15 Best Sports Rivalries of all Time

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Sports is a beautiful activity known to unite everyone. But, even in such an enjoyable activity, conflict and rivalry arise. And, sometimes, this rivalry goes a big out of hand. So, today we’ve come up 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. Whether in sports 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
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. 

Rank Rivalry Between Sports
15 Usova & Zhulin vs. Grischuk & Platov Ice Skating
14 Prost vs. Senna Formula One racing
13 Fischer vs. Spassky Chess
12 Borg vs. McEnroe Tennis
11 Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears  American Football
10 Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics Basketball
9 Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier Boxing
8 Ohio State vs. Michigan American Football
7 New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox  Baseball
6 India vs. Pakistan Cricket
5 Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Basketball
4 Chris Evert vs Martina Navratilova Tennis
3 Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus Golf
2 Canada vs. Russia Ice hockey
1 New Zealand vs. South Africa Rugby

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 caught 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

Regarding rivalry in formula one racing, nobody comes as close as this. They are considered one of the top sports rivalries on a racetrack. The rivalry between Prost and Senna was a real thing. 

This rivalry was so intense that in a race in 1989, both forced each other off the track at Suzuka. Senna was behind the championship during this race 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
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 rivalry is 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 chess with 4 million players.

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

Bobby Fischer, 1972
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 exciting rivalries. 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 tennis with their rivalry for three years. 

Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe
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
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 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. These two teams are among the top teams in terms of championships (Los Angeles Lakers 16 and Boston Celtics 17).

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

This led to players’ rivalries like Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird. Moreover, this rivalry is also brutal to understand because there are things these two teams do against each other that are pretty 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 in psychological warfare. We all know that Muhammad Ali used to traumatize his opponent psychologically with his words and activities. 

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier (Source: Flickr)

On the other hand, Joe Frazier was a silent boxer who didn’t talk trash. So, Ali’s constant trash-talking and acts turned into a severe 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 State 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 the Ohio and 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
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 more significant. 

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7. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox 

One of the top sports rivalries in Baseball, the 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
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 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 between these two teams 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, birth 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
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 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 men’s golfing throughout the 60s. But, though they faced each other, they made an everlasting friendship. 

Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus
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 rivalry born between the two biggest hockey-playing nations. 

Canada vs. Soviets, 1972
Canada vs. Soviets, 1972 (Source: Flickr)

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

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

To elaborate, this rivalry happened on 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; neither has fared well on the other’s home turf since then. 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. 


All of the rivalries were enveloped in some drama of their own. Some have settled their scores, whereas some 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.

Sanjib Sah
Sanjib Sah
Sanjib Sah is an engineer and content writer passionate about sports and athletics. With a background in engineering and a love for all things active, Sanjib brings a unique perspective to the world of sports writing. Whether he is covering the latest trends in sports technology or sharing tips on improving your game, Sanjib's words are always rooted in a deep appreciation for players' hard work and dedication everywhere. In his free time, you can find him hitting the courts or hitting the trails, always looking for new ways to challenge himself and improve his skills.

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