Most Heated Rivalries in the NBA
Since the inception of the NBA, the league has been driven by one word: rivalry.
From Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to Vernon Maxwell and anyone who crossed his path, the league has thrived off of the competitive nature of its stars. From the blood-boiling feuds to the competitively driven clashes, the NBA has been the home to legendary battles.
Whether sparked recently or created in the past, the following rivalries live on today. There's only one question to answer:
What are the most heated rivalries in the NBA today?
Honorable Mention: Evan Turner vs. Chicago Bulls
Entering the 2011-12 NBA postseason, Philadelphia 76ers wingman Evan Turner made one thing perfectly clear.
He felt the Sixers were lucky to have drawn the Chicago Bulls as their first-round opponent.
Even with Derrick Rose suffering from injury, Chicago managed to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls managed to take that spot over the Miami Heat.
Per ESPN Chicago, Evan Turner had the following response.
"It means we're dodging the tougher team. That's what I think."
"I think we'll be able to compete well against Chicago," Turner told the (Delaware County) Times, "and have an opportunity to win the series."
Chicago welcomed Turner with deafening boos every time he touched the ball.
To make matters worse, Turner averaged 11.2 points and 7.5 rebounds to help lead the Sixers to a series victory.
With the Sixers young and filled with upside, this rivalry should continue to grow stronger.
15. Dwight Howard vs. Shaquille O'Neal
The name O'Neal made famous.
"...my thing is if you want to call yourself me [Superman], then you’ve got big shoes to fill. I’m not in the Superman this, and Superman that. He won a dunk contest with a cape. If you want to be called Superman because of that, it’s fine with me. I’m Superman for other reasons. I don’t envy him; he’s a great young player."
Since then, we've hardly gone a month without more controversy.
Howard has switched from Superman to Iron Man (via The Orange County Register), a nickname former Laker great A.C. Green made famous.
As one can see in the video placed above, Shaq has since claimed Brook Lopez is a better center.
Shaq and D-12 will be forever linked—even if they are completely different players with nothing to do with one another.
14. Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers
The Golden State Warriors officially created a rivalry with their taunting celebration of Blake Griffin's missed jump shot.
The Los Angeles Clippers exacted revenge by defeating the Warriors by a score of 115-89 just three days later.
The two California clubs have long been competitive with one another, but rarely have we seen the two sides this passionate about defeating one another.
Perhaps a return to postseason contention has sparked a memorable rivalry for years to come.
13. Jeremy Lin vs. New York Knicks
Jeremy Lin may have been cheered upon his return to Madison Square Garden, but the crowd quickly turned to boos—you know, as soon as he torched his former team for 22 points and eight assists in a game Lin's Houston Rockets won by a score of 109-96.
It was the second time Lin has defeated the New York Knicks by double-digits since they let him walk during the 2012 offseason.
Although there appears to be no animosity between the two sides, Lin will always garner headlines when the Knicks are the opponent. In turn, this rivalry becomes legitimate.
After all, who wouldn't hold a grudge against the team that said he wasn't worth the money?
Don't forget, at that time, Lin brought more attention to the Garden than Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony combined.
Linsanity lives on in this rivalry.
12. Carmelo Anthony vs. the 2003 NBA Draft
Carmelo Anthony is the only top-5 selection from his draft class not to win an NBA championship.
The rivalry is on.
'Melo, meanwhile, has never made it to the NBA Finals.
Fortunately for Anthony, his New York Knicks are off to a 23-11 start. They rank sixth in points scored and 13th in scoring defense.
The task will be defeating LeBron, Bosh, Wade and the Miami Heat.
Until 'Melo wins an NBA championship, he will be viewed as the least-significant member of the draft class.
You know, besides Darko.
11. Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Hallway Series has been lopsided since day one.
As of Jan. 8, the Los Angeles Lakers lead the all-time series by a margin of 97-31. The two teams have never played against each other during the postseason.
