The 7 Greatest Rivalries in Sports History

by 4 years ago


Rivalries are what make the sporting world go ’round. It’s hard proof hate can be a good thing. Some rivalries, of course, stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Michigan-Ohio State

College football’s greatest rivalry (sorry Auburn-Alabama) is so fierce otherwise intelligent human beings refuse to actually say the name of the other school. That is not mature behavior. But the uncanny ability to make normal people act insane is the true indicator of a great rivalry.

There have been 110 meetings between these mortal enemies, most of the time with the Big Ten title or national championship hopes at stake. Each school has churned out a top NFL talent and each has a larger-than-life coach intertwined into its DNA.

The bad blood does not end on the football field. People from Ohio hate people from Michigan, and vice versa. Hell, the two states fought an actual war.

It’s going to take an awful lot to knock this one from the top of the list. That said, here are a few more to consider:

Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees

At a certain point, it became fashionable to lament the East Coast bias of sports coverage. When it comes to baseball, however, it’s impossible to talk about tradition without falling back on the oldest rivalry. It’s Boston and New York, two of the oldest cities in the country, with teams who have routinely fielded teams that reflect the ideology of their respective cities.

A parade of Hall of Famers have made their way through both franchises and familiarity bred contempt. The recent rebirth of Boston (three World Series titles in the last 10 years) has ratcheted up the intensity and introduced a whole new generation of fans to a rivalry enjoyed by their fathers and grandfathers.

Arnold Palmer-Jack Nicklaus

Golf rivalries are a different animal than those seen in team sports. It’s just mano-a-mano out there on the links, and these two did it better than anyone else. Their disparate personalities provided an easy — and accessible — storyline as televised golf rose in popularity.

Of course, it’s hard to not think Palmer had the better career, if only for this:


Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers

The two most successful NBA franchises of all-time traded dynasties while going about it in different ways. Boston was workmanlike, L.A. was “Showtime.” The Larry Bird-Magic Johnson debate was the pinnacle of the NBA’s greatness. Anyone who says otherwise is just plain wrong.

This rivalry is so compelling because it pits East Coast against West Coast and left the entire swatch of the nation in between to choose sides.

Duke-North Carolina

Separated by only eight miles, these college basketball blue bloods play two extremely exciting games per year. No other rivalry can match the pure frenzy on display when these two matchup. Students abandon class altogether and camp out for weeks in advance.

The Tobacco Road foes have been meeting since 1920. In that time, the game of basketball has changed significantly. What’s remained the same is the unbridled and hatred shared by neighbors. Good old-fashioned hate is sort of quaint if you think about it.

Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali

Three fights. All landmark cultural events that were so much more than sports. Two giant men with an open dislike for each other. The boxing world has been chasing this pair’s shadow for decades. And you know what? They’ll never catch lightning similar lightning in a bottle.

Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears

Just a couple of dark-beer, fried-food-eating fanbases who love nothing more than seeing the other side suffer. This pairing trumps all other NFL rivalries because of the old-timey field. Frigid conditions, frost-bit fans. What’s not to like?

[Image via Andrew Weber/USA Today Sports]

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