C's at No. 40 in 2011 ultimate standings

Each year, ESPN the Magazine ranks how much MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises give back to the fans in exchange for all the time, money and emotion the fans invest in them. The Boston Celtics check in at No. 40 this year (the issue hits newstands on Friday), hopping up from No. 68 last year. Hop HERE for a glimpse at the methodology and check out the C's snapshotInsider below:

Last Year's Rank: 68

Title Track: 21

Ownership: 38

Coaching: 13

Players: 31

Fan Relations: 38

Affordability: 79

Stadium Experience: 65

Bang for the Buck: 60

For the Celtics, this past year proved how fine the line can get between glory and gory. Start with the 2010 NBA Finals. Boston had a 3-2 lead in the series, just one game away from a second title in three seasons. But the Big Three couldn't finish the job, and the rival Lakers won it all. So while the Title Track jumped three spots, Boston fans would've liked a bigger hike. This season's "It's All About 18" quest ended up as a highlight of milestones; Paul Pierce became the third player to notch 20,000 points in a Celtics uni, Ray Allen broke Reggie Miller's record for three-pointers made (2,561) and KG became an All-Star for a record-tying 14th straight time. Ownership took a hit (falling 2 spots) even though it was president Danny Ainge who made the questionable transactions of signing the two aging, injury-prone O'Neals, Shaquille and Jermaine, and trading away center Kendrick Perkins. The franchise did get some love for resigning Doc Rivers to a five-year deal, with Coaching (team-best No. 13) seen as its best path to one more shot at glory. Celtics fans believe their team's Affordability (No. 79), the franchise's worst category for a third straight year, is a direct result of the NBA's ticket prices (third-highest in the league at $68.55) and something they can deal with when the result is glory and not gory.

* Forsberg's thoughts: Ticket prices seem to drag down the Celtics in fan experience categories, which is unfortunate, because the actual in-game experience for Boston is so much better than you'll find in most NBA cities. The Celtics put an entertaining product on the court and maintain the momentum on the JumboTron during stoppages in play. Couple that with a fan base that brings energy every night and seeing a game at the Garden is a real treat (if only parking and concession costs were lower).

As for how the Celtics fared compared to their area brethren: The Patriots were the highest ranked franchise in New England, followed by the Celtics, Bruins (72), and Red Sox (79).