If you are a sports fan like me, then you are obsessed with rivalries. With the anticipation of upcoming games or events against the people or teams that you dread the most, one can only get goosebumps. Winning is great but winning against your rival is AMAZING. A sports rivalry is an intense competition between athletic teams or athletes. This pressure of competition is felt by players, coaches, and management, but is felt strongest by the fans. I can pretty much watch any sporting event when it’s on, but when that said event is a storied rivalry, I get to a whole new level of excitement. Twice a year, and maybe an extra game in the playoffs, I wait patiently for my Jets-Patriots games and I enjoy nothing more than my Knicks vs Heat games but throughout the history of sports some teams have separated themselves from the pack when it comes to intense rivalries. Below is a list of what I feel are the best rivalries in each respective sport.
Baseball: New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox
From the curse of Babe Ruth to the greatest comeback in baseball playoffs history, these two teams have put together a century of heated battles. There is no worse city rivalry then that of Boston vs New York and there is no better team rivalry between the two cities than the Yanks and Sox. Sure the Jets and Pats and Knicks and Celtics have bad blood but what the Red Sox and Yankees bring every season is an absolute hatred for each other. Although a lot of people consider when the Sox and Yankees finished tied atop the AL East in 1978, which the Yankees won an intense 1-game playoff for the pennant, the most memorable moment in this storied rivalry, I have to disagree. I feel that the 2004 AL Championship Series is the most memorable moment when the Yankees led 3 games to 0 and ultimately lost the best of seven series. The Red Sox comeback was the only time in baseball history that a team has come back from a 0–3 deficit to win a series. The Yankees might be the greatest baseball franchise ever, but Boston always seems to get under their skin.
Basketball: Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics
The rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics involves two of the most storied franchises in NBA history. The two teams have met in the NBA Finals a record twelve times, with the first time happening in 1959. The Celtics have won 9 out of the 12 Finals matchups between them. These two teams dominated the league in the 1960s and the 1980s, and faced each other six times in the 60s and three times in the 80s in the Finals. The greatest individual player rivalry that came out of these two teams hatred for each other was that of Larry Bird vs Magic Johnson. Magic said of the games against the Celtics, “when the new schedule would come out each year, I’d grab it and circle the Boston games. To me, it was The Two and the other 80.” Similarly, Bird said that, “the first thing I would do every morning was look at the box scores to see what Magic did. I didn’t care about anything else.” These teams seemed to brawl almost every time they met on the hardwood and that’s why there will never be an NBA rivalry that can compare to it.
Football: Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears
Even though a lot of people consider the Packers to be huge rivals with the Minnesota Vikings, I don’t think that there is any dispute that the Packers biggest rival are the Chicago Bears. The Bears and Packers form the league’s longest rivalry dating all the way back to 1921. They have played each other a record 184 times between the regular and post seasons. Chicago currently leads the all-time series, 92–86–6 but Green Bay has won 6 out of the last 7. With both teams playing in the NFC North division, we get two crazy competitive games between them a season. I found an extremely interesting fact about this rivalry that makes it even more bad-ass then it already is. This rivalry can be credited for the first ever ejection of players for fighting during a game back on November 23, 1924. The Bears’ Frank Hanny and the Packers’ Walter Voss were ejected because of words being said and then punches being thrown. Two years later, Hanny was ejected once again in a game versus Green Bay.
College Basketball: Duke vs North Carolina
These two universities are only located only 8 miles apart. Imagine having your worst enemy living in your backyard. Duke and UNC have been facing each other since January 24, 1920. They have squared off a remarkable 234 times with UNC leading the series 132-102. Both schools are also two of the most successful programs in NCAA history with North Carolina as #2 on the list of all-time wins in Division 1 Men’s Basketball and Duke as the #4. With coaches like Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski, it’s no wonder why these two programs have produced some of the best college and NBA players ever. Though these teams have never met in the NCAA Tournament, their battle for the ACC crown year after year is enough to make them one of the best sports rivalries in the world. While UNC has won the ACC regular season 29 times compared to Duke’s 19, Duke has won the ACC tournament 19 times while UNC only has 17. Every season Duke vs UNC has the most watched college basketball regular season games because of how intriguing the rivalry really is.
