Best Rivalries in Sports

With a new chapter in the Duke/UNC rivalry kicking off tonight, I think its time we take a step into the world of sports and analyze the best rivalry for each major sport.

MLB:  New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox


This one is non-negotiable. In a sport where people pride themselves on ettiquite and unwritten rules, when it comes to these two, all of that is left in the clubhouse.  Between the baselines, this rivalry is one of the best. The games take forever, there are brawls, there are ejections, and there’s about a hundred years of it.  Outside of the those baselines, these teams have some of the most loyal followers in all of sports, especially on the Boston side.  Never have I seen a city so engrossed with one particular organization.  If you meet someone from the greater Boston area, or even that entire New England region, there’s a 120% percent chance they are a die hard Sox fan.

NBA:  Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics

bird magic

This one was challenging because I think the idea of a “rival” in the NBA has changed over the years. In the ’70s and ’80s is when this rivalry really took off, since it seemed like every single year you had Bird and Magic facing off in the Finals. In the ’90s the Pacers/Knicks rivalry was a good one, but I believe that the Celtics/Lakers rivalry has really stood the test of time.  I also feel like we are starting to see a bit of a pattern here.  There must be something in the water in Boston, or they are just complete lunatics there, but they live and die with their sports teams.

NFL:  Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers

bears pack

This might have been the hardest one to pick.  There are so many great rivalries across the sport, especially with so many teams sharing state lines with each other.  But the Bears/Packers rivalry is great because of their history.  These two teams are arguably the most historic in the NFL, they play in the same division, and their fans’ hatred for the other team is just undeniable. Not all rivalries are about throwing punches, but about respect and longevity, these two organizations have that.  Couldn’t go wrong with other popular rivalries, but this one to me stands out as the best in the league.

NHL:  Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens

Bruins Getty Images

Oh, what a surprise, another Boston team.  This one, much like the others, is so rich in history, calling it a rivalry doesn’t do it justice.  As much as they may not want to admit it, this is like two brothers just absolutely hating each others’ guts for their entire lives.  Two Original Six teams, this feud has had it all, the physical side of the rivalry as well as the respect for the other organization and all of the success each team has had throughout their longstanding existence in the league.  In today’s NHL there are quite a few growing rivalries, but nothing compares to the Bruins and Habs.

NCAA Basketball:  Duke University v University of North Carolina

duke unc.jpg

Could make this a case for the best rivalry in sports, but there is something about the Duke/UNC rivalry that others don’t have and that is just the pure hate for the other. If you are a student at Duke or UNC, even if you aren’t a fan of sports, you hate the other school and that’s what makes this so great.  Two outstanding academic institutions that actually offer classes at the others’ campus, just hate each other in every sport, especially basketball.  Oh did I mention, they are only separated by eight miles.  Respect, fights, history, great games; this match-up has everything you could ask for.

NCAA Football:  Army v Navy

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Now, before you freak out, this is the category I would almost consider a two-sided argument. The Army/Navy game is the best and most underrated game on the college football schedule every single year. Neither of these teams is going to compete for a national championship, but their rivalry transcends football.  From the prisoner exchange pregame to both teams singing both Alma Matters together at the end. There is something special to the game that no blood feud could ever supplant.  That being said, from a football aspect, couldn’t go wrong in taking either Michigan/Ohio St. or Alabama/Auburn. God Bless America

PGA:  Tiger Woods v Phil Mickelson

tiger phil.jpg

I know some people think that golf isn’t a sport and quite honestly they couldn’t be more wrong. Even some of the people who are golf fans don’t think there could possibly be any rivalries in the sport, they too are wrong.  The Tiger/Phil rivalry is fantastic because there is absolutely no love lost in a sport that is all about honor and doing the right thing. They make no secret about it, they hate each other’s guts and it’s fantastic.  When they are paired up on a Sunday afternoon, the TV ratings are through the roof.  Of course, Phil has had some success, but nowhere near the career Tiger has had, and that’s what seems to make it better.  It’s so one sided, and yet, the mutual dislike is not going away and probably won’t until they are retired.


Trying to pick the best overall rivalry is like choosing between apples and oranges, it cannot be done. Different rivalries had their better years and their down years, some new ones have arisen and old ones faded.  I’ll leave it up to interpretation, but I think its perfectly ok saying there is a great one in each sport and leave it at that.


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