Sports

Here are McClatchy’s greatest sports rivalries of all time. Agree or disagree?

The trash-talking, the intense atmosphere and memorable battles throughout the years are just a snippet of what comprises sports rivalries.

And in our list of the top 10 greatest sports rivalries, you will find a who’s who of great athletes and teams with an adversary to match.

From college to professional, individual to team, there are no shortage of top rivalries in sports. That said, we narrowed the list down to the top 10.

Agree or disagree? Let us know who we left out.

Here’s our list:

10. Army vs. Navy

This annual tradition in college football was first played in 1890, before being contested annually every year since 1930. Navy holds a 60-52 edge in the all-time series, which includes seven ties.

9. Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova

The two tennis stars dueled for years, with Navratilova holding a 43-37 advantage. One of the two players occupied the top ranking in women’s tennis at the end of the year from 1974 to1986.

8. Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali

The “Greatest of All Time,” now known as the GOAT, was a nickname attached to Ali, who had a legendary feud with Joe Frazier. Their battles in the heavyweight division of boxing spanned continents and the 1975 fight known for the nickname, Thrilla in Manilla. Frazier took the first of the three bouts between the two, with Ali winning the last two.

7. Jack Nicklaus vs. Arnold Palmer

Known as The King, Palmer was on top of the golf world until the Golden Bear came onto the scene in the 1960s. Along with Gary Player, the trio formed the Big Three in golf, but it was the rivalry between Nicklaus and Palmer on the course — the two were longtime friends — that makes this list.

6. Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

Two storied NFL franchises with several NFL titles between them dates back well before the Super Bowl era. They’ve played each other the most out of any two NFL teams. The Packers hold a 98-95 lead with six ties between them.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines

Specifically, the football rivalry. It’s so fierce that Ohio State fans don’t even mention the Wolverines name, instead calling it the school up north. Michigan has a 58-50 lead with six ties.

4. Duke Blue Devils vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

Specifically, the basketball rivalry. The schools are separated by 10 miles on Tobacco Road. UNC has a 139-112 all-time lead in the series that dates back to 1920. They’ve shared or outright won the ACC conference tournament title 49 times since the conference held its first championship game in 1954.

3. Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The NBA’s best rivalry began in the 1950s as the Lakers and Celtics started winning NBA championships. Bill Russell and Jerry West were among the notable names, among others, to star in the early years of the rivalry. Then Larry Bird and Magic Johnson turned it up a notch in the 1980s. The two franchises have won the most NBA titles.

2. New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

While they both had franchises in the beginning of the American League, the rivalry got going when some guy named Babe Ruth changed the fortunes for both with his trade to New York. Ever hear of him? The Yankees went on to win a record 27 world titles, most recently in 2009, while the Red Sox were mired in the “Curse of the Bambino” for 86 years until Boston snapped it in 2004. To do so, the Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS against the Yankees. The two rivals have engaged in many brawls over the years, and the fans dislike each other.

1. Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

What’s more explosive than the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry? Well, it’s El Clasico, also known as Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. Yes, there is a fierce rivalry on the pitch with Barca holding a slight 96-95 lead with 51 draws. Yes, it’s seen the two best players of this generation — maybe of all-time — in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo playing for Barca and Real, respectively. But this rivalry goes beyond just soccer. It’s deeply rooted in politics and identity. Barcelona is one of the two biggest cities in Spain and has a Catalan identity. Barca represents Catalonia on the pitch, while Madrid is Spain’s capital. The current street violence and protesting in Barcelona postponed this weekend’s El Clasico clash at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.

Sports reporter Jason has covered high school, college and pro sports since joining the Bradenton Herald in 2010. He’s won Florida Press Club awards for sports feature and column writing. He currently writes college and pro sports stories for the McClatchy East Region real-time team.
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