Brady is not the only one

There’s a good reason we try to forget about Michael Jordan with the Wizards, Willie Mays with the Mets, Johnny Unitas with the Chargers and Martin Brodeur with the Blues.

These all-time greats in their respective sports have carved out most of their heritage elsewhere. They were all shadows of themselves the moment they moved on. Father Time remains undefeated despite the best attempts by some who try to challenge his relentlessness.

The last day will come for Tom Brady at some point. That he’s still brilliant while leading the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title last season came as a surprise to many both inside and on the outskirts of NFL circles. There has simply never been another quarterback in league history to perform at this level at 44.

Brady’s return to New England this weekend for a Sunday night presentation with the Patriots will be one of the most anticipated sporting opportunities the region has ever seen. And this is no exaggeration. We discuss the best player in his career in league history and one of the most prolific winners in American team sports returning to where he established himself as a legend.

Comparing other Boston-area athletes who ultimately donned another uniform at Brady comes with an automatic qualifier – few are his equals. Let’s recognize this before we even get into some of the names that follow here. It is a surprisingly strong group after a long period of reflection.

Bobby orr

The former Bruins defenseman tops this list for a reason. He truly is the only athlete in his sport who breathes the same rarefied air, a revolutionary on the ice who opened the door for traditional blueliners to become offensive weapons.

Orr has never played a game for the Blackhawks in Boston. one-year waiting period and immediately inducted him into the Hall of Fame.

Orr returned in January 1979 to remove his jersey before a Bruins exhibition game. The standing ovation when presented at old Boston Garden lasted seven minutes. Orr was visibly moved by the tribute and abandoned his prepared speech, instead addressing the crowd with characteristic humility.

“I came here and was going to try to be kind of formal,” Orr said. “I find it very difficult.

Orr won the Norris Trophy for Best Defenseman in the NHL in eight of his first nine seasons with Boston. His 139 points in 1970-71 remain a league record among defensemen, and he helped the Bruins win two Stanley Cups.

Roger Clemens pitched in May 1998 for the Toronto Blue Jays against the Oakland Athletics.

Roger clemens

It’s usually a two-sided argument when you consider the modern Red Sox’s greatest pitcher – Clemens and Pedro Martinez. Clemens was better for a longer period. The peak of Martinez was more dominant.

Both had a flair for the occasion, something Clemens showcased during a July 1997 start with the Blue Jays at Fenway Park. It was his first in Boston since leaving free agency the previous offseason, with general manager Dan Duquette hinting that Clemens had reached the twilight of his career at 34. His 3.77 ERA over the previous four seasons – campaigns marked by injuries and inconsistencies – was on the rise. almost a full run of the 2.80 ERA he posted from 1984 to 1992.

Clemens was just brilliant on that first comeback engagement. He submitted eight dominant innings, allowing just one earned run and no walks against 16 strikeouts, a season-high in a 3-1 win. Clemens punctuated his performance with a wandering gaze or two right down to the executive’s surface behind the plate.

How did Clemens manage such an impressive renaissance at the end of his career? Some of the answers could be found in Congressional testimony from former trainer Brian McNamee, who allegedly provided Clemens with performance enhancing drugs. Those strong suspicions don’t change a Red Sox record book that features Clemens as the No. 1 of all bWAR pitchers, first in strikeouts and tied with Cy Young for most of Boston’s wins and shutouts.

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ray Bourque celebrates with the Stanley Cup in Denver on June 9, 2001.

Ray bourque

The parade organized by Boston city officials after Bourque won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001 was a hollow moment. It revealed how desperate the region was for a championship in the mid-15s without one. The Celtics last did the honors in 1986 – who knew it would only be a few months before the Patriots began their dynasty.

None of this was Bourque’s fault. Few people in a uniform have been as reliable and steadfast as they have been in his 21 seasons with the Bruins. Bourque won the Norris Trophy with Boston five times before moving to Colorado, with Bruins general manager Harry Sinden acknowledging the club was entering a rebuilding phase.

Bourque played nearly 32 minutes in a March 2001 win over Boston, earning two assists in a 4-2 triumph at TD Garden. Three months later, he completed a career quest for a championship, lifting the biggest trophy in team sports after the Avalanche outlasted the Devils in the final.

Former Celtics forward playing for the Brooklyn Nets in May 2014.

Paul Pierce

The Celtics have won 16 of the first 40 NBA titles and have waited 22 years for their next one. Banner 17 was secured in June 2008 thanks to new Big Three from Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

Two exchanges brought Garnett and Allen to Boston – Pierce was already a mainstay of the franchise. The childhood Lakers fan and pride of Greater Los Angeles was 10-time All-Star with his top rivals and tallied 21.8 points per game with the Celtics from 1998 to 2013.

Pierce, Garnett and Jason Terry were distributed to the Nets during a nighttime blockbuster in June 2013, as Boston embarked on a forced rebuild. They returned to TD Garden in January 2014, a lousy game that ended in an 85-79 victory in Brooklyn. Pierce’s highlights in a tribute video played for the crowd were better than the performance he submitted in 29 minutes – six points on a 2-on-10 shot, four rebounds and two assists.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski runs after a capture Sunday during the game against the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood, Calif.

Rob gronkowski

What about Gronk? Let’s be serious here. This is without a doubt one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL., and he feels like an understudy in the Brady storylines that will dominate this week.

Gronkowski was an Arizona junior with questionable medical reports when the Patriots selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has become a dominant physical force in the NFL, winning five Pro Bowl selections and four All- selections. Pro in the first team during his stay in New England. Gronkowski averaged 15.1 yards per catch in his 115 games with the Patriots and had 79 touchdowns.

And that’s only the regular season. Gronkowski has a 16-4 playoff career, including six Super Bowl appearances and four championships. His performances against the Chiefs and Rams to end the 2018 title race are steeped in franchise tradition.

Similar tight ends by Pro Football Reference include Shannon Sharpe, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Kellen Winslow, and John Mackie.

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On Twitter: @ BillKoch25

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