There are five major league professional sports teams in Massachusetts: the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball, the New England Patriots of the National Football League, the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association, the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League, and the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer.

The Red Sox last won the World Series in 1918 but have appeared in it and lost five times since, most recently in 1986. The Patriots won the American Football Conference Championship in 1986 and 1997 but lost Super Bowls to the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, respectively. However, they reversed the trend by capturing the Super Bowl in 2002 with a dramatic win over the St. Louis Rams. The Celtics are the winningest team in NBA history; they have won the championship 16 times, including the seemingly unbeatable record of eight consecutive titles from 1959 to 1966. They last won an NBA championship in 1986. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1929, 1939, 1941, 1970, and 1972. Additionally, there are minor league hockey teams in Springfield, Worcester, and Lowell.

Suffolk Downs in East Boston features thoroughbred horse racing; harness racing takes place at the New England Harness Raceway in Foxboro. Dog racing can be seen at Raynham Park in Raynham, Taunton Dog Track in North Dighton, and Wonderland Park in Revere.

Probably the most famous amateur athletic event in the state is the Boston Marathon, a race of more than 26 mi (42 km) held every Patriots' Day (3rd Monday in April). It attracts many of the world's top long-distance runners. During the summer, a number of boat races are held. Rowing is also popular. Each October the traditional sport is celebrated in a regatta on the Charles River among college students in the Boston/Cambridge area.

In collegiate sports, the University of Massachusetts has become a nationally ranked basketball power; Boston College has appeared in 12 bowl games, highlighted by a victory in the Cotton Bowl in 1985; and the annual Harvard–Yale football game is one of the traditional rites of autumn.