The 100 Best Rivalries in Sports
Rivalries are a logical extension of sports. When you train your whole life to become the best at a particular event, you are bound to run into opposition. That opposition can take many forms.
It may be an ill-timed injury, or bad coaching or horrible strategy. But many times that opposition has a name and a face. It is the group of players standing on the other side of the field planning to ruin your best efforts.
When you take that kind of opposition and drop it into a microcosm of various circumstances, a rivalry is born. They can spring up just about anywhere.
A misunderstood phrase could raise the ire of a close-by competitor. A badly thrown ball can set off a chain of events and start a feud that would outlast the Hatfields and McCoys.
Rivalries are a special subsection of sports. The season of any sport is welcomed with open arms every year, but the rivalry game is circled on the calendar with black ink.
You don't miss these things for anything in the world. Here are the 100 best.
100. Clemson vs. South Carolina
Let me start the hatred in South Carolina. The in-state rivalry between Clemson and South Carolina has been going on since the 1880s.
The feud has extreme political beginnings. South Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts was the sole institution of higher learning in the area until 1889, when Clemson was founded.
Clemson took on the full name Clemson Agricultural College, and South Carolina, which had supported the south in the Civil War, chose to go to simply South Carolina. This infuriated the local farmers, and the rivalry began.
All because of a simple name. You will see that this is not the most trivial reason to start a feud.
99. Jeremy McGrath and Travis Pastrana
On any given year, the top MX biker will be either Jeremy McGrath or Travis Pastrana. McGrath has 12 individual championships and 102 career wins.
For Pastrana, his mark is left indelibly at the X Games. Not only does he boast the winningest tenure at SuperCross, but he does so while also competing in the rally car events.
These two are in a constant struggle for extreme-sports dominance.
98. Jeff Gordon vs. The Earnhardts
Jeff Gordon won his first Winston Cup title in 1995. It came at the cost of Dale Earnhardt Sr., who was then the back-to-back champion. The media immediately colored the rivalry as old school vs. new school. Earnhardt Sr. would never win another title.
Today, the rivalry lives in the fans of Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. They are known to create a line of demarcation in the stands splitting both factions.
97. Kelly Slater and Andy Irons
Rivalries do not only exist in conventional sports. They also find themselves in the surfing world.
Kelly Slater and Andy Irons seem to exchange the world title back and forth every year. It has become a heated exchange between two tough competitors.
Slater once said, “Hype creates great situations in sports. It definitely gets overdone, but it’s also not without merit. There’s a reality to feelings and situations in those places.”
96. Florida State vs. Miami
This one is all about the football. Many Seminoles pick the Hurricanes as their biggest rival, trumping the Florida Gators. The reason being that both of these teams have fought in some pretty important games.
The Seminoles and Hurricanes are on a yearly collision course in the ACC. The fact that both are perennial powerhouses makes it a national event as well.
95. Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams
The NBA has its fair share of stars. But there is only so much love to go around at the point guard position.
Every season we are greeted with question after question on the state of the NBA. Amongst those is the question of who is the top point guard. For some time, there have been only two names: Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
Both are class-one guards that boast different styles. Chris Paul is elusive. He can drive and dish with the best of them.
Williams is powerful and cunning. Both are supremely talented and the NBA has its hands full in dissecting them.
94. Benefica vs. FC Porto
The Portuguese League may not be as renowned as the English Premiership or the Spanish La Liga. That does not mean that their premier rivalry, or O Clasico, is not as intense.
For many years, Benefica was the power of the league. They ruled with an iron fist until FC Porto came to dominance.
Now they are in a constant struggle of old vs. new. They are in a sense the only powers of the league. In the past 30 years, one of the two clubs has taken the title in all but three seasons.
93. Boca Juniors vs. River Plate
The Argentine people love two things: meat and soccer. The latter may take a slight lead, at least during football season.
The most beloved of the Argentine league are Boca Juniors, who are renowned the world over, and River Plate.
This also goes down as the most colorful rivalry on the list. No matter that stadium the two play against each other in, fans adorn the stadium with streamers and banners.
After the match, there are dancing and festivities no matter which side prevails.
92. Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling
Joe Louis and Max Schmeling superseded a mere boxing match in the 1930s. On paper, Louis lost to Schmeling in the first contest but later knocked out the German in the first round of their rematch.
In defeating Schmeling, Louis personified the American distaste for Nazi Germany. It is for this reason that he is considered one of the first African-American national heroes.
91. Sasha Vujacic vs. Goran Dragic
Here is one for the “did you know” section. Two NBA players of the lesser-known ilk absolutely despise each other.
Sasha Vujacic and Groan Dragic play for the Lakers and Suns, respectively. Both come from the same home country: Slovenia. The fact that they are countrymen does not help assuage the lingering hatred.
Any time the two are on the court, it gets very interesting. Both can’t help but guard the other even when they are not the other’s assignment.
There have been elbows and trash-talking. It is the last time either of them will make a top-100 list as well.
90. Williams vs. Amherst
Tucked away in the smaller corner of college football rivalries lies the feud between Willams and Amherst.
They may be small in stature and population, but this rivalry dates back to 1884. There have been 125 incarnations of “The Biggest Little Game.”
If hatred could ever be classified as quaint, this would be it.
89. Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul
It may rub Rajon Rondo the wrong way that he is rarely mentioned above Chris Paul as the more elite guard, even though he has a title ring. But on Nov. 1, 2009, tensions ran extremely high.
It seems Chris Paul does not think too highly of Rondo, saying, “I think Rondo's a lucky guy to be able to play with a guy like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace.”
Yes, Chris, but many times he has been the best of all four.
88. Ted Williams vs. Joe DiMaggio
It is not enough to have one of the best rivalries in the world between two teams, you must also have the players to duke it out.
