Ranking the top 10 villains in Boston sports history

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Ranking the top 10 villains in Boston sports history originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Kyrie Irving has solidified himself as one of the greatest villains in Boston sports history, and that's saying a lot.

Irving added to his case Sunday in Game 1 of the first-round NBA playoff series between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. The ex-C's guard gave the middle finger to fans at TD Garden and responded to their loud boos with profane language.

Bean: Deep down, Irving and Celtics fans are perfect for each other

It's fair to say that currently, no athlete is more villainized in Boston than Irving. But over the course of the city's storied sports history, there have been plenty of sports figures who received the same vitriol from Boston fans, if not even more.

Here's a look at the top 10 villains in Boston sports history, a list that surely will raise the blood pressure of diehard Boston fans.

10. Bernard Pollard

Pollard became an enemy in New England when he infamously hit Tom Brady in the knee in 2008, tearing the then-New England Patriots QB's ACL and ending his season. But that isn't Pollard's only incident with one of the Patriots' stars.

The former safety also is responsible for injuries to Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, and Stevan Ridley. With a history like that, you won't make many friends around these parts.

9. Jack Tatum

In a 1978 preseason game, Tatum delivered a dirty hit that permanently paralyzed Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley. To make matters worse, Stingley claims the former Oakland Raiders safety never reached out to apologize or check in on his well-being.

8. Rex Ryan

Rex Ryan made a lopsided Patriots-Jets rivalry feel like... well, a real rivalry.

The former Jets head coach got a kick out of roasting Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the Patriots through the media. That made game days more interesting, and Ryan did earn one big win against the Pats in the 2011 AFC Divisional Round, but the Jets for the most part were no match for New England. That keeps Ryan lower on the list than he likely would have been if the Jets had been a legitimate threat to the Pats dynasty.

7. Ulf Samuelsson

Samuelsson drew the ire of Boston fans with his low hit on Cam Neely during the 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Neely was the Bruins' leading goal scorer and a perennial All-Star, but the hit caused a degenerative hip injury that derailed his NHL career.

6. The Manning Brothers

It wasn't necessarily the Mannings' personalities that irked Boston sports fans, it was simply the fact they got in Tom Brady's way during the Patriots' dynasty. Peyton Manning was Brady's No. 1 rival and the QB most compared to the Patriots signal-caller in "who's the GOAT?" debates. Eli Manning wasn't a threat to Brady on the road to the Super Bowl, but the younger Manning brother handed the Patriots two of their three Super Bowl losses during the Brady era.

5. LeBron James

LeBron James went to battle with the Boston Celtics during his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the rivalry went up a couple of notches upon his arrival in Miami. Those playoff showdowns with the late 2000s/early 2010s C's made James public enemy No. 1 in Boston for a while, though that hatred mostly was the result of his greatness on the court and the competitiveness of those postseason matchups.

4. Kyrie Irving

Plenty of ex-Boston athletes are disliked by the fanbase, but Irving undoubtedly takes the cake as the biggest villain in that category. It all started when the former Celtics guard promised fans at TD Garden he would re-sign the following offseason. Long story short, a tumultuous 2017-18 campaign resulted in him going back on that promise to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. That change of heart, plus a few jabs at the Celtics fanbase, have culminated in a hateful relationship between Irving and the fans he once told he hoped to have his number in the rafters for one day.

3. The "Bad Boys Era" Pistons

We could have given Bill Laimbeer, Isiah Thomas, and Rick Mahorn their own spots on this list, but we decided to just lump it all into one "Bad Boy Pistons" section. Together, as an admittedly dirty team not afraid to mix it up with their opponents, they helped to form one of the most hated rival teams in the history of Boston sports. The Celtics and Pistons had some playoff battles for the ages in the 1980s.

2. Alex Rodriguez

A-Rod was the posterchild of the heated Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry in the 2000s. His fight with Sox catcher Jason Varitek in 2004 will forever be considered the defining moment of what once was considered the undisputed best rivalry in sports.

1. Roger Goodell

No player or sports figure is a bigger villain than NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. His treatment of Tom Brady during the Deflategate saga as well as the draft picks punishment won't soon be forgiven around these parts, regardless of the fact that Brady went on to win two more Super Bowls with New England after his suspension.

Honorable Mentions: Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone, Matt Cooke, Eric Mangini, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers.