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Hub's best of 2010

There was plenty to cheer — and jeer — in Boston sports this year. From resurgent wins to epic collapses, here’s our top 10 stories.

10. UFC in Boston
The UFC trotted out some of its big guns — B.J. Penn and Randy Couture in the ring, a Fan Expo out of it — for its first show in Dana White’s hometown. The one downer for the Hub??The two high-profile New Englanders on the main card — Kenny?Florian and Marcus Davis — both lost their bouts at the Garden.

9. Moss rolls out
After Randy Moss’ bizarre early-season news conference, it was only a matter of time before the Patriots sent him packing. They found a sucker — er, taker — in the Vikings. How’d it work out? The Pats flew to the top of the AFC, and Minnesota flipped the troubled wideout to Tennessee almost immediately.

8. Red Sox injuries
An almost unprecedented slew of injuries kept the Red Sox out of the playoffs for the first time since 2006. At any given point during the season, there was a chance you couldn’t name two or three starters — guys like Yamaico Navarro, Angel Sanchez, Darnell McDonald and Niuman Romero saw time on the big-league roster. Ouch.

7. C’s sign Shaq
Shaquille O’Neal immediately made a big impression on Boston after signing with the Celtics in August, requesting a greener nickname via his Twitter account. He’s done little on the floor in the season’s opening months, but fans have taken to his off-court antics, including a “living statue” stunt.

6. Patriot games
Before the season, it was easy to write the Patriots off as a second- or third-place team in the AFC East. The defense looked too young, and the offense looked too fractured. Fast-forward a few months, and New England is rolling toward a division championship, a first-round bye and home-field advantage.

5. Winter Classic
These days, it’s tough to top the UFC among a city’s one-off sporting events. The NHL managed to do just that in Boston this year, ringing in 2010 with its Winter Classic outdoor showcase at Fenway Park. The Bruins’ win was memorable; the fact college teams took the ice, too, was just icing on the cake.

4. BC wins it all
Boston College won the city’s third straight NCAA men’s hockey crown and didn’t need any of BU’s 2009 heroics to do it. The Eagles simply bashed Wisconsin 5-0 in the national title game. Their whole tourney run, in fact, was a showcase of goal-scoring excess:?Wins by scores of 3-1, 9-7, 7-1 and 5-0 gave them the championship.

3. Hot, hot stove
If the Red Sox don’t win the 2011 World Series, nobody can accuse them of being cheap. In one amazing week, GM Theo Epstein pulled off deals for All-Star 1B Adrian Gonzalez (a trade with a pending extension) and super-speedy LF Carl Crawford (a massive contract on the open market). Call it the new Murderer’s Row.

2. Everything falls apart
You’ve got to hand it to the Bruins — they sure know how to lose in style. With a 3-0 series lead over the Philadel­phia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Boston had a spot in the NHL’s final four all but sewn up. But then they lost. And lost. And lost again. The B’s managed to push their backs off the wall early in Game 7, only to see their 3-0 first-period lead evaporate in a humiliating 4-3 defeat. It was easily the worst collapse in team history, and one of the worst ever in the NHL. “The bottom line is we had a 3-0 lead in the series, we had a 3-0 lead tonight, and we blew them both,” coach Claude Julien said after the clinching game. “We have to take the responsibility that goes with it. Everyone.”

And the tops sports story of 2010 in Boston ...

1. So close, so far for Celtics
The Celtics came into the 2009-10 NBA playoffs a relatively lightly regarded fourth seed. Their age and health, conventional wisdom said, would surely lead to an exit against the East’s elite squads, like Cleveland and Orlando.

Instead, Boston made magic. The C’s battered the old Heat 4-1 in the first round, then ended LeBron James’ time with the Cavs in a six-game beating.

The Magic didn’t fare any better, also falling to the Green in six.

But another banner just wasn’t to be. The Lakers, who similarly dominated the Western Conference leg of the bracket, bent but didn’t break in a seven-game NBA Finals triumph.
Could a rematch top this list next year?

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