The 15 Greatest Sports Rivalries of All Time

Sports Rivalries

Sports are a beautiful activity that brings people together. Even in such a lovely activity, however, conflict and rivalry arise. And, now and then, this rivalry gets out of hand. So, today we’ve compiled a list of some of the greatest sporting rivalries of all time.

We’ve all witnessed some form of rivalry between two parties at some point in our lives. It is part of human nature, whether in sports or at work. So far, we’ve primarily focused on sporting rivalries. Furthermore, the rivalries we’ll be discussing today are between clubs, players, and countries. It’s a fun subject, so stick with us until the end.

The 15 Greatest Sports Rivalries of All Time

15. Usova & Zhulin vs. Grischuk & Platov

This rivalry is between two Russian Olympic ice skating pairs. However, this rivalry is the result of a misunderstanding in a love story. Grischuk and Platov were not a couple, whereas Usova and Zhulin were.

However, Usova happened to catch Zhulin and Grischuk sharing a cocktail at a restaurant after the Olympics. As a result, Usova smacked her opponent in the face. This developed into a bitter and hateful rivalry between them.

14. Prost vs. Senna

Nobody comes close to this in terms of rivalry in Formula One racing. One of the greatest sports rivalries to ever exist on a racetrack. The rivalry between Prost and Senna was genuine.

This rivalry was so intense that they forced each other off the track at Suzuka in 1989. Senna was trailing the championship and needed to finish ahead of Prost in this race. As a result, Senna attempted to drive past Prost, causing their wheel to lock. As a result, their vehicles veered off the track. Senna, on the other hand, was disqualified for this action.

13. Fischer vs. Spassky

This is the rivalry that develops when two superpowers compete for chess supremacy. This rivalry dates back to the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War. We know that the Soviets dominated the world of chess at the time, with 4 million players.

However, the United States had only about 35,000 players. They did, however, have a 29-year-old Bobby Fischer, who would claim to be a major threat to Soviet chess dominance. As a result, the US Secretary persuaded Fischer to travel to Iceland to challenge the title in 1972.

Boris Spassky was the World Chess Champion at the time. To the Soviets’ surprise, the 29-year-old Fisher defeated Spassky 12-8 and won the title for himself.

12. Borg vs. McEnroe

Tennis has undoubtedly produced several intriguing rivalries over the years. However, this is easily one of the game’s top sports rivalries. This rivalry, however, was not between two people, given that these two were elite in their own right and were top-tier players. Nonetheless, their rivalry engulfed the tennis world for three years.

To be more specific, they received their fourth set of tie breaks during the Wimbledon final. McEnroe won the game 18-16 but promptly lost the title in the next set. However, a year later, McEnroe ended Borg’s five-year winning streak at Wimbledon.

11. Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

This has been an ongoing rivalry for a long time. Yes, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears have had a rivalry since 1921. To clarify, these two NFL teams have played approximately 200 games against each other, and their rivalry has yet to end. These two teams are the most unpredictable and have won the most championships.

Without a doubt, this rivalry ranks among the best in sports. Furthermore, the fans of both opposing teams appear to enjoy the rivalry, as they seem to enjoy every moment they share in the stadium or at home.

10. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

The rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics has long been regarded as one of the best in the world of basketball. In other words, these two teams have faced off in the NBA finals 12 times. Not to mention that these two teams are among the best in terms of championships (Los Angeles Lakers 16 and Boston Celtics 17).

This resulted in personal rivalries between players such as Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird. Furthermore, this rivalry is difficult to comprehend because some of the things these two teams do against each other are extremely difficult to obtain.

9. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier

Back in the 1970s, this was a well-known rivalry. But back then, everyone was aware of the rivalry between two legendary boxers, Muhammad Ali and Joe Fraizer. To summarize, Ali and Frazier had boxing matches in the past, but everything changed when Ali began to do what he was best at, yes, psychological warfare.

