Sports can bring out both the best and worst in people. It can drive a person to do his best though it may also tempt him to win at any cost. It gets even better when an athlete is involved in an intense rivalry with another competitor. During these games, the two parties involved will push, shove and kick just to get the better of his opponent. The two competitors will also find themselves pushing each other to be better as there is no worse thing in sports than losing to a heated and hated rival. There are times that teams or athletes would actually take more delight in beating their rivals than winning a championship.
One can actually make a separate top ten list of great rivalries for each sport. But putting everything into consideration, here are the 10 biggest sports rivalries.
10. Duke Blue Devils-North Carolina Tar Heels, College Basketball
The two schools are located nine miles away from each other. Both wear blue, albeit of different shades. They first met in 1920 and have battled it out 236 times as of March 13, 2013. The Tar Heels have won 132 of these meetings. Both teams are traditional basketball powerhouses and are ranked first and second in number of ACC championships, with North Carolina taking the most number of regular series titles and Duke having the most number of ACC tournament crowns.
9. Michigan Wolverines-Ohio State Buckeyes, College Football
It is simply known as The Game. The two teams first met in 1897 and they have battled it out 108 times, with the Wolverines ahead with a record of 58-44-6. Their games usually helps determine the Big Ten Conference champion and plays a huge part in the determination of the match up for the Rose Bowl. Each has also played a major role in spoiling the other’s bid to become national champions.
8. River Plate-Boca Juniors, South American Football
The games between the Argentinean teams River Plate and Boca Juniors are called the Superclasico. Both teams are based in Buenos Aires. While both can count on support from people of all classes, River Plate is traditionally the team of the upper class while the working class cheers Boca Juniors on. They first met in 1908 in a game that Boca won, though the first official meeting was not until 1913 when River emerged victorious.
7. Real Madrid-Barcelona, European Football
European football has a lot of heated rivalries, like Liverpool-Manchester United in England, Ajax-Feyenoord in the Netherlands, Celtic-Rangers in Scotland and AC Milan-Inter Milan in Italy. But none of these can hold a candle to a Real Madrid-Barcelona game, be it in a European league, cup tournament or the Spanish La Liga. The game is called El Clasico and it features two of the richest and most successful sides in the whole of Europe. They first met in 1902 and have now battled it out 256 times, with Barcelona enjoying the advantage with 105 wins. Players who directly defect to the other team risk a rude welcome, such as when Luis Figo was thrown a pig’s head in his first game in Barcelona after transferring to Real Madrid.
6. Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer, Tennis
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have the greatest rivalry in tennis history. For 211 straight weeks from 2005 to 2009, the two were ranked as the top two players in the sport. From 2005 to 2010, the two have ended the calendar year as the top two. They have played 28 times, with Nadal owning Federer in 18 of them. Out of the 28 matches, 19 have come in tournament finals. Out of these 19, eight have been in Grand Slams. Their 2008 Wimbledon finals match up won by Nadal is considered to be the greatest game of all time.
5. Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier, Boxing
Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier are two of the greatest heavyweights in the world. The amazing thing is that they reigned during a time of several great heavyweights, like George Foreman and Ken Norton. Ali and Frazier were both undefeated when they first met in 1971 that Frazier won by unanimous decision. A rematch in 1974 ended up in Ali’s favor by unanimous decision. Their third fight was the Thrilla in Manila, a bout that Ali said was the closest to death that he has been. He won via a 14th round TKO.
4. Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins, NHL
The two teams have played each other more times than any other two teams in history. They have also met in a playoff series 33 times and have battled it out in a Game Seven eight times. Familiarity breeds contempt and the Bruins and Canadiens are exhibit A.
3. Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
The two teams with the most championships have met in the Finals 12 times. This used to be a lopsided rivalry, with the Celtics winning the first eight times. The Lakers finally broke through behind Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1985, before beating the Celtics again in 1987. In 2008, the two teams renewed their rivalry with the Celtics winning again. Two years later, Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to a Game Seven victory over its hated rival.
2. Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers, NFL
They first met in 1921 and have battled it out 185 more times, with the Bears leading 92-88-6. Between the two of them, they have won 22 NFL titles, including five Super Bowls. Their games feature late hits, rough plays and plenty of yellow flags. Football season lasts only 16 games long, but the two meet up twice. That surely will build a lot of animosity. There are other heated rivalries in the sport, like the Redskins-Cowboys and the Raiders-Chiefs-Broncos. But none are better than the Bears-Packers.
1. New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox, MLB
It started out with the sale of a player named Babe Ruth from the then-dominant Red Sox to the then-title-less Yankees. It happened in 1919 and the trade put a curse upon the Red Sox that they were not able to lift until 2004. It also won in 2007, adding to the five that they won before they traded Ruth. The Yankees, meanwhile, has won 27 World Series rings since trading for the Bambino.
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