Ranking the top 50 Boston athletes of the past 50 years: No. 30 through 21

Who are the top 50 Boston athletes of past 50 years? Curran ranks 30-21 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Rolling on with my Top 50 Boston athletes of the past 50 years. The measure? A jambalaya of how good they were, how much they dominated the Boston sports scene while they were on it, how dynamically unforgettably their performances were and the personal tiebreaker of how much I enjoyed watching them.

Curran's Top 50 Boston athletes of the past 50 years: No. 50-41 | No. 40-31

So ... not scientific at all. Enjoy.

Editor's Note: Below are players No. 30 through No. 21 in Curran's Top 50. Stay tuned throughout the week as Curran unveils 10 new players each day. Coming Thursday: Nos. 20 through No. 11.

30. Dustin Pedroia

Only five times in 14 years did Pedroia play more than 150 games. Five times he played fewer than 100. But the guy was 5-foot-8, 165 pounds and still became one of the game’s best players, winning a Rookie of the Year, MVP, two Gold Gloves, two World Series and being a four-time All-Star.

I thought he was funny as hell, I loved the authenticity of the way he competed and just watching him perform like he did while looking like a backup JV point guard? It’s still blows the mind a bit that he was able to do all he did.

29. Nomar Garciaparra

Nomar was a machine in his first four full seasons (1997-2000). He hit .337 and averaged 198 hits, 28 homers and 105 RBIs. He made some outrageous plays in the field and was the best position player the Sox put on the field since Wade Boggs and Jim Rice. Speed. Arm. Range. Power to all fields. Those stupid quick and powerful wrists. The sky seemed the limit and his tenure in Boston felt like it would go on and on because he was so beloved and so damn good.

Then came the wrist injury. Then the pursuit of A-Rod. Then contentious negotiations. And his growing annoyance with the media and the team just gave off an "Get me out of here…" vibe that took some of the shine off the NOOOOMAAAAHHHHH! Experience. But those four seasons when he was on a HOF trajectory? That was awesome.

28. Wade Boggs

We’re just going to keep coming back to the "He was amazing to watch until …" theme with so many of the Red Sox players on this list. Boggs and Roger Clemens (who we'll get to later) are probably the standard-bearers for going from revered to reviled. But the privilege of watching Boggs hammer out 200 hits Every. Single. Season -- never less than 200 from 1983 through 1989 -- was one of the real pleasures of my first 20 years on the planet.

Rod Carew and George Brett and the pursuit of .400 in the late 70s and early 80s was a thing for me. Theirs were the out-of-town stances I perfected playing wiffle ball. Then Boggs and Tony Gwynn succeeded Carew and Brett and I got to watch that kind of magic-wand mastery every night. Chicken Man was a strange bird. Went to the Yankees. Rode a horse. Whatever. He was a genius.

27. Mike Haynes

Anybody else out there start watching the NFL and the Patriots around 1976? Then you’re right there with me. The fifth overall pick out of Arizona State, Haynes was just grace personified on the field. He was 6-foot-2, 195, ran like a deer and just made play after play for ASU and for the Patriots until 1982, when the team ignorantly traded him to the Raiders after Haynes made six Pro Bowls in seven seasons here.

There might not be a lot of players from 1976 you could pluck and put in the NFL in 2022 and they’d be just as good. Mike Haynes would be.

26. Paul Pierce

I liked watching Paul Pierce play offensive basketball. I liked it very much. Only Kevin McHale had a deeper toolbox of moves from 10 feet and in. Pierce could put up the quietest 30 imaginable. Pullups. Turnarounds. Drives finished with creative layups and not thunderous slams. Free throws. He just stacked them up night after night because he was amazingly durable too (over 70 games played in 11 of 12 seasons starting in 2000, 80 or more games seven times).

But I was mystified how both he and Antoine Walker could run up and down the court every night and never have any muscle definition. And how underwhelming he and those Celtics could be defensively. And how much it was all about him and his accolades. I was out on Pierce after the 2005 playoff debacle against the Pacers when, in Game 6, he got his second T of the game at the end of regulation, allowing the Pacers to force overtime. The Celtics survived, then lost 97-70 (SEVENTY!!!!!) in Game 7 back in Boston. Pierce was a minus-21 with six turnovers.

The Celtics sucked the next two years. Then Pierce finally got his second act. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came aboard in 2007, the Celtics won a title, Pierce’s image got a buff-and-shine and the rest was Hall of Fame history.

25. Dave Cowens

Here’s how Cowens finished in MVP voting from 1972-73 through 1975-76: first, fourth, second, third. So if you don’t have a PhD in early 70s Celtics and are wondering why Dave Cowens is here and Cam Neely or John Hannah were down in the 40s, that’s why.

Cowens was one of the three best players in the NBA during that stretch and won a title in ‘73-’74, then led the C’s to another one in an epic Finals against the Suns in 1976. He was a rebounding machine. (Somebody cobbled together a video of Cowens coming up with about 277 rebounds in a couple All-Star games and tormenting Kareem and Willis Reed.) Meanwhile, here’s a 1976 Finals triple-double and another 26-point, 19-rebound performance below. Maniac.

24. Randy Moss

Never won a Super Bowl. But regardless of what happened in the final minute of SB42, I don’t know if I’ve ever spent a season more continuously gob-smacked by the performance of one team than I was by the 2007 Patriots. And Moss -- obviously -- was the key that unlocked everything for an offense unlike anything the NFL had ever seen before. Brady throws 50 touchdown passes, Moss catches 23 of them and for all of us who’d been saying since 2001 that the Patriots offense wasn’t just a better-than-average group chained to a brilliant head coach and a shutdown defense, that season clinched it. Loudly.

Randy being Randy eventually caused the whole thing to come undone by early 2010, but the guy averaged 83 catches for 1,255 yards and 15.7 TDs from 2007 through 2009, and two of those years were with Matt Cassel (who I adore) and a still-convalescing Brady post-ACL. By my measure of "damn, I’m lucky I saw that…" Moss more than checks the box.

23. Zdeno Chara

An utter athletic marvel. Six-foot-nine, 250 pounds, here for 14 seasons and the Bruins captain for every one. Led the B’s in 2010-11 to their first Stanley Cup in 38 years. Pummeled people when necessary, maybe had the hardest shot in hockey history, won a Norris Trophy in 2009 and really turned into a local treasure. We’ll never see anything like him again. I presume.

22. Tedy Bruschi

Complete embodiment of everything the Patriots were about in the 1.0 version of the dynasty. In many ways it feels like Bruschi remains the Guardian At The Gate to make sure the way things were done when he was helping lay the foundation are still done now. Bruschi -- like a few more players you’ll find in my top 20 -- is way up here not just for what he did but how he did it.

Bru is one of the final non-Hall of Famers on the list. That big mop of hair. That big, confrontational chin. The head back, shoulder-rolling swagger. His habit of saying everything two times, saying everything two times. And the reckless, genius, bumper-car/Gumby/street brawling style he brought to the field. I just loved watching the guy play.

21. Richard Seymour

Kind of like Chara in that there is no assembly line rolling off 6-foot-6, 310-pound humans with about 10 percent body fat. Richard Seymour was one of the most powerful and intimidating players to ever play for the Patriots. He’s probably the most powerful and intimidating but I’m giving myself wiggle room.

He’s headed to Canton, Ohio this summer. Deservedly.