15 Best Sports Rivalries of all Time

Sports is a beautiful activity known to unite everyone. But, even in such a beautiful activity, conflict and rivalry arise. And, sometimes, this rivalry goes a big out of hand. So, today we’ve come with some of the top sports rivalries of all time. 

At some point in our life, we’ve all witnessed some form of rivalry between two parties. Be it in sport or at work, it is part of human nature. So, today we have mainly focused on sports-related rivalries. 

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers (Source: Wikimedia)

Moreover, the rivalries we will be talking about today are related to clubs, players, and countries. It is a fun topic, so stick with us till the end. 

15 Best Sports Rivalries of all Time

So here is a quick look at what today’s ranking looks like. 

RankRivalry BetweenSports
15Usova & Zhulin vs. Grischuk & PlatovIce Skating
14Prost vs. SennaFormula One racing
13Fischer vs. SpasskyChess
12Borg vs. McEnroeTennis
11Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears American Football
10Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston CelticsBasketball
9Muhammad Ali vs. Joe FrazierBoxing
8Ohio vs. MichiganAmerican Football
7New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox Baseball
6India vs. PakistanCricket
5Duke Blue Devils vs. North CarolinaBasketball
4Chris Evert vs Martina NavratilovaTennis
3Arnold Palmer vs. Jack NicklausGolf
2Canada vs. RussiaIce hockey
1New Zealand vs. South AfricaRugby

15. Usova & Zhulin vs. Grischuk & Platov

This rivalry is about two Russian ice skating Olympics pairs. However, this rivalry is caused due to a mishap in a love story. 

Usova and Zhulin were a couple, whereas Grischuk and Platov were not.

Usova and Zhulin (Source: Pinterest)
Usova and Zhulin (Source: Pinterest)

However, after the Olympics, Usova happened to catch Zhulin and Grischuk sharing a cocktail at a restaurant. As a result, Usova punched her rival in the face. This turned into an intense and hateful rivalry between them. 

14. Prost vs. Senna

When it comes to rivalry in formula one racing, nobody comes as close as this. Considered as one of the top sports rivalries to exist on a racetrack. The rivalry between Prost and Senna was a real thing. 

This rivalry was soo intense that in a race in 1989, both forced each other off the track at Suzuka. During this race, Senna was behind the championship and needed to finish ahead of Prost. So, Senna tried to drive past Prost causing their wheel to lock.

Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, and Thierry Boutsen at GP Molson du Canada in Montreal, Canada in 1988 (Source: Wikimedia)

As a result, their cars went off the track. However, for this action, Senna was disqualified. 

13. Fischer vs. Spassky

This is the rivalry born when two superpowers try to ascertain their dominance in chess. This rivalry was from the 70s during the height of the Cold War. We know that the Soviets dominated the world of chess with their 4 million players during that time.

However, the USA had only around 35,000 players. But, they had a 29-year-old Bobby Fischer, who would claim to be a great threat to the Soviet Chess dominance.

Bobby Fischer, 1972 (Source: Wikimedia)

So, in 1972, Fischer was convinced by the US Secretary to travel to Iceland to challenge the title.

To clarify, the World Chess Champion title holder was Boris Spassky. But, to the Soviet’s surprise, the 29-year-old Fisher defeated Spassky with a score of 12-8 and claimed the title for himself. 

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12. Borg vs. McEnroe

We cannot deny that tennis has created several interesting rivalries throughout these years. However, this one can easily be one of the top sports rivalries in the game. 

However, this rivalry wasn’t between anyone, given that these two were elite in their way and were top-tier players. Nevertheless, they enveloped the tennis with their rivalry for three years. 

Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe

Getting into details, they got their 4th set of tie breaks during the Wimbledon final. McEnroe won the game with an 18-16 score but, soon after, lost the title in the next set. However, McEnroe ended Borg’s 5 streaks of Wimbledon titles a year later. 

11. Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears 

Now, this is a rivalry existing for a very long time. Yes, the rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears has existed since 1921. 

To clarify, these two NFL teams have played around 200 matches against each other, and their rivalry hasn’t found an ending. These two teams are the wildest and the teams with the most championships. 

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers (Source: Wikimedia)

Without a doubt, this rivalry is among the top sports rivalries to exist. Plus, the fans of both the opposition teams seem to love the rivalry, as they seem to embrace every moment they share in the stadium or back home. 

10. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

Considered as one of the top sports rivalries in the world of Basketball, the rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics never seemed to end. 

In other words, these two teams have gone against each other 12 times in the NBA finals. Not to forget, these two teams are one of the top teams in terms of championships (Los Angeles Lakers 16 and Boston Celtics 17).

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics. (Source: Wikimedia)

This led to players’ personal rivalries like Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird. Moreover, this rivalry is also hard to understand because there are things these two teams do against each other that are quite hard to get. 

9. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier

This was a rather famous rivalry back during the 70s. But then, the rivalry between two legendary boxers, Muhammad Ali and Joe Fraizer, was the one everyone knew of. 