Both the Yankees and Red Sox have had their legends. But during the '30s and '40s, the two clubs had two of the best in baseball giving it their all.
The best year of both players' careers happened in 1941. That is the year that Williams hit .406 and DiMaggio had his 56-game hitting streak. Both are records that will never be touched.
87. Brad Childress vs. Brett Favre
Brad Childress had a cushy job. He was the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. He even had the team a game away from the Super Bowl last season. Then he had Brett Favre rammed down his throat one season too many.
What occurred is a comedy of errors. Childress lost control of Favre, then the team.
When Favre failed to perform on the field last weekend, Childress was summarily fired. This season saw both men lob insults and insinuations about the other at press conferences.
86. Terrell Owens vs. Donovan McNabb
Terrell Owens likes to leave a trail of stink wherever he goes. He managed to do that in Philadelphia. After the Eagles lost the Super Bowl, Owens maintained that Donovan McNabb was not in shape.
This observation has set off not only both players against each other, but factions of NFL fans who either love or hate Terrell Owens.
Their tenure together in Philadelphia is depicted as a constant rash of bickering and arguments.
85. Dodgers vs. Angels
The Dodgers and Angels have enjoyed a benign Freeway Series every year before the season begins. The two teams were relatively calm until the Angels decided to take on the Los Angeles name as part of their moniker.
Many Dodgers fans found this news unacceptable. The series has since been a bitter fight between the two teams. Many in Los Angeles believed that a team from Orange County had no business claiming their city as their own.
This will continue to be a war to rightfully consider the fans of the city their own.
84. Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward
Gatti and Ward produced one of the more memorable trilogies in boxing history. Their first fight garnered a Fight of the Year award from Ring magazine. The first two fights went 10 rounds and on to the cards. Gatti dropped the first fight but picked up the second.
The third fight saw Gatti break his hand in the fourth round. Ever the fighter at heart, he managed to continue for a few more rounds. Ward would finish him off in the end, though.
83. Jimmy Connors vs. John McEnroe
John McEnroe had more than one rival during his career. That makes sense when you consider the polarizing athlete he was. He seemed to bring the worst out of people.
Jimmy Connors for all intents is a nice guy, yet he can’t help but hold a grudge.
“Something like that never goes away, especially between Mac and myself," Connors has said. "To have carried on this rivalry for so many years, and for you still to be talking about it, must mean that we made our mark somewhere.”
82. Chivas vs. Club América
El Clasico, as it is called, allows for bad blood between these two teams to be laid out on the pitch for all to see.
The Mexican fan base is a passionate sort. They are stubborn in their loyalties and despise the other side.
Now take that sentiment up to 10 and you have the feelings between these two clubs.
81. Kobe vs. LeBron
This one was born in the media. It seems basketball pundits tire when there are not two like images that they can compare. There are stark similarities though.
Kobe Bryant had a tarnished image that he has all but revived. LeBron was the King who had his castle crumble around him.
So in the ongoing saga of who is better, we have Kobe and LeBron. The mere mention of either name polarizes NBA fans from all corners of the country. The only thing better would be if these two meet in the Finals.
80. Brett Favre vs. the Packers
This is a new one that will die out very soon. Imagine, if you will, Magic Johnson wearing a Celtics jersey. Well, that is essentially the image Packers fans have when they look at Brett Favre in purple.
Their franchise player is now playing for the enemy. And both sides hate each other. It seems like that is the only game Favre cares about anymore.
He feels like the Packers gave up on him too easily and the Packers Nation feels betrayed that he is playing for the enemy.
I think it lies in the middle. The real question is, why is Favre still playing at all?
79. Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather
This is such a good rivalry that the two have not had one round together yet they still hate each other. Mayweather contends that Pacquiao is a possible steroid user and should be tested constantly before a fight.
Pacquiao maintains he is clean and will submit to all tests under the rule book. He also has thrown out the accusation that Money May is ducking him.
Could I just have my Christmas present early and get this fight going?
78. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
These were the two most popular wrestlers at the time. They started as friends and allies, but that quickly changed. Ratings are not as good if your two top performers are best buds.
Andre the Giant demanded a title shot and Hogan delivered. In their first match as enemies, Andre dominated, until Hogan turned the tables in the end and took the victory.
The two would clash many times over the years, in Survivor Series events and title matches. They were the two shining beacons that WWF used to attract its massive following.
77. Barry Bonds vs. Jeff Kent
Nothing like two teammates who absolutely hate each other. No wonder the Giants could not win the World Series with two future Hall of Fame players on their squad in 2002. Dysfunction breeds horrid results.
The feud between the two was already well-known, but it became all the more public earlier that season when the two fought openly in the dugout.
The two had to be separated, and Kent bolted to the Astros the following year.
76. Harvard vs. Yale
“The Game” is the second-longest-running rivalry in college football. Students for both squads circle the last game in the season to claim supremacy over their Ivy League brethren.
It may have lost intensity in recent years, but the longevity and long-standing ill feelings place this standoff as among the best in history.
75. Oscar De La Hoya vs. Fernando Vargas
The two fighters knew each other from their days as amateur boxers. Both were Mexican fighters hoping to captivate the fair share of their people’s hearts. Before their bout in 2002, the rivalry became heated.
Vargas had nothing but insults for De la Hoya. He labeled him a sell out and not a real boxer. On the night of the fight, it was clear that Vargas was labeled the villain.
De la Hoya received a more pronounced ovation from the crowd. He went on to knock out Vargas in the 10th round. This is despite Vargas later testing positive for steroids.
74. Lane Kiffin vs. Tennessee
The Tennessee Volunteers are a proud program. They do not take their hiring practices lightly. They believed without a doubt they had themselves their head coach of the future in Lane Kiffin.