Soccer: Real Madrid C.F. vs. F.C. Barcelona
This rivalry is so famous that it has been nicknamed, El Clasico. For all you geniuses out there, that means The Classic. This rivalry was given the nickname The Classic because of it’s storied history and buzz behind every matchup. These two star-studded teams face off twice a year in the Spanish La Liga and sometimes more if the teams meet in other tournaments like the UEFA Champions League. Other than the UEFA Champions League Final, El Clasico is the most watched football club match in the world, watched by hundreds of millions of people. Dating all the way back to 1902, Real Madrid and Barcelona have been facing off to epic battles. Madrid and Barcelona are the two biggest cities in all of Spain and the two clubs are two of the richest, most successful and influential football clubs in the world. Throughout it’s history, this rivalry has been extremely close as the record between to the two teams in the Spanish League is a surprising 69 wins for Real Madrid and 64 for Barcelona while the teams have drawn even 31 times. Currently, the two teams each have one of the two best players in the world with Cristiano Ronaldo on Real Madrid and Lionel Messi on Barcelona.
I know there a ton of storied rivalries that I have left off this list, but it is my belief that these 5 are the best in the history of their respective sports. Feel free to let me know if you think I unjustly left a deserving rivalry off and I will be more than willing to debate with you.
“Thank you for helping me keep my job,” is probably exactly what Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was thinking as the final seconds of Miami’s game 7 101-88 victory over the Boston Celtics wound down. Before the game started, a stoic Lebron James was asked how he felt about the game 7 matchup, since he had lost in his previous 2 game 7’s, and James responded with “I won’t regret it!” That type of confidence would intimidate anyone, but coming from arguably the best basketball player on the planet would make even Chuck Norris shit his pants. After the disappointing game 5 loss to Boston that put Miami down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, critics were trashing Lebron’s “lack of a clutch factor,” while Miami fans were begging for Spoelstra’s head/resignation form.
Game 6 was a breeze and entering game 7, Miami was considered a big favorite on their home court. As the game started it was lead change after lead change with both teams countering their opponents attacks. When the third quarter approached, Boston came out of the gates fast and built an 11 point lead. At that point you could see the fear in Spoelstra’s eyes as he was about to lead the favored Miami Heat to yet another disheartening early exit from the playoffs. Luckily for Spoelstra, James didn’t show that same fear. Lebron had a sense of motivation and determination that I have personally never seen him have. There was absolutely no way that Lebron was not going to face off with OKC in the NBA Finals. Even though James was the clear reason that Miami won this game and the series, he gave credit to a player that made a huge difference in games 6 and 7. “He was big time — every shot, every defensive play, every rebound — we missed him,” James said of Chris Bosh. “We’re just happy to have him back at the right time. If it wasn’t for him and the rest of the guys that stepped up, we don’t win this game.” Classy statement from Lebron, but the truth of the matter is that without James, Miami would have been swept by the Knicks in the first round.
I have to give Boston a lot of credit, because during the regular season they were under .500 going into the all-star break. For them to completely turn their season around and make it all the way to game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals is an impressive feat in itself, but to do it with a team filled with players that will be using walkers and wearing Depends in a few years is all the more extraordinary. This was most likely the last game that Boston’s “Big 4,” (Rondo, Garnett, Pierce, and Allen) will ever play together. I’m a die-hard Knicks fan so I am not to unhappy with that news, but as a sports fan it is always sad to see a dynasty die.
The Celtics didn’t only lose this game for themselves, but they seem to have helped Timothy Bradley beat a disgruntled Boston fan in Manny Pacquiao. The two welterweights had an epic matchup of their own last night that Bradley ended up winning in a split decision. What’s incredible about this battle is that Pacquiao has been a life long Celtics fan and refused to let the match start until the Boston Miami game was over. By caring more about the basketball matchup then his own fight, Manny seemed to have had his priorities askew. “I did my best,” Pacquiao said. “I guess my best wasn’t good enough.” Don’t worry Manny, neither was Boston’s.