To sum up, Ali and Frazier had boxing matches before, but it all changed after Ali started to do what he was best at, yes, psychological warfare. We all know that Muhammad Ali used to traumatize his opponent psychologically by his words and activities. 

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier (Source: Flickr)

On the other hand, Joe Frazier was a silent boxer who didn’t talk trash. So, due to Ali’s constant trash-talking and acts, this turned into a serious rivalry between them. Frazier defeated the undefeated Ali and retained the heavyweight championship.

Following this, they had a rematch in 1973, in which Ali reclaimed his championship. 

8. Ohio vs. Michigan

We know that it’s all about rivalry when it comes to college football. Similarly, among these rivalries, the most famous and one of the top sports rivalries is Ohio and the Michigan rivalry. 

To be clear, this inter-university rivalry seems to be going on since 1918. But, most importantly, the 60s and 70s were when it hit its peak. It was when two legendary coaches, Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, were coaching these teams. 

Ohio State vs. Michigan football 2013 (Source: Wikimedia)

Likewise, it was just a regular game for many fans of the sport, but for Michigan and Ohio fans, it was something way bigger. 

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7. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox 

One of the top sports rivalries in Baseball, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, never seem to end. 

When it comes to MLB, we all agree that it doesn’t get fun without the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox rivalry.

Red Sox vs. Yankees (Source: Wikimedia)

Their rivalry began when Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.

To clarify, Babe Ruth was the best-known pitcher at that time. So, following the transaction, Ruth went on to hit a bazillion bandy-legged home runs. The Red Sox greatly regretted the decision to sell Ruth. As a result, this turned into a rivalry.

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6. India vs. Pakistan

Without a doubt, this if not the, then one of the top sports rivalries in South Asia. This rivalry has gone way back since 1947. 

Cricket is loved in both countries, and it’s taken very seriously. In other words, it is soo serious that it turns political. 

Test Match Cricket India Vs. Pakistan (Source: Wikimedia)

However, the most dramatic match out of all these two teams played was in 1999. Then, when India was on the verge of defeat, 65,000 crowds of fans invaded the pitch at Eden Gardens stadium, Calcutta. 

Despite the three-hour delay caused by the crowd, Pakistan won the match. 

5. Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina

The rivalry in Basketball cannot be complete without the rivalry between these two teams, Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina. 

Moreover, this rivalry is loved by every fan. So why wouldn’t they, two rivals playing against each other, births the best match after all. Not to mention, both of the teams have the craziest fans in the league. 

Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina (Source: Flickr)

The Duke Blue Devils or the North Carolina were included in every final four from 1988 to 2001. This made the competition even better and took the rivalry even deeper. 

4.  Chris Evert vs Martina Navratilova

Here we have it, the greatest tennis rivalry ever. The rivalry between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Besides, this rivalry went from 1973 to 1988 and 80 games. These two beautiful women faced each other again and again multiple times at different venues. They both single-handedly carried the women’s tennis on their shoulders.  

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova (Source: Tennis World)
Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova (Source: Tennis World)

Talking about them, Navratilova was better on grass, whereas Evert excelled on clay. Similarly, Navratilova had superior serve and volley, whereas Evert had a better baseline. So they were like oil and water when it came to opposite pairing. 

3. Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus 

The biggest and the never-ending top sports rivalries in golf are undoubtedly between Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus

Not to forget, these two are known as “best rivals forever.” Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus dominated the men’s golfing throughout the 60s. But, though they faced each other, they made an everlasting friendship. 

Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus (Source: Picryl)

Palmer was the champ during the 50s. Then, however, it all changed until Nicklaus came into the scene. These two faced each other multiple times, and they loved it.

2. Canada vs. Russia

If not the biggest, this is the top sports rivalries born between the two biggest hockey-playing nations. 

Canada vs. Soviets, 1972 (Source: Flickr)

Moreover, the ice hockey rivalry born between Canada and the Soviets in 1972 continues to this day. Except, it’s Russia instead of Soviet. 

Besides being named amateur, the Soviets took the lead over Canada with 3-1-1. However, Canada regained their glory after winning the final three games in Moscow with a score of 4-3-1. 

1. New Zealand vs. South Africa

Finally, we have the number one in today’s listing, New Zealand and South Africa. These two countries’ rivalry is considered the top sports rivalries in the world. 

To elaborate, this rivalry happened in the Rugby field between South Africa’s Springboks and New Zealand’s All Blacks. But, most importantly, these two teams are the most dominating teams in international rugby.

2019 New Zealand vs South Africa Rugby (Source: Rugby World)
2019 New Zealand vs. South Africa Rugby (Source: Rugby World)

Their rivalry began in 1921; since then, neither has fared well on the other’s home turf. However, the political instability in South Africa caused them to not be in international rugby tournaments for some time.

But, after Nelson Mandela got elected as the president, South Africa returned to the game. To everyone’s shock, on their first return, they claimed the World cup by beating New Zealand. 

Conclusion

All of the rivalries were enveloped in some drama of their own. Some have settled their scores, whereas some still remain. But, for us viewers, we love rivalries, don’t we? 

So, which rivalry was your best one? Do share with us in the comment section down below.

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