Before his second season started, Lane Kiffin left the Vols high and dry for the greener pastures of USC.
The result was absolute mayhem in Tennessee. I believe there to be countless hexes and curses strewn on Kiffin and his family by irate Vols fans.
73. Ravens vs. Steelers
This one is quite simple. You take a dash of playing in the same division. Pour in some hatred and animosity. Cultivate for a few years and you have yourself a bitter rivalry.
It probably does not help that both teams seasonally field the toughest hard-hitting defenses in the NFL.
Couple that with the fact that every time they play it is for control of the division. No, I can’t see why they hate each other.
72. Bill Belichick vs. Eric Mangini
It seems that papa bear can’t stand to see his little tyke get some credit. Eric Mangini coached under Belichick for nine seasons.
Mangini was then hired by the Jets to be their head coach. He is currently the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
The rivalry is born from Belichick’s lack of warmth to his star pupil. He rarely is seen talking to Mangini or shaking his hand.
Mangini has had the last laugh, though, as his Browns destroyed the Patriots earlier this month, Again, Belichick begrudgingly shook Eric’s hand, sort of.
71. Jake LaMotta vs. Sugar Ray Robinson
There are boxing matches, and then there are rematches. If the boxers are up to the task, they might fight three times.
LaMotta and Robinson fought six times. The last culminated in the Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Therein, LaMotta was TKO’ed in the 13th as he lay bleeding on the ropes. It was fitting because LaMotta, a gritty fighter, always maintained that he never went down.
Robinson continued his career, and LaMotta retired and tried to be a stand-up comedian.
70. Usain Bolt vs. Tyson Gay
Usain Bolt is the fastest man alive. There is no denying that he is superhuman in his ability to amaze on the race track.
But Tyson Gay has trained his whole life to no avail. Bolt extinguished Gay’s 100-meter hopes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. All the while doing it with a loud mouth and grand gestures.
Gay took notice and trained harder. He may have just sent a message when he beat Bolt in the 100m at the DN Galan meet this past summer.
You can be sure this rivalry is about to get much better.
69. Nebraska vs. Missouri
Nebraska may be the biggest party-poopers in the NCAA. By moving to the Big Ten conference, they are extinguishing two heated rivalries.
One of them is the spat they have with Missouri. That’s fine, though. It was only the second-longest rivalry in the Big 12. The two schools shared 104 meetings.
Unless yearly out-of-conference games are scheduled, Nebraska will own the series 68-36. Way to take your ball and run home, Nebraska. Missouri was just warming up.
68. Howard vs. Hampton
This is one of the more beloved rivalries in the historically black colleges and universities. Anytime the two take the football field, it is an extraordinary event. So much so that in recent years they have had to play the game at bigger sports arenas.
In 1999, it was played at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. That went so well that they held the subsequent matchup at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
67. Oakland A’s vs. San Francisco Giants
The A’s and Giants could not be any more different. Since their landing in San Francisco, the Giants have been seen as classy and sophisticated, like “The City” they reside in.
Oakland is a counter-culture team. In the '70s they wore their hair long and their mustaches longer. In the late '90s they were the sarcastic youths of Generation X.
The teams live in such a close proximity but are eons apart in character and structure.
The two met in the earthquake-marred 1989 World Series. Both teams picked up the pieces that year and finished the series amidst chaos.
66. Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns
"The War" was the name given to the bout between the star middleweights. Thomas “The Hitman" Hearns was moving up a weight class for the fight, which was a dangerous decision at the time.
You have to consider that "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler was a mean puncher who had won nine of his last 10 fights by way of knockout in the ninth round or earlier.
The fight was a classic from the get-go. Both fighters came out swinging. By the end of the three minutes, both fighters were already spent.
Ring Magazine considers it the greatest round in history. The fight lasted only three rounds, with Hearns being knocked out after showing very tired legs.
It is still considered one of the best fights in history. It is all due to the fact that the fighters came out trying to kill each other.
65. Grambling vs. Southern
The Bayou Classic is an annual game held between Grambling and Southern. The game is the oldest “classic” in the HBCU.
It is held every year on the last Saturday in November. So as you are fixing yourself some Turkey leftovers, you can flip on the television and watch this feud, which is currently tied at 18 games apiece.
64. Lakers vs. Kings
Some rivalries are long-lasting. Some are over in the blink of an eye. The rivalry between the Kings and Lakers was among the best in NBA history. But it lasted only a few years.
In 2000, both teams rose to the top of the Western Conference ranks. This meant that a lot of monumental games would have to be played between the two. There was none more monumental than Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
The Kings were but one win away from going to the Finals. Kobe drove to the hole with the Lakers down a bucket. He missed the chip shot and the rebound was fumbled by the big men.
That is, until Vlade Divac went to clear the ball. Unfortunately for him and the Kings, it went right into the hands of Robert Horry. The rest is history.
63. Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
Would you like proof that these two teams despise each other? Well their feud has a name: “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.”
The best I can gather, the rivalry started when the two schools decided to plant themselves but 70 miles apart. Now not only do they have to fight for state funding and students, they must also fight for television time and popularity in their geographic region.
Not to mention the actual football games that get played between the two. I guess that would be enough for me to clean, old-fashioned hate someone.
62. Ben Hogan vs. Sam Snead
This is a case of the fans getting two interesting characters to pit against each other.
Hogan was a technical master. His swing looked almost crafted from years of trial and error. He was also a quiet introvert, not really the type to carry on with the media.
Snead was the opposite. He was a colorful Texan who didn’t mind sharing his thoughts.
He once relayed about Hogan, “The things I fear most in golf are lightning, Ben Hogan and downhill putts.”
61. Bruins vs. Canadiens
The Bruins and Canadiens have played more games between each other than any other tandem in NHL history.