With that being said, the Los Angeles Clippers have won both of the battles during the 2012-13 season.
The Lakers won two of three in 2011-12. Both of their wins came by just five points.
With the infusion of talent for the Clippers and the downfall of the Lakers, this rivalry has become legitimate. Once the Lakers' All-NBA talent meshes, the battles will remain on an equal level.
The Los Angeles basketball rivalry has become legitimate.
10. Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs
The Dallas Mavericks have played the San Antonio Spurs in five postseason series since 2001.
San Antonio won in 2001, 2003 and 2010. Dallas won in 2006 and 2009.
Until Houston becomes a more legitimate title contender, this is the Battle for Texas.
Led by Hall of Fame power forwards Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, we've rarely seen games as competitive as those between Dallas and San Antonio.
Since 2009, the Spurs have won the regular-season series by a close margin of 8-6. Two of those wins have come in 2012-13.
As for their overall success, the Spurs and Mavericks have won five of the past 14 NBA championships. The Mavs made an additional NBA Finals appearance in 2006.
The Mavericks have made the postseason in every season since 2001. San Antonio has been there every season since 1998.
In other words, this Texas duo has been dominant—against each other and the rest of the league.
9. LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant
They may be friends off of the court, but on it, they're as fierce of rivals as you'll find today.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant share a competitive spirit that leads both to an undying desire to win an NBA championship. Just don't expect them to sign on to play for the same team.
They'd rather beat one another than help the other win—unless they're competing for an Olympic gold medal, that is.
LeBron currently has the one-up on Durant, having defeated KD's Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals.
With that being said, Durant has matched LeBron's three MVP awards with three consecutive scoring titles. He's also four years less experienced.
This rivalry will be at the forefront of the NBA for years to come.
8. Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks
During the late '80s and 1990s, the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks had the most heated rivalry in the NBA.
The two teams met in the postseason six times from 1989 to 1996. The Bulls won five of those series.
From Michael Jordan's late-game heroics to Patrick Ewing's interior dominance, there was never a dull moment between these two teams.
Their infamous 1994 brawl was a symbol of their hatred for one another (via YouTube).
Although the rivalry fell into a state of dormancy since Jordan's retirement, Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler have revitalized it.
On Dec. 21, 2012, Chandler and Noah entered a shoving match during a Chicago victory (via YouTube).
This resulted in two of five ejections during the game. The rivalry was reborn.
7. Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks
The Miami Heat and New York Knicks have played in five postseason series since 1997.
New York has won three of five.
During the 1998 postseason, Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson entered an infamous fistfight (via YouTube).
Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy latched onto Mourning's leg in the midst of the bench-clearing brawl.
Since the two franchises formed super teams in 2010, the Heat have won five of nine regular-season games. Thus far in 2012-13, the Knicks have won both games by 20 points.
The rivalry is reborn, and the battle of Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James is at the forefront.
6. Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks
If you thought this rivalry was dead, Anthony and Kevin Garnett brought it back to life.
During a Jan. 7 battle between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, KG and 'Melo got into a physical and verbal sparring match on the floor. It started with an interior battle getting too physical.
Garnett has a way of doing that, doesn't he?
A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England reports that Anthony waited alongside the Celtics' team bus after the game. Once the Celtics emerged, 'Melo, Garnett and the Celtics entered a screaming match.
Police and team officials were present to monitor the situation.
This is the latest chapter in what was once a storied rivalry. Perhaps this battle of Atlantic Division teams will rekindle the flame.
The teams have met 13 times during the postseason. The Celtics have won eight of those battles.
Expect more to come from two of the three remaining original NBA franchises.
5. Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat
The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat have met in the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.
Most recently, the two sides went to seven games during the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.
The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, have played LeBron in four of the past five postseasons. They defeated him both times he wasn't playing with Wade and Chris Bosh.
And so this rivalry is born.