We all know that Muhammad Ali used to psychologically traumatize his opponents with his words and actions. Joe Frazier, on the other hand, was a silent boxer who never said anything negative. As a result of Ali’s constant trash-talking and acts, they developed a  serious rivalry. Frazier defeated the undefeated Ali to retain the heavyweight title.

Following that, they fought again in 1973, with Ali reclaiming his championship.

8. Ohio vs. Michigan

When it comes to college football, we all know that it’s all about rivalry. Similarly, the most famous and one of the top sports rivalries is that between Ohio and Michigan.

To be clear, this inter-university rivalry appears to have been ongoing since 1918. But, most importantly, it peaked in the 1960s and 1970s. It was during the tenure of two legendary coaches, Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler. Similarly, for many sports fans, it was just another game, but for Michigan and Ohio fans, it was something much bigger.

7. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

One of baseball’s most heated rivalries, between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, never seems to end. When it comes to MLB, we can all agree that the rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox is unrivaled. When the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, their rivalry began.

To be clear, Babe Ruth was the most well-known pitcher at the time. So, after the deal, Ruth went on to hit a zillion bandy-legged home runs. The Red Sox were deeply disappointed in their decision to sell Ruth. As a result, this became a rivalry.

6. India vs. Pakistan

Without a doubt, this is one of, if not the, most important sporting rivalries in South Asia. This rivalry dates back to 1947. Cricket is popular in both countries and is taken seriously. In other words, it has become so serious that it has become political.

However, the most dramatic match between these two teams occurred in 1999. When India was on the verge of defeat, 65,000 fans stormed the pitch at Calcutta’s Eden Gardens stadium. Pakistan won despite a three-hour delay caused by the crowd.

5. Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina

The rivalry between these two teams, Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina cannot be complete in basketball. Furthermore, every fan enjoys this rivalry. So why wouldn’t they? After all, two rivals playing against each other produce the best match. Not to mention that both teams have the most insane fans in the league.

From 1988 to 2001, the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels were both in the final four. This heightened the competition and deepened the rivalry.

4.  Chris Evert vs Martina Navratilova

The greatest tennis rivalry in history has arrived. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova’s rivalry. Furthermore, this Sports Rivalries rivalry lasted 80 games from 1973 to 1988. These two stunning women confronted each other multiple times in various settings. They both carried the women’s tennis on their shoulders by themselves.

When it came to them, Navratilova was better on grass, while Evert was better on clay. Similarly, Navratilova had a stronger serve and volley while Evert had a stronger baseline. When it came to opposite pairings, they were like oil and water.

3. Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus

Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have one of the most intense and never-ending sports rivalries in golf. Not to mention that these two are dubbed “best rivals forever.” Throughout the 1960s, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus dominated men’s golf. Even though they had to face each other, they formed an everlasting friendship.

During the 1950s, Palmer was the undisputed champion. But everything changed when Nicklaus entered the picture. They enjoyed confronting each other on multiple occasions.

2. Canada vs. Russia

If not the biggest, this is one of the best sports rivalries that has arisen between the two largest hockey-playing nations. Furthermore, the ice hockey rivalry that began in 1972 between Canada and the Soviets continues to this day. Except it’s Russia instead of the Soviet Union.

Aside from being labeled amateur, the Soviets took a 3-1-1 lead over Canada. Canada, on the other hand, reclaimed their glory by winning the final three games in Moscow by a score of 4-3-1.

1. New Zealand vs. South Africa

Finally, we have New Zealand and South Africa at the top of today’s list. The rivalry between these two countries is regarded as one of the best in the world. To elaborate, this rivalry occurred on the rugby field between the Springboks of South Africa and the All Blacks of New Zealand. But, above all, these two teams are the most dominant in international rugby.

Their rivalry began in 1921, and neither team has fared well on the other’s home turf since then. However, due to political unrest in South Africa, they were unable to compete in international rugby tournaments for some time. South Africa, however, returned to the game after Nelson Mandela was elected president. To everyone’s surprise, they won the World Cup on their first visit by defeating New Zealand.

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