As is always the case in rivalries, the best ones are spawned at the pinnacle of their sport. These two teams have met in the playoffs more than anyone else.
The most excruciating fact is that Montreal has won six Stanley Cups at the expense of the Bruins. As of today, the Bruins have yet to return the favor.
It is enough to drive a fanbase mad.
60. Yankees vs. Dodgers
This one saddens me a little. The Yankees and Dodgers were bitter rivals when the Dodgers were back in Brooklyn. The two tried their best to continue their rivalry with World Series bouts in 1963, 1977, 1978 and 1981.
But the rivalry has been stagnant due to the lack of games the teams play. They are rarely at their best at the same time and interleague play has done little to pit these two teams against each other.
This should be a series we see at least during the regular season every year.
59. Richard Petty vs. David Pearson
This is considered by some to be the best rivalry in NASCAR history. Both combatants had nothing but unkind words for the other. The two enemies finished one and two on the final lap 63 times in their careers.
Their most famous race came at the 1976 Daytona 500. On the final lap, the pair were neck and neck. Petty nudged Pearson into a tailspin and both cars hit the wall.
Petty was in a now-defunct car on the infield, and Pearson was in a car that could only manage 20 mph. That is exactly the speed he was going when he took the flag.
58. Lakers vs. Suns
It seems like every time the Lakers are on the rise, they must pass through the Suns to get to the promised land.
They first met in 1970. In that year, the Suns lost a 3-1 lead to the Lakers. The Suns would lose four more playoff series in the '80s before trouncing the Lakers in 1990 en route to the Western Conference Semifinals.
The most recent version of hatred was during the 2006 NBA playoffs. The two players who were destined to match up were Raja Bell and Kobe Bryant.
Suns fans saw Kobe as egotistical and full of himself. The Lakers fans saw Bell as dirty.
The two had words for each other as well. Bell referred to Bryant as “arrogant.” Bryant replied that he "didn’t know the kid.”
57. Syracuse vs. Georgetown
Both are distinguished private universities that tout top-notch educations. Both colleges have had some wonderful basketball teams.
These two powerhouses have been doing battle for over 30 years. Both have collided yearly since the Big East's inception in 1979.
It is without a doubt the conference's biggest rivalry. The two teams take extra special care when they play each other. There is so much more meaning behind these games.
56. Michael Johnson vs. Maurice Greene
These two could not stand each other. It may have been a feud born from Michael Johnson’s popularity or just another way to pump themselves up for the race.
Either way, during the 200-meter Olympic qualifying event in 2000, the feud took a weird twist.
After months of talking trash to one another, the two entered the 200m final as favorites to go on to Sydney. Both went down in the middle of the race with injuries. The video can be seen here.
55. AC Milan vs. Inter Milan
The “Derby della Madonnin” was born in 1908. After frustration and issues arose within the Milan Cricket and Football Club, the club split. Thus was born the Inter Milan and AC Milan feud. Both factions claim the right to hearts of the Milan people.
AC Milan used to be the club of the working class, while Inter was a club for the upper middle class. These distinctions are now extinct, but some of their feelings still exist in some form.
54. Knicks vs. Heat
This is a relatively recent rivalry that may have been born from Pat Riley and his unwillingness to rebuild a team.
After Riley took over the Knicks gig in 1991, the Knicks were an immediate success. They went to the Finals in 1994 but lost to the eventual champions, the Houston Rockets. Riley bolted to Miami amidst tampering allegations on the side of Miami.
The Heat, who were once the laughingstock of the East, became contenders overnight. The Heat would then face the Knicks four years in a row in the playoffs. There is pressure enough in the playoffs without starting a brand-new rivalry.
The tipping point was Game 4 of a 1998 playoff series. Former teammates Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson got into a fight that was broken up by diminutive coach Jeff Van Gundy hanging on Alonzo Mourning’s leg. It was the stuff of cartoons.
53. Packers vs. Bears
This is one of the longest rivalries in NFL history. Between the two, they share 21 NFL championships, including four Super Bowls. It has accumulated into over 180 games between the two.
When you match up that many times with the same team, you are bound to create some animosity.
These are two of the oldest NFL teams that have been thrown into the same division. Every season your wildest dreams have to first go through either Green Bay or conversely Chicago.
That’s enough to make someone hate you.
52. Dale Earnhardt vs. Darrell Waltrip
Darrell Waltrip was a colorful character. He always had a fun spin to everything he said. This was needed against the rougher exterior of Dale Earnhardt. At one point, Waltrip commented about Earnhardt, “For the first time in racing, they've found a way to put the hood behind the wheel.”
Earnhardt took exception to Waltrip’s brazen talk. In 1986 at Richmond, Earnhardt planted Waltrip into the guardrail. Waltrip was furious.
The two eventually made up and became good friends. Waltrip would later drive for Earnhardt.
51. Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran
It is with a sad heart that I tell you the tale of Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. It is because that as good as this rivalry was, it illustrates just how good two welterweights can be fighting each other. There are a lot of similarities between these two and Pacquiao and Mayweather.
Before their first bout, Leonard had never been beaten. In the second round, Leonard was caught off guard and almost went down. The fight would wage on for 15 rounds with Duran winning a thriller by decision.
The second fight was just as grand. It included the taunts of Sugar Ray over Duran. By the eighth round, Duran had had enough.
Their third fight was a boring spectacle as both fighters were past their prime. Which is exactly what will happen if Pac Man and Mayweather do not fight soon.
50. Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova
The hate just isn’t here for this one. Both athletes respected one another. This is one of the greatest rivalries because of its longevity and the class of tennis it produced.
Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova duked it out for 15 years. On clay, grass or hard surface, they were the best of their time.
While Navratilova has a slight lead in head-to-head matches, she gets the best of Evert in Wimbledon matches. She won all five in which they faced each other.