Due to the recent nature of the feud, the ranking takes a bit of a hit. If you're looking for the most intense game of the year, however, look no further than this.
Both teams hate each other. A future slide illustrates just how far this rivalry has come in three short years.
And it's not just about LeBron.
4. Ray Allen vs. Boston Celtics
The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have a rivalry. Ray Allen and the Celtics share a hatred.
During his tenure with the Celtics, Allen won the 2008 NBA championship. Since then, it all went downhill.
Allen, publicly at times, expressed his dismay with Rajon Rondo being named the "leader of the Celtics" (via ESPN Boston).
This was just a minor aspect of their ongoing feud.
Allen eventually left to sign with rival Miami.
This would later lead to former friend and teammate Kevin Garnett "losing Allen's phone number" (via CSNNE).
When Allen and the Heat played KG and the Celtics on the opening night of the 2012-13 regular season, Garnett ignored Allen's attempt at communication (via Yahoo! Sports).
The rivalry is fierce. What else could one expect?
3. Tim Duncan vs. Kevin Garnett
If there is one man who can get under the skin of the calm-mannered Tim Duncan, it's Kevin Garnett.
Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated wrote a piece about Duncan during May of 2012. In the article, Ballard reported that sources state Duncan hates Garnett.
Timmy didn't seem to be too keen on giving a definitive answer.
...Duncan hates Kevin Garnett...This information comes from very reliable sources, who talk about how KG has made a career of trying to punk Duncan, baiting him and slapping him and whispering really weird smack into his ear.
Asked if perhaps all those years battling Garnett have softened his feelings for the man, led to a Magic-Larry type of kinship, Duncan leans back on the couch in his hotel room and grins. There is a pause. A longer pause. Finally he says, "Define kinship."
Duncan and Garnett are two of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. They're also from the same era.
The comparisons have been present throughout the duration of their respective careers, and the battles have been legendary.
Garnett has done everything from trash talking to slapping Duncan (via YouTube).
Even as they age, their battles rage on.
Their Dec. 15, 2012 game saw the two clash early. From there on out, it was trash talk and physicality.
One of the great rivalries of our time.
2. Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers
If you want to see two teams that hate each other, look no further than the infamous history between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.
Before superstars were crying for referees, they were throwing punches.
That was life for these two teams, as Larry Bird and Julius Erving consistently went at it.
Instead of asking for a foul after a slap on the arm, they played from whistle to whistle and left it all on the court. This isn't to suggest players throw punches, but instead that they should toughen up.
Take notes, every superstar of 2013.
As for contemporary times, the quality of the games speaks volumes to where they remain.
On Dec. 7, 2012, Philly won a riveting 95-94 overtime thriller. The true rebirth, however, came months earlier.
Boston defeated the Sixers in a seven-game series during the 2012 NBA postseason. Four of those games were decided by single digits.
Two were decided by one point.
Although the fights are done with, the rivalry remains strong. Boston and Philadelphia are at each other's throats.
1. Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers boast the greatest rivalry in the history of the NBA.
The Celtics and Lakers have combined to win 33 NBA championships. There have been 66 NBA champions in history.
For those who don't want to do the math, Boston and L.A. have won 50 percent of the league titles.
The two sides have faced off in 12 NBA Finals. The Celtics won the first eight, while the Lakers have taken three of the past four.
In fact, L.A. and Boston have played in two of the past five NBA Finals. They split the meetings.
In the '60s, it was Fred Schaus leading Jerry West and Elgin Baylor against Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and the Celtics dynasty.
In the '80s, it was Magic Johnson and Larry Bird creating the greatest individual rivalry in the history of professional basketball. A rivalry that saved the sport.
In the 2000s, it was Doc Rivers leading Garnett, Paul Pierce and Allen against Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Today, Howard is among the new generation of Lakers while Rondo helms the Celtics. Even still, the familiar faces are there.
This rivalry will be the greatest regardless of where the teams are in the standings. History outweighs all else.
And it always will.