bruins Cup Final would be full of firepower (San Jose rolls out four 30-goal scorers, and Boston boasts three) and shaky goaltending (Boston fans feel the same way about Tuukka Rask as San Jose backers do Martin Jones).
And if you thought Ryan Reaves was annoying, you haven’t seen Brad Marchand, who led the Bruins in regular-season scoring (100 points) and penalty minutes (98), highlighting his balance of skill and ability to irritate his opponents. His run-ins with equally hot-tempered Evander Kane could be legendary.
The Sharks, riding high from their Game 7 miracle against Vegas, do possess the veteran savvy and attitude to challenge an Original Six power in their barn. Joe Thornton, the former Bruin, can tell his Sharks teammates all about that, as could Erik Karlsson, who faced Boston in the 2017 playoffs with the Ottawa Senators. The task isn’t easy, but it’s doable.
The Boston Slam would be an incredible feat, but it’s also one that some sports fans don’t want to see. The root of that sentiment is the same childhood-type jealousy directed toward the kid who has too many toys, just that in this case, the toys are big, shiny trophies that grown men desire. You can see lots of that championship hardware at Fenway, Gillette and the Garden. To be fair, you also can see lots of them at Oracle Arena, Oracle Park, Levi’s and the Coliseum, too.
No honest Bostonian could’ve imagined this possibility when Bucky Dent hammered that ball over the Green Monster. Or when Bill Buckner let that ground ball go through his legs. Or when Jim McMahon and The Fridge made a mockery of the Patriots’ defense in Super Bowl XX. Or when the Celtics lost out on Tim Duncan in the NBA lottery.
Or when, in June 2001, the city of Boston threw a Stanley Cup championship rally for Ray Bourque. He had lifted the storied trophy with the Colorado Avalanche, not the Bruins, who at that time hadn’t won a title in 29 years.
On its face, throwing a championship celebration for another team’s player sounds sad. But it wasn’t. Sports is in Boston’s blood, and Bourque, a beloved Bruin, had waited longer than any Cup-winning player — 1,612 regular-season and 214 playoff games, to be exact. He had done right by the Bruins, who traded him to a Cup contender in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career. The fans wanted Bourque to be a winner.
Not that they were happy about it, though.
“The Red Sox will probably win a World Series before the Bruins win a Cup,” fan Mike Moreira told the Hartford Courant during Bourque’s rally. “That’s how bad it is.”
Those words were prophetic: The Red Sox actually won two World Series (in 2004 and 2007) before the Bruins claimed the Cup. They also reflected the time: No Boston team had won a championship since the Celtics did it in 1986.
A 15-year title drought? Seems impossible these days.
So, it hasn’t always been halcyon days for Boston sports fans. These days, though, to beat Boston is to innovate. And no ones does that better than the Bay.