49. Celtics vs. 76ers
These two sides have hated each other since they met for the first time in 1950.
The apex of the rivalry came in an exhibition game, of all places. Three fights broke out that night. The best was the Moses Malone and Cedric Maxwell brawl that had to be broken up by Red Auerbach.
But we will always remember the sight of a gangly Larry Bird and an aging Julius Irving choking each other in 1985.
Yes, the NBA used to be a great league. One that encouraged players to have emotions. Imagine what would happen if Kevin Durant and Greg Oden choked each other.
Oh, right; Oden would get injured before the altercation.
48. John McEnroe vs. Bjorn Borg
This was ice vs. heat. It was cooler heads vs. temper tantrums. I give you John McEnroe vs. Bjorn Borg.
Borg was the cool and collected one. He was at times, almost without emotion. Across from him 14 times in his career was a competitor that was his polar opposite.
John McEnroe never met an emotion he did not embrace. His antics included excitement, anger, astonishment, relief, anger, applause, anger, happiness and yes, anger.
The best part of the rivalry is that their head-to-head score remains at seven apiece. Both tennis stars got the best of each other once at Wimbledon as well.
47. Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin
The NHL must be tickled to have a lockout long over with. More than that, they start anew with their own version of Bird and Magic. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are the NHL’s best chance to get hockey back on the map.
All the while, both players maintain that they only care about team production and wins and losses. But we have seen this ruse before.
I would bet money that each player is checking the other’s box score after every game. At least, that’s what Bird and Magic did.
46. Kentucky vs. Louisville
Just as Duke and North Carolina fight for bragging rights, so too do the Kentucky and Louisville programs fight for their stake in Kentucky.
These two schools care little for what form their hate must take. If they are playing on the football field or the basketball court, it really is all the same.
They play every football season for bragging rights in the form of the Governor’s Cup. The Wildcats hold a 14-9 lead in that arena.
The Wildcats are also the leader in the Battle of the Bluegrass. Rather, the team with the best head-to-head record in basketball.
45. Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage
These two wrestlers epitomized what modern wrestling was for us fans. The two could not help but spill a little bit of the tension that they had out of the ring into the storylines presented to us by the WWF.
Hogan and Savage fought until they teamed up to take on Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase at Summer Slam.
But just as the two were becoming friendly, Hogan decided to take Elizabeth, Savage’s manager, as his own.
The famously jealous Savage was furious. From that point on, Hogan and Savage were bitter rivals. This made Saturdays all the more enjoyable for me as a kid.
44. Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady
It is nice to know that one of the best quarterback rivalries is still being written. There is no doubt that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the best the NFL has to offer in quarterbacking and leadership.
Both players have led their teams to the promised land. And both men seem to helm their offenses with a confidence not equalled by any other QB in the league.
This is a rivalry largely born in the media. It is a constant look at the latest stats from Sunday. Who did better? Who had more yards? Simply, who is better?
The only thing missing would be if these guys actually hated each other.
43. Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi
Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were the best in tennis during the '90s. Sampras was ranked No. 1 for 286 weeks while his foil held the spot for 101 weeks. The two met 34 times with Sampras taking 20 of those matches.
The rivalry was much tighter than that in the early '90s. When the two met at the U.S. Open in 1995, their head-to-head score was 8-8.
After Agassi lost the final to Sampras, he was never the same in his matches against Pete. Sampras was the bigger success after that fateful tournament.
42. Dodgers vs. The Big Red Machine
Tommy Lasorda likes to relay that during the '70s, no Dodger player was to wear any red or even mention the term red in his presence. The Reds were that good.
The Big Red Machine was the dominant team in the National League at the time. Lasorda must have thought the only way to make your players believe they could beat them was if they hated their guts.
There must have been a method to his madness, as the Dodgers won the pennant in 1974, '77, and '78. All the while the two teams exchanged hatred from the dugout.
41. Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral
In 1937, Seabiscuit had his best year. He won 11 of his 15 races and was the leading money-winner. Yet another horse stole all the thunder.
War Admiral had recently won the Triple Crown and was considered by experts as the hands-down better horse. War Admiral was stout and strong. By comparison, Seabiscuit was meek.
It was these differences that made a race between the two so captivating. You had the prestige of War Admiral against the working-class allure of Seabiscuit.
The two raced head-to-head on Nov. 1, 1938. In the end, the smaller Seabiscuit triumphed despite War Admiral running his best time for that distance.
40. Kobe vs. Shaq
This one will continue until the day they die. We thought Kobe had long forgotten about their feud until his latest championship, after which Bryant reminded people that he now had one more ring than Shaq.
Many believe this is the catalyst for O’Neal signing on with the Celtics.
The feud has seen a public trial that dished dirt about Shaq, a city that has switched loyalties more than once, and a rap song asking how Shaq’s rump tastes.
Well, I haven't sampled Shaq, but I can tell you the taste is not very good. Not very good at all.
39. New York Mets vs. New York Yankees
This bout was bred by the interleague play that Major League Baseball instituted in the late '90s. Until that time, the two teams only met in exhibition games.
Now they had a perennial foe to hate. More than that, their city’s inhabitants were forced to pick sides. Interleague would stoke the fires until the two would meet on the main stage in the World Series.
Game 1 became heated when Mike Piazza broke his bat on a Roger Clemens fastball. As he ran to first, Clemens picked up a shard of the bat and threw it at Piazza.
Roid rage or not, it was an odd sight that concluded with the benches being cleared. Now that is how you start a World Series.
38. Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson
We did not have much in the way of consistent heavyweight powers in boxing when I was growing up. But I was glad that I at least had Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. The two were forced to fight each other when all other potential foils disappeared.
