Boston again was the epicenter of the sports world in 2018.
Each of the city’s four major franchises — the Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics and New England Patriots — had success this past year, with one team even emerging as its league’s champion.
From clutch performances and duck boat parades to shocking comebacks and unrivaled nostalgia, iconic moments were aplenty in 2018, setting the stage for what should be a fascinating 2019.
Before we flip the calendar, let’s look back on the year that was by picking out the 18 best Boston sports moments of 2018. (You probably can guess No. 1.)
18. Mookie Betts wins American League MVP Award.
Betts was sensational in 2018, solidifying himself as one of the best players in Major League Baseball. He led the majors with a .346 batting average and totaled 32 home runs, 80 RBIs and 30 stolen bases while posting a 1.078 OPS. Oh yeah, he won a Gold Glove Award, too.
17. Red Sox sign J.D. Martinez.
It took a while, but the Red Sox eventually signed Martinez in late February with spring training in full swing. It turned out to be a pivotal move by Boston, which finally found the middle-of-the-order presence it lacked since David Ortiz’s retirement. Martinez made a run at the Triple Crown, hitting .330 with 43 home runs and an MLB-high 130 RBIs. He finished fourth in AL MVP voting.
16. Josh McDaniels spurns Colts and returns to Patriots.
McDaniels agreed to become the Indianapolis Colts’ new head coach, with the organization even announcing the move two days after the Patriots’ Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He had a last-minute change of heart, though, and returned to his role as Patriots offensive coordinator, understandably ticking off Colts general manager Chris Ballard (and many others) in the process.
15. Bruins beat Maple Leafs in Game 7 of playoff series.
The Bruins didn’t fulfill their Stanley Cup dreams, but they did win a playoff series before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round. It took seven games, with Boston outlasting Tampa Bay 7-4 in the winner-take-all matchup. The B’s actually trailed 4-3 entering the third period but outscored the Leafs 4-0 in the final frame.
14. Rick Middleton’s No. 16 retired by Bruins.
Middleton, who earned the nickname “Nifty” en route to scoring 448 career goals (402 with Boston), saw his number get raised to the TD Garden rafters on Nov. 29. He became the 11th player in franchise history to have his number retired and the first since Cam Neely in 2004.
13. Paul Pierce’s No. 34 retired by Celtics.
Pierce established himself as one of the most beloved players in Celtics history during his 15 seasons in green (1998-2013), and the organization honored The Truth accordingly on Feb. 11. He’s the 22nd player in Celtics history to have his number retired and the first since Cedric Maxwell in 2003.
12. The emergence of “Scary Terry” in Celtics’ playoff series vs. Bucks.
Terry Rozier was called upon to be the Celtics’ starting point guard after Kyrie Irving went down with a season-ending injury. He seized the opportunity in a big way, with his real breakout coming in Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Rozier, who earned the nickname “Scary Terry,” went toe to toe with Eric Bledsoe, formed an unusual bond with former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe and emerged as one of the Celtics’ most explosive scorers. His step-back 3-pointer at the end of regulation in Game 1 wasn’t a game-winner — the Bucks tied the score and forced overtime — but it was a perfect snapshot of his development and the Celtics’ improbable playoff success.
11. Celtics’ comeback vs. 76ers in Game 2 of Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Celtics punched their ticket to the Eastern Conference finals by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers in five games. Perhaps the most notable victory came in Game 2, when the C’s erased a 22-point deficit en route to a 108-103 win. The TD Garden crowd was praised several times by multiple opponents throughout the postseason, and Game 2 against the Sixers was a classic example of the fans’ impact.
10. “It’s time to party!” — Mookie Betts’ 13-pitch grand slam vs. Blue Jays.
The Red Sox had a bunch of amazing playoff moments, but the slow build to Betts’ grand slam against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 12 was the stuff of legends. Betts punctuated a 13-pitch, 11-minute battle with J.A. Happ by sending a line drive soaring over the Green Monster. Dennis Eckersley described the scene best, shouting “It’s time to party!” on NESN’s broadcast.
9. Jayson Tatum dunks on LeBron James in Game 7 of Eastern Conference finals.
The Celtics lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals for the second straight season, but Boston gave LeBron James and Co. all they could handle. The lasting image of the Celtics’ losing effort in Game 7 was Tatum throwing down a monstrous dunk on James midway through the fourth quarter. Many viewed the posterization as a passing of the torch. We shall see.
8. Red Sox-Yankees brawl.
The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry reignited April 11 when Joe Kelly plunked Tyler Austin, setting off a massive bench-clearing brawl. It was a sign of things to come, too, as Boston and New York squared off in the American League Division Series once the postseason rolled around.
7. Red Sox beat Yankees in ALDS (play “New York, New York” in clubhouse).
Aaron Judge trolled the Red Sox by playing “New York, New York” while leaving Fenway Park after the Yankees’ Game 2 win, but Boston had the last laugh in the ALDS. The Red Sox won the next two games at Yankee Stadium to advance to the American League Championship Series, even fending off a ferocious rally in the ninth inning of their Game 4 clincher.
6. Jackie Bradley Jr.’s heroics in ALCS vs. Astros.
Bradley had a roller-coaster season at the plate in 2018, but the slick-fielding outfielder sure delivered when it mattered most, earning ALCS MVP honors following several clutch hits against the Houston Astros. Bradley delivered a huge three-run double off the Green Monster in Game 2, a series-altering grand slam in Game 3 and a go-ahead, two-run homer in Game 4. Not bad.
5. Nathan Eovaldi’s amazing effort in Game 3 of World Series.
Alex Cora recently said he felt like the Red Sox won the World Series in Game 3, which is interesting because, well, Boston actually lost that game. In 18 innings. After seven hours, 20 minutes. So what made Game 3 so special for the Red Sox? Look no further than the performance of Eovaldi, who threw 97 pitches over six-plus innings of relief on one day of rest after appearing in Games 1 and 2. Quite frankly, it was one of the most inspirational efforts in MLB history. And his teammates honored it as such by greeting Eovaldi at the top step of the dugout after Max Muncy’s walk-off home run.
4. Red Sox’s comeback in Game 4 of World Series.
Chris Sale’s dugout speech. Mitch Moreland’s pinch-hit, three-run homer in the seventh inning to cut the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lead to 4-3. Steve Pearce’s game-tying blast in the eighth inning. A key strikeout by Joe Kelly. A five-run ninth inning that included a go-ahead RBI single by Rafael Devers and a three-run double by Pearce. Game 4 had it all.
3. Andrew Benintendi’s diving catch seals Game 4 of ALCS.
The World Series had no shortage of cool moments, but it’s possible the Red Sox never reach the Fall Classic without Benintendi’s diving catch to seal Game 4 of the ALCS. The Astros had the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth inning when Alex Bregman hit a sinking line drive to left field. Benintendi sprawled out to make an excellent, game-ending grab that likely prevented Houston from tying the game and maybe the series.
2. Patriots’ AFC Championship Game comeback vs. Jaguars.
The Patriots trailed the Jaguars 20-10 with under nine minutes remaining in the AFC Championship Game when Tom Brady and Danny Amendola took over. Brady found Amendola on two late touchdown passes to send New England to its third Super Bowl in four seasons. The Patriots lost to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, but their epic comeback against the Jaguars shouldn’t be forgotten.
1. Red Sox win World Series.
Easy choice for No. 1, right? The Red Sox won 108 regular-season games under first-year manager Alex Cora. They then went 11-3 in the postseason, defeating their biggest rival (Yankees), the defending World Series champions (Astros) and the back-to-back National League champions (Dodgers) along the way.
Thumbnail photo via Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports Images