Rivalries are part of sports just as much as the fans who watch them. Whenever you add player personalities, passionate fan bases and the element of competition, you will always have fierce and great rivalries like the list I’ve assembled. Here’s my list of the top 10 sports rivalries.
10. Army-Navy (college football)
Readers may already turn their nose at this pick, but this is a classic rivalry mostly for bragging rights. There’s so much history and tradition associated with both service academies. These teams started playing each other in 1890.
This isn’t a hated rivalry like Alabama/Auburn, but it’s a special one. These players don’t go on to play in the NFL like most big time programs, however, they go to serve in the nation’s armed forces.
However, some players that have played in the Army–Navy Game that have gone on to NFL careers. Quarterback Roger Staubach, (Navy, 1965) who was elected to a Hall of Fame as a Dallas Cowboys. Wide receiver and kickoff/punt returner Phil McConkey, (Navy, 1979) who played on the New York Giants’ team that won Super Bowl XXI.
9. Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers
This is a newer rivalry(started in 1996), but maybe the most fierce in the NFL today. These two teams have no love lost for one another, as they play at least twice a yea. There’s usually AFC North implications on the line as well.
Years ago, Ravens Linebacker Terrell Suggs was quote as saying there was a bounty on of Steelers Wide Receiver Hines Ward. Suggs later suggested he was joking, but after what later came out with the Saints scandal, maybe he wasn’t.
The Ravens/Steelers have met in the postseason three times, all resulting in all Steeler wins and the Steelers hold a 21-15 advantage in their all-time meetings.
8. Los Angeles Dodgers- San Francisco Giants
This rivalry doesn’t get talked about as much because of the Red Sox and Yankees, but it is just as intense.
This rivalry began in the late 19th century when both clubs were based in New York City. The Dodgers playing in Brooklyn and the Giants playing in Manhattan.
Not many people know this, but after the 1956 season, Jackie Robinson was traded to the New York Giants for Dick Littlefield and $35,000 cash, but the trade was never completed. Robinson retired instead after he thought the effects of his diabetes affected his play.
Dodgers and Giants fans are well known to fight one another during or after the game. 42-year-old Giants fan, Bryan Stow, was injured when he was attacked by two Dodgers fans in the Dodger Stadium parking lot after the Dodgers and Giants opener in 2011. Stow luckily survived the attack and later attended Game 2 of the 2012 World Series at AT&T Park against the Detroit Tigers.
7. Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers
The NFL oldest rivalry which includes a combined 186 regular-season and post-season games. The two clubs have won a combined 22 championships in the league’s 92-year history.
48 members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame have played in this game.
Bears currently leads the series 92–88–6.
6. Boston Bruins-Montreal Canadians
This is the NHL’s best and most hated rivalry. Bruins and Canadians were two of the orignal six teams in the NHL and been playing each other since 1924.
Bruins/Canadians have met in 33 series for a total of 170 games and in 10 playoff series.
This rivalry has been about fights and NHL supremacy.
In 1955, Richard Riot was high-sticked by the Bruins’ Hal Laycoe, who was a defensively for the Canadiens previously. Richard required five stitches to close a cut that resulted from the incident. The referee allowed them to continue to play and then Richard struck Laycoe in the face and then broke a stick over Canadians linesman Cliff Thompson and punched him twice in the face, leaving Thompson unconscious.
5. Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics
No disrespect to fans other NBA teams, but these two teams are the NBA. Together, the Lakers and Celtics have accounted for 33 championships (Celtics 17 and Lakers 16) of the 66 championships in NBA history (50 percent of NBA Championships).
These teams have met a record 12 times in the NBA Finals with the Celtics leading NBA Finals meetings 9-3.
The rivalry grew to new heights during the 1960s as the Lakers and Celtics met in the finals six times. Celtics won every postseason meeting in the 1960s and won nine NBA titles during the 1960s.
The Lakers-Celtics rivalry was renewed in the 1980s, in large part due to the personal rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Lakers and Celtics combined for eight NBA Titles in the 1980s with the Lakers winning five of those.
The reason this rivalry can’t be any higher than five is because of the dead period from when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird retired. While the Lakers would go on to win three NBA titles 2000-2002, the Celtics never returned to the finals until 2008.
In 2008, the Celtics acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to team with Celtic superstar Paul Pierce to become the new “Big Three.” The Celtics returned to the top of the NBA in the 2007–2008 season by having the best record in the league and reaching the Finals to play the Lakers. Celtics would go on to win the 2008 NBA Finals four games to two and then started what I call the three-year war.