We were not let down in the drama department between these two. Holyfield dispatched of Tyson in the first fight, but the rematch is where things got interesting.
When it was clear that Holyfield was getting the upper hand in the bout, Tyson relegated himself to his base animal instincts and bit Evander.
Stunned, Evander went to his corner and Tyson was warned. As we all now know, you do not simply warn Tyson.
He again went back and this time bit part of Holyfield's ear clean off. It is the only rematch that ended in someone losing part of their body.
37. Connecticut vs. Tennessee Women's Basketball
There are not many people who watch women’s basketball. It is a sad fact I am fine acknowledging. But I do not live in a cave or on a deserted island.
Therefore, I have heard of the women’s teams from Connecticut and Tennessee. Both programs are so dominant that they seem to supersede their own enclosure.
There are not many women displayed nightly on SportsCenter. If it were not for these two teams there might not be any. They are constantly in a battle for basketball supremacy, and we are all witnesses to it.
36. Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
This is the oldest rivalry in the NHL. During the period between 1944 and 1978, it was the best.
At that time, the two hockey powerhouses met each other in the playoffs 15 times. They also squared off in the Stanley Cup Finals five times.
Having added pressure on the line seems to make enemy’s ties stronger. In 1998, both teams moved to the same division.
This has helped keep the rivalry alive but not to the extent it was when they annually saw each other when it mattered, in the playoffs.
35. Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
If you stick two like-minded teams in the same division they will grate on each other after a while. Such is the life for the Cowboys and Redskins.
The two have had to face each other twice every season since the Cowboys entered the league. That is a long time to look at someone’s mug and wanting to slam it against a post.
Both teams are rich franchises that like to spend money. It seems to have worked, too.
The Cowboys have five Super Bowl titles and the Redskins have three. The only thing that would this brawl is if one of them moves to another division.
34. Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders
The Broncos hate the Raiders. That in of itself is not special, as every NFL team hates the Raiders. Oakland is the evil entity of the league and their fans pride themselves on that fact.
Why wouldn’t they? Football does not reward the nice and accommodating, they honor teams like the Silver and Black.
The Broncos, on the other hand are bright and airy. They are the foil to the Black Hole. John Elway was a good guy. Mike Shanahan was a good guy.
These two teams are in a constant cowboy drama that will only get better with age.
33. USA vs. Mexico (Soccer)
This is by far the greatest international rivalry in North America. Followers of the US, affectionately known as Sam’s Army, have taken solace in the knowledge that they have trounced El Tri in recent years. Anytime these two teams match up, it is a must-see event.
Some might view soccer as a series of flops and delays. But they are not watching the games in their entirety. If you tune into a USA vs. Mexico clash, you will be witness to shoves, punches and hidden kicks to the groin.
32. Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche
The two teams have shared ill will towards the other since their inception in the NHL. But in 1997, it was escalated tenfold.
In the 1996 Western Conference Finals, Avalanche winger Claude Lemieux checked Red Wings forward Kris Draper from behind, driving his face into the boards. The hit broke Draper’s jaw.
Detroit never forgot. They waited until the saw Lemieux next. On the fourth match between the two teams of the 1997 season, Lemieux finally suited up.
Darren McCarty took it upon himself to give a right hook to Lemieux, which started a rash of brawls that seemed to continue for the entire game.
Almost every five minutes after the biggest brawl with Lemieux, there were shorter, smaller fights. It seemed that the two teams hated each other so much that they could not take fighting each other anymore.
31. Brazil vs. Argentina (Soccer)
When you mention soccer to any passerby with even a little knowledge of the sport, they will recall the countries of Argentina and Brazil as two of the best. The two are on a continued war to assert themselves as the best of South America.
Brazil has the ultimate bragging rights as they have secured five World Cup titles to Argentina’s two. But in head-to-head matchups, Argentina edges out their Latin counterparts by a single victory.
30. USA vs. USSR Hockey
This was such a great rivalry as it was an extension of the Cold War the two countries were engaged in at the time.
We will never forget the “Miracle on Ice.” The Americans were considered too weak and under-skilled to match up with the great USSR team.
But winning a losing battle is in our blood, and we showed it at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
29. Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson
For a while, Phil Mickelson would have been content to just meet the level Woods was playing at. Now the Tiger Woods funk continues into year two.
Mickelson is by far the better golfer at the current time. That is something I never thought would happen.
I can only assume that this rivalry will heat up once Woods finds his stroke again. I mean, he will find it again, right?
The greatest golfer in the world doesn’t become mediocre overnight because of a sex scandal. But if he does, he was great while it lasted.
28. Kangaroos vs. Kiwis (International Rugby)
The Trans-Tasmanian rivalry is a good-natured one. It may be one of the only ones on this list.
The Australian and New Zealand people have always had a good relationship. The rivalry started with their first match in 1908. Since that time, the Australian club, the Kangaroos, have held on to a commanding lead.
But as you can see in the posted video, the Kiwis have an interesting way of pumping themselves up for the match.
27. Roger Federer vs. Rafa Nadal
This is a special one because it is a rivalry we can witness with our own eyes. Both tennis players are at the peak of their tennis lives. You could argue that either is the greatest of all time, and they are far from retired.
It seems that the tennis world flip-flops every year. One year it is Nadal to rule the world, the next it is the year of Roger Federer. The back-and-forth is melodic and enticing.
Stop and observe it before it comes to an end.
26. USC vs. UCLA Football
Los Angeles is a fickle city. I should know, I have lived here my entire life. What is en vogue one day could very well be a tainted mess the next.
The Bruins and Trojans operate under the same premise. While the fanbases remain heated in their seasonal clashes, it is the outlying Angelenos that change their allegiances like the seasons.
During the '90s, the Bruin colors could be seen on every head and heart in the form of shirt and hat.
