Top Sports Rivalries of All Time
Rivalries in sports are what define athletes and the spectators.
1. UCLA Bruins vs Arizona Wildcats
The only West Coast team to become a national figure after John Wooden s dynasty of the 1960s and 1970s has been Lute Olsen s Wildcats. On his watch, Arizona has won a national title and reached the Final Four four times, not to mention claiming four Pac-10 tourney championships and 11 regular season titles and produced some impressive NBA talent. Olson s mini-dynasty isn t nearly as impressive as what Wooden achieved, but it s worth mentioning as one of the best runs in recent years. That has to irritate the Bruins program and its fans every time they face each other. And fittingly, the Bruins and Wildcats are atop the conference at this very moment.
2. Detroit Red Wings vs Colorado Avalanche
Obviously it all started in the 1996 Western Conference Finals, with that Claude Lemieux-Kris Draper mishap in Joe Louis Arena. But over the next seven years, they would face each other in the playoffs five times and three of those meetings would be for the Western Conference title. Only the 2002 edition went the full seven games, but that No. 1 seed vs. No. 2 seed series was one of the greatest in recent history, with three games going to overtime.
3. Oregon Ducks vs Oregon State Beavers
Until recently for Oregon, neither two of these teams haven t perennial powerhouses for a long time neither has won a national championship and, for the most part, have been overshadowed by USC. But how could we not include a rivalry known as The Civil War? They have played 118 games, with a pretty narrow margin separating them The Ducks lead 62-46 and 10 games resulting in ties. There have been plenty of narrow games in this rivalry and fans up in the Northwest absolutely love going to these games. Now that Oregon is so damn dominate year in and year out, the rivalry has faded a bit
4. Indiana Pacers vs New York Knicks
Besides dealing with Michael Jordan s Bulls, the 1990 s New York Knicks had another Midwest roadblock to hurdle every NBA postseason Reggie Miller s Pacers. Miller famously torched the Knicks in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, scoring 25 points in the fourth quarter of a comeback win at Madison Square Garden. A year later, he scored a ridiculous eight points in 8.9 seconds as the Pacers again shocked the Knicks on their home court. But as great as he was and as much as he showed up Spike Lee with that choke hand gesture, the Knicks usually had the last laugh. New York knocked Indiana out of the playoffs each year from 1993-1995 and again in 1999. But Miller and Co. finally found a way to get past Patrick Ewing and the Knicks, knocking them out of the playoffs in 1998 and 2000. If you haven t checked out the 30 for 30 about this rivalry Winning Time, I highly recommend it. It is a great watch.
5. Grambling State Tigers vs Southern Jaguars
SWAC schools don t often get to play at the Superdome or have a game broadcast on network television, but the annual showdown between Southern and Grambling gets special treatment, partly because it s been so tight 20 wins for Grambling and 21 for Southern. College football legend Eddie Robinson and Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams also helped infuse extra-special intrigue in the Bayou Classic. Williams final game as the Tigers head coach was the best in this rivalry that dates back to 1974. Thanks to five touchdowns and 552 yards passing from Jaguars quarterback Quincy Richard, Southern held on to a narrow lead and an 11-1 season and ultimately the Black College National Championship. And the annual halftime show, the Battle of the Bands, renders this game one of the most special rivalries in college football.
6. Clemson Tigers vs South Carolina Gamecocks
In today s college football landscape, there are very few out-of-conference rivalry games, at least on a high level such as this one. The Battle for the Palmetto State is the best, however, largely because neither one has a true rival inside their respective conferences. They ve battled 112 times since 1896 and had some classic showdowns along the way, including Clemson s last-minute win in 1977 and Steve Spurrier s upset of the 15th-ranked Tigers. But Woody Dantzler s last-second comeback win at home was arguably the tops. As it stands, Clemson has the lead in the series at 66-42-4.
7. Pittsburgh Panthers vs West Virginia Mountaineers
I know this one is done.. but I though I should still mention it. The Backyard Brawl was one of the most overlooked rivalries in all of college sports, if not sports in general. Pitt and West Virginia had been back-and-forth for decades, with the Mountaineers dominating throughout the late 1950s and 1960s before the Panthers owned the 1970s. The last 16 have been a virtual split, with both teams routinely contending for the Big East title most seasons before the conference mix up. Quite appropriately, the 100th edition in December 2007 was a fantastic showdown. The 3-7 Panthers, playing for absolutely nothing other than the rivalry, traveled to Morgantown and upset the undefeated and top-ranked Mountaineers, ruining Rich Rodriguez s hopes for a shot at the national championship. It s a shame these two teams couldn t keep this rivalry going.
8. New York Knicks vs Miami Heat
This is one of the fiercest and heated rivalries in NBA history, and it didn t even reach the Eastern Conference Finals. These two teams were easily two of the most physical and brutal in the NBA. When they played against each other you knew it was going to be a slugfest, to put it nicely. The funny thing is that it may have all been started by a move from Pat Riley. In 1995, Riley stepped down as the Knicks coach after failing to make it back to the NBA Finals. The move seemed rather abrupt because the consensus was that New York was a good team and had something going for them going forward. The time to strike was perfect
9. Wisconsin Badgers vs Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Battle for the Paul Bunyan Axe is now the most oft-played rivalry in all of college football. And fittingly, the record for those 124 showdowns is very close 59 wins for the Golden Gophers, 57 wins for the Badgers and eight ties. And although Wisconsin has owned the rivalry for the past two decades, losing just twice since 1994, plenty of the games have been tight. Take the 2005 edition, for example. The 5-1 Gophers, hosting the 5-1 Badgers, grabbed a commanding 34-24 lead late in the fourth quarter. Then, a John Stocco touchdown and a blocked punt returned for a score gave the Badgers 14 points in the final two minutes for a thrilling 38-34 victory.
10. Denver Broncos vs Cleveland Browns
In the grand scheme of more than 80 years of NFL history, the Browns and Broncos aren t a great rivalry. Still, during a four-year period in the late 1980 s, there wasn t a more important rivalry in the NFL. A year after losing the AFC title game at home via The Drive, the Browns traveled to Denver, where they blew a second straight opportunity to reach the Super Bowl via The Fumble. The Browns gained a small measure of revenge two years later, defeating John Elway s Broncos 16-13 in Week 4 of the regular season. But by playoff time, they would again be disappointed in the AFC Championship Game, losing at Mile High Stadium, 37-21. Will Cleveland sports ever catch a break?
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