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Great team rivalries in US sport

Great rivalries create a different dynamic in sport, this x-factor has fuelled fan euphoria and created many super star individual athletes and world beating teams.

These are our pick of great USA team rivalries, some of which are steeped in history but all are continuing to be played out today.

Lakers V’s Celtic

The greatest traditional rivalry in NBA history full stop. Even to this day, no teams in the NBA can match the Celtics-Lakers rivalry.

The Celtics and Lakers have by far the most NBA championships and NBA Finals appearances. They come from both sides of the country, each representing the cultural differences of Boston and Los Angeles.  These differences mixed two great teams brought very different styles to the table.

The greatest NBA players of all time

That was no more apparent than during the Bird vs. Magic era when the Celtics, led by Larry Bird, brought a fundamental, well-executed style of play against Magic Johnson’s “Showtime” free-wheeling, up-and-down play. Magic and Larry Bird were credited with taking the NBA’s popularity to the next level, and now the league is one of the great international attractions in world sport.

Over the years, the Celtics and Lakers lineage are a who’s who in the Hall of Fame — they have a combined 48 players in the Hall of Fame.  The rivals have played each other a record 12 times in the NBA Finals, most recently in 2008 and 2010 and we’re pretty sure there will be many more to come.

Being the 2 most successful teams in the NBA, they have attracted many superstar players over the years, like some of these Hall of Famers (17 for Boston and 16 for Los Angeles) – Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain.

Great modern day sports rivalries

Green Bay Packers V’s Chicago Bears

This is the longest running rivalry in NFL history, dating all the way back to 1921.   To put it mildly these two teams just don’t like each other!  The early years saw a lot of on pitch fighting including the famous 1924 game which featured the first players ejections for fighting during a game in league history.

Some of the greatest players in NFL history have played throughout rivalry.  They have both combined for 22 NFL championships, and they have 65 former players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  The Packers have 4 Super Bowl wins (1966, 1967, 1996, 2010) versus the Bears 2 wins in in 1963 and 1985.

Two major trophies are named after coaches in this rivalry — longtime Bears coach George Halas has the Halas Trophy for the NFC championship winner and former Packers coach Vince Lombardi has the Lombardi Trophy for the team that wins the Super Bowl.

This famous rivalry is a lot more than competition for trophies, its team v team, player v player down and dirty football fought between Lambeau Field or Soldier Field some of the toughest guys in NFL.

In the end, players and coaches alike will tell you that the beauty of this rivalry is that it was built on mutual respect.

Ravens vs. Steelers and Cowboys vs Eagles are also worthy of a mention when it comes to great NFL rivalries.

The most successful teams in the NFL

Red Sox V’s Yankees

Where do we start with these two.. I guess back in 1920 where the legend began.

In 1919, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold the teams superstar player Babe Ruth to the Yankees, this was followed by an 86-year period in which the Red Sox did not win a World Series. This led to the popularization of a superstition known as the “Curse of the Bambino.”   And Babe Ruth went on to become the greatest MLB player of all time.

The Red Sox would have to wait until 2004 entering the playoffs as a wildcard, then progressing to the World Series against the Cardinals and finally breaking the 86 year curse and bringing Boston its first World Series title since 1918.

The curse cemented this rivalry in history, the elevated tension and importance of every meeting between these to was legendary though somewhat tamed since 2004.

Fast forward to recent years and  The Yanks and Sox have played nearly 2,100 games since their first meeting in April of 1901, and the Yankees have won over 1,100 of them.

Wild card teams that won the World Series

Michigan V’s Ohio State

Another great rivalry steeped in history,  but college football does get anymore frictional than the Buckeyes versus Wolverines.  They even have many phrases coined after their meetings, ‘Game of the Century, ‘Ten Year War’

But let’s take a step back to the 1800’s and see when it all derived from.  The bitter of this rivalry was fuelled by both Michigan and Ohio’s claim of the Toledo Strip, a 468-square mile region of land at the states’ borders.  Things got so far out of hand, the ten president Andrew Jackson had to step in and work out a compromise where Ohio received the Strip and Michigan received the Upper Peninsula.  This makes firm footing for any hate fuelled rivalry!

NFL wild cards that won the Super Bowl

Six decades later in 1897, the teams would first meet on the pitch with Michigan defeating Ohio State 36-0.   The much weaker Buckeyes wouldn’t score a single point against the Wolverines until 1904.

This historic rivalry still matters a lot in American Football, and thats because these are two of the best teams in the championship.  No other college football program has won more games in history than Michigan and Ohio State.  Here’s some of the records the two have achieved:

  • 173 All-Americans
  • 10 Heisman Trophy winners
  • 81 conference championships

The Wolverines lead the all-time series 59-51-6, following their Nov 2021 victory.

The most successful teams in the MLB

Ryder Cup – Europe V’s USA

Ryder Cup is considered one of the greatest showdowns in golf. The top players from the U.S. and Europe go at it in a team format for bragging rights and to show which part of the world has the best golfers.

The Ryder Cup is played every two years, and the venue alternates between courses in the U.S. and Europe. Home-course advantage is big here. The crowds are not tame, and neither are the players. With every ball going in the hole, there’s roars with delight, singing and flag waving. Players are fist-pumping, yelling and high-fiving. Don’t expect the usual atmosphere for golf here.

This is special for the players. They spend an entire year trying to qualify for the team, and get to be a part of something special. They take extra pride that they are representing their countries. Ever year sees players brought to tears for the losers and tears of joy for the winners, no more so in 2021 when the USA beat Europe 19–9, it was the largest margin of victory in a Ryder Cup since the United States beat Great Britain and Ireland by 10 points in 1975.

The greatest soccer rivalries from around the world

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