Ranking the L.A. Lakers' 5 Most Despised Rivals This Season

Richard LeContributor IIINovember 23, 2012

Ranking the L.A. Lakers' 5 Most Despised Rivals This Season

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    On a roster with a myriad of strong personalities like the one the L.A. Lakers' possess, there are bound to be some heated exchanges during games.

    Compiling the extremely competitive nature of Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace's long history of violence and aggression will definitely rub some teams the wrong way.

    However, rivalries in the NBA boil down to the intensity and competitiveness of NBA games. The best teams in the NBA know that they are the best and enter each game expecting a victory.

    With the collision of talents and strong wills between teams, a team loaded with pride and talent like the L.A. Lakers is bound to establish some rivalries over the years.

    This list ranks the Lakers' top five rivals of this NBA season.

5. Miami Heat

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    The Miami Heat have lived up to the hype.

    Becoming the most unstoppable force on both ends of the court in the NBA, the Heat are the golden standard that the L.A. Lakers were initially following the acquisition of Pau Gasol.

    After making it to the Finals in the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh's first year together and winning a title in their second year, the core trio of superstars are in the prime of their careers and will be title contenders for the foreseeable future.

    On the other side of the NBA, the Lakers have retooled and are predicted by many to retake their Western Conference throne and challenge the Heat in the finals.

    With such enormous pressure to reestablish themselves in the upper echelon of the NBA, it is a safe bet to assume that the Lakers have circled their two meetings with the Heat for emphasis.

    The match-up possibilities for these two squads are all interesting.

    Consider the enormous amount of talent on both teams and how they will match up with each other.

    Bryant's indomitable will pitted against Wade's clutch play, James' versatility and leadership leading the Heat's brand of position-less basketball, Dwight Howard's impressive advantage in the post, Chris Bosh's ability to stretch the floor and draw out the post defender and Metta World Peace's volatility are all potential storylines to keep watch on.

4. Dallas Mavericks

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    The L.A. Lakers have never looked right since the Dallas Mavericks swept them in the NBA Playoffs in 2011 and sent Phil Jackson to his retirement.

    Despite the leaps and gains Andrew Bynum made the previous season and the swap for Dwight Howard this season, the Lakers have yet to truly regain that championship form that helped them topple the Celtics in the NBA Finals in 2010.

    Despite sweeping the season series during the previous NBA season, the Lakers have yet to wipe the embarrassment of being swept in the playoffs by the Mavericks from their minds.

    However, with a Mavericks squad that has lost a lot of pieces from that championship year and a star player in Dirk Nowitzki who is still on the mend, the Lakers will have to make due with beating up on a shell of that title-winning team. 

    So far this season, the Lakers have given up one game to the Mavericks, but there are still games to be played and honor to be regained.

    Although true retribution only comes through a playoff series, there is no doubt that the Lakers will come into every game against the Mavericks with a chip on their shoulders until the Lakers can truly avenge their four straight playoff losses against them.

3. L.A. Clippers

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    Ever since the trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the L.A. Lakers was vetoed and they had to watch him go to their inter-city rival, the Lakers and the L.A. Clippers have been tussling to be the standard bearer in L.A.

    Though the Lakers were initially the far superior team, the young core and the strong bench unit that the Clippers possess have slowly pushed them into the upper echelon of NBA teams.

    On the other hand, the Lakers have struggled mightily and it appears as if a changing of the guard has occurred in L.A.

    However, after the Lakers retooled for this season, the question is still up for debate regarding which of the two L.A. teams is the best in the city.

    With this being the case, players and coaches from both teams have downplayed the rivalry. However, it is apparent that the choppiness and physicality between the two teams reach playoff intensity every time they face off.

    Consider that Kobe Bryant would rather die than come in second in anything and the fact that he has openly said that Chris Paul is his only match in terms of competitive will, and there is no doubt that a clash of egos is bound to occur every game.

    Fueled by the competitive spirits of their leaders, the pride of playing in L.A. and the physically intense style of play set by players like Caron Butler, Metta World Peace, Matt Barnes, Bryant, and Paul, there is no doubt that these teams share a rivalry that makes for very entertaining basketball.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    If the above video wasn't reason enough, the fact that the L.A. Lakers were brought to six games in the 2010 playoffs and eventually passed the torch to the Oklahoma City Thunder after being beaten in five games in the 2012 playoffs has humbled and humiliated the Lakers.

    Furthermore, Derek Fisher, a staple of the L.A. Lakers for the majority of his career, signed on with the Thunder after being released by the Lakers too make room for Ramon Sessions to start.

    In addition to Fisher, the acquisition of Kendrick Perkins by the Thunder brings a man with an established rivalry with the Laker bigs during his tenure with the Celtics.

    With the emotional toil of having to go up against Fisher, the battles with Perkins down low, the humiliating memories of passing the torch to the Thunder and Metta World Peace's horrendous elbow to James Harden that still yields horrid repercussions despite Harden's departure, the Lakers and the Thunder have built a tremendous rivalry in the battle to determine the kings of the Western Conference.

    Although the Thunder have established themselves as the class in the West, the Lakers' new pool of talent and the pride instilled in them from years of tradition and from Kobe Bryant's mental toughness will ensure that these match-ups will be both intense and physical as the Lakers attempt to reclaim their spot at the top of the conference.

1. Boston Celtics

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    There are a multitude of reasons that make this rivalry one of the most compelling in sports.

    The Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers have been bitter rivals for decades. The most recent rendition of this tried-and-true story of competitive disdain rears its head in various regular-season match-ups and two Finals appearances in recent years.

    Splitting the two Finals the teams have competed in with each other within the past few years, the Lakers and Celtics' rosters are both composed of proud veterans who play basketball with the same aggression and pride as their '80s and '90s counterparts.

    Despite losing Ray Allen this season, the Celtics' trio of superstars in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo have had many memorable match-ups against Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the rest of the Lakers squad.

    However, the 2010 finals may have been tainted slightly, as Kendrick Perkins sat out Game 7. Although injuries are never used as an excuse by most teams, there is a prevalent belief that the Celtics may have won that series if Perkins had remained healthy.

    This notion does not sit well with the Lakers, and though there hasn't been a chance for the teams to make a definitive statement against one another following those two Finals, they are both trying to claw their way back to the NBA Finals before the sea of talent and youth in the league finally overtake them.

    With both squads remaining at the upper end of both of their respective conferences despite the age of their key starters, the teams now share many similarities that make the match-up even more compelling.

    The win-now mentality they both possess due to their aging cores will ensure that intensity and effort will be prevalent in the majority of their games.

    Furthermore, there are very few teams that can match the mental toughness that the veterans of both squads possess.

    Another similarity is the fact that both teams are trying to speed up the tempo of the game. Though the Lakers are doing so under Mike D'Antoni, the Celtics are doing so for the same reason the San Antonio Spurs are.

    The Spurs and the Celtics wish to conserve the minutes of their aging stars, and pushing the break will enable more easy baskets while reducing the time players like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett have to spend banging in the post.

    Couple those similarities in terms of mental toughness and fortitude with the fact that the two teams care very little for each other, and the rivalry will continue to live on in dramatic fashion.