Once the tide turned in the 2000s, Los Angeles turned into a burgundy-and-yellow colored town. Please choose a side and stick with it, LA.
25. Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus
What makes this rivalry interesting, besides the fact that it involves two of the greatest golfers of all time, is that it occurred during a transition.
The two golfers were pitted against each other at varying times in their career. Palmer was on the way out and Nicklaus was on the rise.
Essentially, the rivalry was a changing of the guard. Palmer was the last foe to beat before he could reign comfortably as the best of his time.
24. Manchester United vs. Liverpool
The rivalry pitting the two clubs from the northwest of England is appropriately named the North West Derby.
Geography is not the only thing at stake here. The clubs fight for prestige. Every season, the two are considered real contenders to not only take the national Premier League, but to challenge other nations' best clubs in the Champions League.
As of August 2010, both teams can aptly call themselves the greatest in the country. They have both won 58 major titles. The next trophy will equal ultimate bragging rights.
We Chelsea fans could care less.
23. Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings
Even before Brett Favre took this feud to 10, the Vikings and Packers shared a long history of disdain for one another.
Back when Vince Lombardi was winning titles for Green Bay, the Vikings had the audacity to come into the NFL and hire as their first coach the man that just defeated Lombardi in the Super Bowl, Norm Van Brocklin.
The rivalry is typified by the Packers, who feel they are deserving of greatness, and the Vikings, who would like nothing better than to take them down a rung.
22. Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox
Chicago natives fall into two camps, North Siders and South Siders. This dates back to that old rapscallion Charles Comiskey. The owner that famously underpaid his players was also interested in riling up other owners.
In 1900, he moved his minor-league team to Chicago. When Cubs management protested, he did one better and initiated the Chicago team as an actual major-league club and joined the fledgling American League.
He even named them the White Stockings, the first moniker that the Cubs used.
The only caveat is that he was to keep his team secured south of 35th Street. There you have the demarcation of the rivalry.
21. Ohio State vs. Michigan
It helps build tension when your seasonal final game is against the same opponent year in and year out. When you lose, there is but one face on your mind for the months leading up to the next season. Such is the rivalry between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines.
The best the programs ever had it was during the “Ten Year War.” At that time, both coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler had their programs seething at the other program. Michigan went on a winning streak towards the end of the “war,” winning in 1976, '77 and '78.
OSU coach Hayes was renowned for his use of the term “that team up north.” He refused to say the word "Michigan."
20. Michael Jordan vs. the Bad Boy Pistons
The Pistons were so great at bringing the grittiness out of teams in the '80s. It is a bygone era that we will, sadly, never see again. With NBA referees officiating with paranoia, there are not enough occurrences of bad blood on the court currently.
But when the Bad Boy Pistons took on the Michael Jordan-era Bulls, it was always a game you could not stop watching. Jordan would dazzle with skill and the Pistons would simply try to hurt him.
If you can’t beat him, kill him, was their mantra.
19. Army vs. Navy
It is truly special when a rivalry can transcend just the two teams that step foot on the field of battle every season. This is no different.
The annual game is seen to answer the age old inter-service question of importance. Both sides feel they are the most invaluable of the two.
Either way, it is always a good match between fierce competitors and we thank them both for their service.
Navy may have the lead in overall series wins, but Army has a great team this year. It will be a tough one for Navy on Dec. 11.
18. Colts vs. Patriots
This one dates back to 1970, when the two became division rivals in the AFC East. It didn’t really hit its stride though until the two were separated in 2001, with the Colts going to the AFC South.
This rivalry has picked up steam since then. Since that time, the two teams have been the class of the NFL on a yearly basis.
The Patriots have three Super Bowl wins since 2000 and the Colts have one. This one is not over by a long shot.
As long as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are at their respective helms, this one will remain interesting.
17. Nebraska vs. Oklahoma
This heated spectacle gathered momentum as the two powers were pitted against each other every season while they were members of the Big Eight conference. The best game the two ever played is the now famous “Game of the Century.”
In 1971 the two teams were No. 1 and 2 in the polls. Nebraska had the nation’s toughest defense and Oklahoma had the most prolific offense. It was a seesaw battle that Nebraska took in the end.
The sad news is that this rivalry is endangered as Nebraska has just agreed to leave the Big 12. It would behoove both institutions to schedule a yearly out-of-conference game to maintain the exchange that has been so good for so long.
16. Cal vs. Stanford
This is such a heated football rivalry that it can be found on the streets of the Bay Area, away from Memorial Stadium and “The Farm.”
Anytime a Cal student sees red anywhere, they instinctively ask for the wearer's hat, or that they take off that red shirt.
I have seen many people get swallowed by a mob that trespassed in red garb much too close to the Cal student section. The Big Game is truly a spectacle to behold.
15. Real Madrid vs. Barcelona
La Liga is one of the top soccer leagues in the world. It so happens that these two clubs are the pinnacle of that league perennially.
El Clasico is much more than two super clubs doing battle, though. Real Madrid has always been seen as an extension of Spanish nationalism, while Barcelona is seen to be the epitome of the Catalan region. The two are not just fighting for wins, but a unified national identity.
14. Duke vs. North Carolina
It is easy to hate another school when they are consistently threatening to take the national spotlight as both these teams are every season. It is even easier when both schools find themselves in the same state.
It seems like every year the Tar Heels and Blue Devils do battle to claim not only statewide bragging rights but keys to the national spotlight.
It would be very hard to state which team has had the better hand in this one. North Carolina touts 18 Final Four appearances to Duke’s 15.
Titles are just as close. The Tar Heels have five to Duke's four. This one is too close to call.
13. Notre Dame vs. USC
This is a simple case of two of the most storied programs in college football choosing to duke it out on a yearly basis.