Lakers and Celtics most recent NBA Finals meeting was in 2010. Lakers won the series four game to three in a classic.
4. Alabama Crimson Tide-Auburn Tigers (College Football)
Out of all the rivalries on the list, this one has the most hatred out of all of them. This is a 365-days-a-year rivalry between Alabama and Auburn fans. There isn’t any professional teams in the state of Alabama, so this is what people live and die by.
One example of this (story reported by Athlon Sports) “When Bill Curry was coaching at Alabama, he went to a Birmingham elementary school one day to speak with children about football and life. Upon entering the classroom, he saw a boy standing in the corner, sobbing. Curry wondered what was going on, and a student told him, “Jason is an Auburn fan, and we took care of him.” Curry brought Jason out of the corner and told him it was all right to root for the Tigers, no doubt angering the young Crimson Tide supporters in the room.”
Curry never understood the rivalry and this was the reason he fired. Curry, a nice man, but he clearly didn’t understand how much this game meant to the people of Alabama. Curry went 26-10 in three seasons at Alabama, which is a good record for three years. But after losing to Auburn three straight times, Curry had bricks thrown through his windows and was fired.
Auburn or Alabama have claimed the last four College Football National Championships. There’s even a sign as you enter the state letting you know this is the state of the past four national championships.
3. North Carolina-Duke (college basketball)
This game is personal for me. I grew up in a household with nothing but Duke fans and I was the only UNC Tarheel basketball fan in the house. So you can imagine what that was like growing up.
This rivalry is kind of like Alabama/Auburn but more intense because both UNC and Duke are separated by only eight miles. If you get off the I-40 exit going to Chapel Hill, N.C. you will see a sign that says Duke University and points to the left, University of North Carolina and it points to the right.
UNC has traditionally been good through history, but this rivarly really picked up once Duke hired coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K has won four NCAA titles for Duke, and gotten Duke to 11 Final Fours (1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2010).
UNC and Duke have been the among the best programs in America the past 25-30 years. Since 1982, both the Tarheels and Blue Devils have both won four National Championships and have been in a number of Final Fours. Just imagine what it would be like if they ever played in a Final Four?
2. Michigan-Ohio State (College Football)
A lot of rivalry games have fancy nicknames like the “World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” or “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” but this game is just called “The Game.”
This game usually determines the Big Ten Championships and sometimes who plays for the National Championship.
Michigan/Ohio State game has been held at the end of the regular season since 1935 (with exceptions in 1942, 1986, and 1998).
If it has been “The Ten Year War,” the John Cooper era when he only beat Michigan twice, or even today, this rivalry has been special and like no other in college sports.
What separates this rivalry from Duke/North Carolina is the longevity of it. Duke/North Carolina has been a big time national rivalry for 30 years or so. I could make the argument that NC State use to be UNC’s biggest rivalry until Coach K came to Duke. Ohio State/Michigan has been a big time rivalry since the 1930s.
Both of these teams have storied histories, and that’s why it is one of the best rivalries in sports.
|BCS bowl appearances
|Rose Bowl appearances
|Big Ten titles
|All-time program record
|All-time win percentage
1. Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees
Was it really a debate about what was number one?
Red Sox were the dominating team and the Yankees for the doormat of baseball until in 1919, when Harry Frazee, the Red Sox owner, sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000 . No one, not even the Yankees could have thought they would be getting the best player in the history of baseball.
Before the trade of Ruth, Red Sox had five World Series and the Yankees had none. After the trade, Yankees have 27 World Series Championships.
These two teams have the biggest and maybe the most passionate fan bases in all of baseball. This makes for great banter on Twitter, at the bar, no matter if you’re a Yankee, Sox fan or just a fan of baseball.
The rivalry really started to heat up in 1999, when the teams met in the postseason for the first time. Yankees won the series 4-1, but the lone win was by Pedro Martinez in a classic game for the ages. Martínez struck out 12 and did not allow a run through seven innings as the Red Sox won game 3, 13-1.
Then the Yankees-Red Sox met two more times after that in 2003 when Aaron Boone hit a crushing homerun to win the seven game series. Then in 2004, the Red Sox, after trailing the series 0-3, came back in historic fashion to win the series 4-3.
From Bucky’s blast to a bloody sock, the Yankees and Red Sox have epitomized sports rivalries for decades.
Even after 110 years of playing one another, it still doesn’t get old.