In the spirit of March brackets, Boston.com launched its own: Voting to decide who is Boston’s biggest sports villain. The Boston sports villain bracket continues with round-by-round voting, so head over and let your voice be heard.
Not every Boston sports villain can play a centerpiece role in a relationship with the city’s teams for years on end like heavyweights Roger Goodell, Alex Rodriguez, and Kobe Bryant did.
Some role players or behind-the-scenes figures get under the skin of Boston fans in a playoff series, instigate a brawl, or in one NFL executive’s case, drive an apparent vendetta against a team.
The following nine figures all played cameos here as villains.
Gerald Williams was an outfielder who played half of his 14-season MLB career with the Yankees in the 1990s and early 2000s. Surprisingly, though, he is remembered in Boston sports history not as a Yankee, but as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray.
On August 29, 2000, Pedro Martinez hit Williams, the Devil Rays’ leadoff hitter, on the wrist with a pitch in the bottom of the first inning. Williams started toward first base, inspected his wrist for six full seconds, and then charged Martinez on the mound.
Williams was ejected for starting the ensuing brawl along with Devil Rays manager Larry Rothschild, who argued Martinez should have been punished. Eight total Devil Rays players and coaches were ejected during the game, while Martinez went on to record 13 strikeouts in a complete game one-hitter.
Oubre, now with the Suns, was a member of the Washington Wizards’ 2017 team that matched up with the Celtics in the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals. In the second quarter of Game 3, Kelly Olynyk set a hard screen on Oubre, knocking him to the ground. Olynyk was called for a foul, and as he protested to referee Monty McCutchen, Oubre picked himself up and charged after Olynyk, shoving him to the ground.
Oubre was ejected from the game with only two points and just over five minutes played to show for his efforts. According to the Boston Globe, eight total technical fouls were assessed during that game, part of a competitive playoff series the Wizards pushed all the way to Game 7 before the Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Though Oubre is no longer a member of the Wizards, nor Olynyk a Celtic, Oubre still receives some boos from the TD Garden crowd.
Walker played 829 NHL games over the course of 15 seasons and scored as many as 67 points with the Predators in 2003-2004. But Bruins fans will remember him most for his role as a member of the Hurricanes in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Bruins were the East’s top seed that season, having accumulated 116 points in the regular season, and swept the Canadiens in the playoffs’ first round.
They ran into a problem in the second round against the Hurricanes, who won Games 2, 3, and 4, forcing the Bruins’ backs against the wall for the final three games of the series. With less than three minutes to play in Game 5 in which the B’s shut out the Hurricanes 4-0, Walker took exception to Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward’s physicality with Hurricanes center Matt Cullen in front of the Boston net. Walker sucker punched Ward, enraging the TD Garden crowd, Ward, and Ward’s teammates. He was fined $2,500 for the punch after the game.
Walker made the Bruins’ home crowd mad with that punch, but he silenced the fans – and the Bruins’ season – by scoring the series-winning overtime goal in Game 7, which sent the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Finals against the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Penguins. It was the only goal Walker scored the entire series.
Dwayne de Rosario
Rosario, a Canadian attacker, scored 104 goals over the course of his Major League Soccer career with six different teams, good for ninth-most in MLS history. But his scoring touch in the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup with the Houston Dynamo, which powered the team to two consecutive championships over the New England Revolution, earned him a spot among Boston sports villains.
Rosario helped the Dynamo win the 2006 Cup in penalty kicks by scoring when his turn came. It was the first time the MLS Cup had ever been decided by penalty kicks.
The next season, Rosario put Houston up 2-1 with a header past Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis in the 74th minute of the MLS Cup. It proved the Cup-winning goal for the Dynamo.
Pachulia made himself an enemy in Game 3 of the Celtics’ first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks in 2008. In the second quarter, he and Kevin Garnett confronted one another after a physical contest for a rebound. Pachulia, then 23, took exception to a foul Garnett committed on him during the play, leading to a dramatic moment between the top-seed Celtics and underdog Hawks.