The two schools have gone on to win 11 national championships. It used to be that the winner of their contests would go on to challenge for the national title.
That may not be the case today, with both schools suffering from down years, but they are still yearly opponents that the students and fans take great pride in facing every season.
12. Texas vs. Oklahoma
These two camps absolutely hate each other. Nothing pleases the other more than when the other is on the downside of college football. Both programs take great comfort in the other’s demise.
I was in a bookstore in Oklahoma City once. There was a group of men deriding the Texas football program vehemently with the owner of the establishment.
The conversation was so heated and long-winded that I couldn’t help but listen. This took place in April, nowhere near football season.
11. Cardinals vs. Cubs
This is a fight for the hearts and minds of the people of Illinois and Missouri. The two clubs play in such close proximity that their broadcasts have been shared ever since the advent of radio. Since that time, the two clubs have been extensions of a rivalry of those people in that geographic region.
Harry Carey is a personification of this fact, as he began as a St. Louis broadcaster until he moved to Chicago in 1971 and became the voice and image of the Chicago Cubs.
The Cardinals and Cubs care a great deal about the regular-season matchups. But it gets really interesting anytime these two meet in the postseason.
10. Fenerbahce SK vs. Galatasaray SK
You may not have heard of either of these two teams. That does not mean that in one part of the world, these teams matter more than the air we breathe. Both of these Turkish soccer clubs are among the best in their league.
Actually that is a gross understatement. They are literally the only teams to win in the league.
It would be as if the Lakers and Celtics literally transferred the title between themselves every year. Couple that with the fact that one team plays in Europe and the other in Asia, and you have yourself a geographical point to the argument.
9. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier
Boxing transcends itself when there is a worthy rivalry to look to. There was none better than Ali vs. Frazier.
After the title was split when Muhammad Ali was found dodging the draft, Joe Frazier won the title during an elimination of the top boxers at the time. All the while, Ali was sitting out in exile denouncing the title as a farce.
Ali had his chance to prove that fact in 1971. But Frazier got the better of him and won in a landmark decision.
Ali would go on to win the next two rematches. The last was the greatest fight in boxing history. Both fighters left it all on the mat in the Thrilla in Manila.
8. Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell
There was nary a player who stood a chance against Bill Russell. Then came Wilt Chamberlain to impose a worthy foil.
Russell got the better of Chamberlain during their careers, but there is no doubt that the two men shared a great deal of respect for the other.
Wilt was the only player who stood a chance of taking down Russell. He got the better of him 57 times in his illustrious career. Sadly for him, the two met in 142 contests.
7. Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird
This is the rivalry that renewed interest in the NBA. Before Magic and Bird, the NBA was forced to show their Finals on tape delay like it was some roller derby spectacle.
But then came along rivals that turned hate into respect, all while putting fans in the seats of NBA arenas.
Magic was Hollywood. He touted an infectious smile and always seemed to be having a good time.
Bird was the exact opposite. He was a worker, always dedicated to the task at hand.
The two personalities could not be any more perfect to reflect the cities they represented at the time.
6. Alabama vs. Auburn
The Iron Bowl was first played on Feb. 22, 1893. Auburn won that first meeting. I need to state that fact because these teams care about such things. The series has belonged to Alabama so far, who leads 40-33 in wins and losses.
This is more than a game that is played every year. It is a civil war that separates a state.
Anyone in Alabama will tell you that you have an allegiance to one team. You stick with that choice for a lifetime.
The only thing necessary is that you remain loyal to your decision and continue to hate the other side.
5. India vs. Pakistan (Cricket)
This is such a fierce battle that I had to ignore that it involves a sport I know little about. Each match draws millions of television viewers. The supporters are not just regular fans, but entire countries that use this matchup as a claim to superiority over the other nation.
Essentially, each match is considered an extension of war. I don’t mean this in a light-hearted way. There are very real political ramifications involved.
4. Celtic vs. Rangers
The two Scottish football teams transcend the soccer pitch. Every time the two meet in the Old Firm rivalry, as it is called, it is a religious and geographic battle.
Celtic fans are Catholic through and through, while Rangers faithful are many times waving the Union Jack and citing Protestantism as their religion.
When God is insinuated at a game, it takes things up a notch, I believe.
3. Dodgers vs. Giants
This feud has suffered from the lack of postseason appearances each team has had in recent years. But this one goes back just as far as the Yankees and Red Sox. The Giants hate the blue so much that they moved their team across the country just to continue the war.
Today, this rivalry is not as well covered nationally as it should be. But you only need walk into a San Francisco saloon or the Shortstop bar by Dodger Stadium to see how these fans feel about each other.
It is the glamor and lights of Los Angeles against the fog and sophistication of San Francisco.
2. Lakers vs. Celtics
This rivalry is the longest-running feud in the NBA. The Celtics won the first eight matchups that these two had in the Finals. It was a span that would last from 1959 until 1984.
All the while, Lakers fans and players built up an immense hatred of the green and white that donned the Celtics uniforms.
The '80s were the pinnacle of this feud. The teams met three times and each meeting was designed as Hollywood vs. the working class.
The NBA is truly a better league when these two teams are amongst the elite clubs in the Association.
1. Yankees vs. Red Sox
This is the end all, be all. This is what a rivalry should be.
Two powerful entities that absolutely hate each other. But somewhere off in the distance of the subconscious is a little respect. Not much, but enough to keep your sanity when your team loses to the other.
The Yankees and Red Sox have been embroiled in this one for over a century. From 1900 to 1918, the Red Sox were the class of baseball. They could do no wrong, until they did.
The famous Curse of the Bambino loomed over Boston faithful from 1919 until 2004. Until the magical season of 2004, the Red Sox had to wait and watch banner after banner being unfurled in Yankee Stadium. This rivalry only gets better with age.