Best Rivalries in Sports Ever

Greg RiotAnalyst IApril 7, 2017

Okay, it would be impossible to come up with a Top 10 list of the greatest rivalries in sports history.

That's just not possible because, well, there are 10 rivalries in college football that stand out right now. So, I’m going to take a different approach and just list the top rivalries of all time in each of the following sports: the NFL, college football, golf, hockey, horse racing, boxing, college basketball, NBA basketball and MLB baseball.

That should do it!

Top Rivalries of All Time

NFL FootballGreen Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

Forget it. Sure, the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons hate each other and the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins despise each other, but the Packers and Bears are just big time, throw it down, old school football rivals. 

I could write a book on how badly these teams hate each other. You think Packer fans are upset that Favre plays for the Vikings? Put him in a Bears’ uniform and then we can talk about being upset!

This rivalry goes back to the dawn of football as we know it and the fact that both teams are decent in 2009,  means that the rivalry will continue to be as hot as it always has been. 

College Football Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines

This rivalry is so intense that HBO did a documentary on it

How intense is this? 

Former Buckeye’s Coach John Cooper had a winning team with Ohio State and won a Rose Bowl, but was still fired because he couldn’t beat Michigan. So intense, that if Rich Rodriguez beats Ohio State in 2009, his job will be secure. If he doesn’t, alumni will call for his head.

So intense, that an a-hole like Woody Hayes could continue to beat up his players year in and year out and keep his job because he goes after the Wolverines. Just beat Ohio State, Michigan and just beat Michigan, Ohio State. 

That’s all that anyone involved with either one of these teams cares about. They’d rather go 1-10 every year if the lone victory is against their hated rival, than go to the Rose Bowl every year forever.

Golf Jack Nicklaus vs. Arnold Palmer

The Golden Bear, that’s Nicklaus, out dueled Palmer for seven major titles between 1962 and 1967. So, there wasn’t really a rivalry. But golf is more of a public opinion sport than anything and Arnold Palmer was the most popular golfer to ever walk the earth until Jack came around.

Today, the two men are still rivalries in the advertising world as both of them continue to fight for pitchman dollars.

HockeyToronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadians

From 1944 to 1978, the Leafs and Canadians met each other in the playoffs 12 times and faced off in the Stanley Cup Finals five times.

This rivalry is also symbolic of two seemingly different cultures. Montreal is French-Canadian; Toronto is not. That’s the real reason that the fans from these teams can’t stand each other. 

Also, for the longest time, there wasn’t a team in Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton. You were either a Leafs fan or a Canadians fan.

Horse RacingAffirmed vs. Alydar

In each of the three Triple Crown races in 1978, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes, Affirmed held off the on rushing Alydar to record a Triple Crown victory.

The thing that a lot of sports fans don’t recall, is that Affirmed and Alydar faced each other 10 total times during their careers.

Alydar beat Affirmed three times. Of course, not one of the three was as important as Affirmed sweeping the Triple Crown in 1978, but hey, Alydar held his own in three out of the 10.

BoxingJoe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali

The Thrilla in Manila, arguably the greatest fight of all time, was the icing on the cake in the three battles between these rivals.

In the first, Ali was returning from his imposed exile for not gong to Vietnam during the war. Ali, a Muslim, claimed that it was against his faith. 

Frazier put him on his back in that first fight. Ali returned to beat Frazier for the right to fight the then heavyweight champ George Foreman in their second battle.

Then, after Ali upset Foreman, he took on Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila. Ali claims that fighting Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila was as close to death as he’s ever been and that if Frazer hadn’t decided to throw in the towel after the 14th round, he might have died in the ring.

College BasketballDuke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

Sure, Louisville and Kentucky can’t stand each other, but Duke and North Carolina are just mean towards each other.

They hate each other with a passion that goes beyond the hardwood, as the Blue Devils and Tar Heels are arguably the two most successful modern day college hoops programs.

UCLA dominated the 1970’s, but they didn’t play anybody. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels are located roughly eight miles apart from each other on Tobacco Road.

Den Smith vs. Coach K.  Now, Coach K. vs. Roy Williams. In the toughest conference in college hoops, Duke and NC are the two toughest teams. That’s a rivalry!

NBA Basketball Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

I absolutely love this rivalry!  Why?  Because when these two teams face each other, it’s usually for all of the marbles. 

East Coast vs. West Coast.  Blue collar Celtics versus Hollywood Lakers, this rivalry has it all!

Back in the day it was Wilt vs. Russell. Then, in the 1980’s, it was Magic vs. Bird. Now, it’s Kobe vs. KG. 

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have always dominated the NBA. That’s just the way it has always been and always will be.

MLB BaseballNew York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

These teams hate each other almost as if there are no other teams in MLB.

It all started with the Curse of the Bambino which I really can’t get into in this article.  Let’s just say that this is a deep, deep rivalry that won’t go away until human beings stop playing baseball.


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