(Bonus: A 21-year-old Al Horford is seen throughout the video)
The Hawks tested the Celtics for seven games in that series before falling to the eventual NBA champions.
Garnett got the last laugh on the scoreboard and in the individual matchup with Pachulia, too. In Game 7, with the game out of reach for the Hawks, Garnett set a hard screen on Pachulia as the Celtics inbounded the ball, knocking the Hawks center to the ground and the TD Garden crowd to its feet.
The 2011 Stanley Cup Final was one to remember. The Bruins and Canucks played seven highly contentious games before Boston earned its first Stanley Cup victory since 1972. Spirited rivalries and villains emerged aplenty between the rugged, physical Bruins and the highly skilled Canucks, the NHL’s top team in the 2010-2011 regular season.
Alex Burrows was in the prime of his career in 2011, playing alongside the Sedin twins on the Canucks’ top line. He introduced himself to the Bruins in Game 1 in 2011 when he bit Patrice Bergeron’s finger during a post-whistle scrum. Burrows was not suspended for the bite and went on to have a hand in all three of the Canucks’ goals in Game 2, including the overtime game-winner that put the Canucks up 2-0 in the series.
Finger-biting related taunts and aggression toward Burrows became a theme throughout the remainder of the series.
Kensil was a longtime executive in football operations in the Jets organization until 2006 when he assumed the role of vice president of game operations for the NFL. In July 2015, Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston reported that Kensil was the “driving force” behind the investigation into the pressure of the Patriots’ footballs and the “main source” for ESPN’s reporting on the issue.
Kensil even reportedly confronted Patriots equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld on the sideline after halftime of the Patriots’ 2014 AFC Championship game, which kicked off Deflategate.
“We weighed the balls,” Kensil reportedly told Schoenfeld. “You are in big f—— trouble.”
Johnson is a six-year NFL veteran who turned heads with his criticism of the Patriots franchise published days after the Eagles defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. He said he does not believe Patriots players, for all their success, enjoy playing in the NFL as much as players on other teams.
“I just think that The Patriot Way is a fear-based organization,” Johnson said in Feb. 2018. “Obviously, do they win? Hell yes, they win. They’ve won for a long time. Do I think people enjoy and can say, ‘I had a lot of fun playing there’? No, I don’t. That’s just the God’s honest truth.”
Patriots Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty called Johnson out during the team’s Super Bowl parade in February in a video posted to Instagram.
“When you go to four Super Bowls in six years, that’s fun, baby,” Harmon said. “Man, what’s wrong with you, Lane Johnson?”
Vujacic featured in the Celtics’ rivalry with the Lakers throughout the 2000s, which culminated in two NBA Finals matchups in 2008 and 2010.
In Game 4 of the 2008 Finals, the Celtics trailed 50-48 at halftime. A second-half comeback resulted in some late-game drama; Boston took the lead for the first time in the entire game with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter. With 20 seconds to go, Ray Allen found the ball in his hands, guarded by Vujacic. Allen beat Vujacic to the basket and took the Celtics’ lead to 5, prompting an emotional reaction from Vujacic on the Lakers bench.
Vujacic would miss two more shots before the game ended, and the Celtics would ultimately win the series in six games.
When the Celtics and Lakers next met in the regular season, Vujacic described an intense dislike for the Boston team.
“I don’t want to hear their name whatsoever,” Vujacic said ahead of that December 2008 game, according to the Boston Globe‘s Marc J. Spears. “I just want to play against them. I’m speaking in the name of all the Lakers fans, we dislike them more than anything.
“I’m not wearing green because of Boston. I don’t like Boston at all. You can say hate, I don’t care.”
Vujacic helped the Lakers exact revenge on the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals when he sank two free throws in the dying seconds of Game 7 to give the Lakers a four-point-lead and the most recent win in Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals history.