Grit- (noun) Courage and resolve; strength of character.
All sports require a certain amount of mental and physical toughness to be successful, but not every athlete displays that. Zdeno Chara’s game five efforts during the Stanley Cup Final with his jaw wired shut were nothing short of inspirational.
It was an amazing way to show his dedication to his teammates, but was it the most impressive moment of its kind?
These are the top five grittiest performances in Boston sports history.
5.) Tom Brady: 2018 AFC Championship vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Everyone remembers the mini heart attack that Tom Brady gave them the week of the AFC Championship just a year ago. At practice Brady was going to hand the ball off to Rex Burkhead, when his hand got caught on his helmet and it was torn open. I remember the very few details that were coming out about it, and how hush-hush the team had been about giving any information about how he was feeling.
Leading up to the game there was much speculation about how bad it was, most of the media believed that Brady was either making it up altogether, or just had a little knick on his hand that he was overreacting about. That being said the media will do anything to try to discredit Brady, we know this.
When it came out after the season that Brady had suffered a massive gash on his hand that required 12 stitches right where he grips the ball, his feat became even more impressive. Especially when he threw for a Super Bowl record 505 yards only two weeks later. Brady is never given credit for his toughness, but he proves time after time that he’ll play through anything and still succeed like the GOAT he is.
4.) Gregory Campbell: Game 3, 2011 Eastern Conference Final vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Every other person that makes this list will have played an entire game under some duress, but I want to put Campbell in here even though he only played a shift. In game three of the Eastern Conference Final Gregory Campbell dove to block a roped slapshot and took it right off the knee, and broke his leg.
How he responded for the next minute of the Bruins penalty kill is something I will never forget. He limped around in obvious pain just dragging his stick trying to get in the way of any shot. He actually did deflect a shot or two, and bothered some of the Penguins from getting shots on net for the rest of their possession. It was miraculous. You could see he was just dragging that limp leg behind him, but he had the will to do anything to make sure he didn’t cause this team a goal.
If that’s not grit I don’t know what it is, and I believe to this day he willed that team to win during that Stanley Cup. Toughness can’t even begin to describe that man.
3.) Paul Pierce: Game 1, 2008 NBA Finals vs. Los Angeles Lakers
This particular game has been brought to light a lot over the last few days, due to Paul Pierce making some comments about it. Pierce, now an analyst for ESPN, said that he didn’t need the wheelchair because of an injury during game one of the 2008 NBA finals, but instead because he had to poop. He’s named “The Truth,” so I have to believe the man.
Sure, did he possibly sprain his knee? I’d say it’s possible but he certainly came back out of the locker room looking healthy pretty quick after he was wheelchaired out. The reason I still put this game on my list is, I’ve fought through the pain of having to use the bathroom before and I know it’s no joke.
People say ball movement is important in basketball, but Pierce proved that night that bowel movement is what mattered most.
Pierce went on to have an amazing series, winning finals MVP and bringing home the Celtics first and only NBA title since the mid-80s. Although we don’t know what he gritted through on that night, he went through something and that’s enough for him to make this list for me.
2.) Zdeno Chara: Game 5, 2019 Stanley Cup Final
The 42-year-old Bruins captain put on a display of toughness last night that few others have ever shown. In game four of the Stanley Cup Final, Chara took a shot off of a stick and into his jaw which broke it immediately. He went to the dressing room for a few minutes, and then came back to watch the rest of the game on the bench with his teammates. People feared the worst, and they were right. His jaw was shattered.
Many people believe that would spell the end of his series, and possibly even his career at such an advanced age. Chara decided he was going to play through it like the tough s.o.b. he is. I can’t even imagine walking down stairs without being in pain with my jaw wired shut, imagine taking hit after hit throughout the entirety of a hockey game? Brutal.
Chara played well throughout the game, sticking in there and taking hits, while still doing his best to clear the puck out of the zone. St. Louis was clearly headhunting for him, and there were three or four occurrences when they caught him up around the head area. I can only imagine how terrible that must’ve felt.
Big Z has always been known for being a tough guy, but this just adds to his lore. Hopefully the Bruins can use him as motivation to close this series out.
1.) Curt Schilling: Game 6, 2004 ALCS vs New York Yankees
When you think of tough and gritty performances by Boston athletes, this might be the one that sticks out to you. The bloody sock game, who can forget it? Curt Schilling ruptured a tendon in his ankle before game six of the 2004 ALCS versus the New York Yankees. He was given what could only be described as a gruesome surgery right before the game, and injected with medicine to ease the excruciating pain.
This is so memorable because the Red Sox, as we all know, ended up coming back to win the series in seven games making them the first team to ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in baseball history. This is still an all time great performance, and one that should never be forgotten. The image of the blood seeping through his sock will always be clear in my mind. Schilling inspired a region that night.
All of these players embodied what Boston fans love most from their athletes. Mental and physical toughness. When it would’ve been perfectly acceptable for them to roll over and let someone else take their spot, they showed the grit to fight through what was ailing them. That is what makes these moments special, and that is why these players had the amazing careers that they had.
Although they’re only moments in time, these performances are what makes a legend. Brady, Campbell, Pierce, Schilling, and Chara will never be forgotten from these all time tough performances.
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