Here’s my 6 favorite NBA rivalries of all-time

Baseball and football have long been considered the American past time, but over the last couple decades, basketball has come to symbolize a slice of the American life and has deeply ingrained itself into the culture at large. You’d be hard-pressed to find another sport today that has more influence on the people of the United States (and parts of Europe and Asia).

It’s a game that’s been around for generations and its popularity has never been as high as it is today. Suffice to say that to most it is not only a  sport but a lifestyle. The advent of modern technology in sports has also propelled this grand game in many positive ways whether that’s streaming games, players on social media or basketball analytics.

Many NBA players have transformed themselves into superstars and minted as legends via their heroics in the NBA playoffs and in particular, the NBA Finals. Let’s go over my six favorite rivalries in NBA history:

New York Knicks vs. Baltimore Bullets (1960s)

In the early 1960’s the NBA world was dominated by the Boston Celtics. However, the New York Knicks and the Baltimore Bullets were coming up strong as well. By the time of the faceoff during the 1969 playoffs it was clear that both these teams would be going on to create history of their own. The Knicks won the first playoff series by a margin of 4-0 and they secured the same in 1970 as well, but this time with a much more contested 4-3.

The Bullets got their due the next year in ’71 and in the course of these three short years created a game situation that became a must-not-miss NBA attraction. Things have not been too amazing for the teams since then, but in the recent years the Knicks at least seem to be coming up again after a series of changes.

Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers (1960s)

The movement of the Syracuse Nationals from upstate New York to Philadelphia in 1964 and becoming the 76ers could be said to be the start of this rivalry. The years from 1964 through to 1967 were the ones when the rivalries cemented themselves over the many games that were played between the two teams. Post this the rivalry seems to have been gone on a backburner till about 1977 when things came to a head once again.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics (1980s)

In what is the probably the most-prominent rivalry of all-time happened during the NBA’s Golden Age in the 1980s and saw the Larry Bird‘s Boston Celtics vs. Magic Johnson‘s Los Angeles Lakers. During the decade the Lakers won five titles (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988); the Celtics won three (1981, 1984, and 1986). Though the two teams defined this decade and their rivalry discussed ad nauseam, the Lakers and Celtics only met three times in the NBA Finals during the 1980s.

Detroit Pistons vs. Chicago Bulls (1980s)

The late 1980’s saw the rise of the rivalries between these two all-time great teams. Before Michael Jordan went on a run in becoming the NBA’s G.O.A.T., he and his Chicago Bulls struggled against the two-time NBA champion Detroit Pistons for many years before eventually overcoming them in the early 1990s. In fact, the Bulls’ 1996 team is considered to be one of the best NBA teams ever in part because the Bad Boys put them through the ringer. But this was not always so, with the first few years of the rivalry being dominated by the Isiah Thomas-led Pistons that featured Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars and John Salley.

New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat (1990s)

Though neither team ended up winning an NBA Championship, the two rough-and-tumble teams of the 1990s met several times and there always seemed to be fireworks. With fiery tough guys on both sides, Alonzo Mourning, Charles Oakley, Larry Johnson, John Starks, and Jeff Van Gundy, the two teams met in four consecutive playoff series from 1997-2000. Again, no version of these teams during this time frame got fitted for a championship ring, but the intensity is burned in our minds. It’s no surprise Sports Illustrated considered it the third best NBA rivalry of all-time.

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (2010s)

It’s hard to call a lopsided series dominated by the Warriors a real rivalry, but the fact that the Warriors and Cavs have met in four consecutive NBA Finals qualifies it as a significant time in the history of the NBA. Really though, we should actually call this rivalry the Golden State Warriors vs. LeBron James.

The NBA is a recent phenomenon when compared to Major League Baseball which started in 1903. The NBA’s first season was nearly half a century later in 1949-50. Since then it has risen in popularity with huge jumps. And in this relatively short 70 year span, it has managed to rake up rivalries that have gone down in the annals of history as some of the greatest in sports. These are but six of the NBA”s greatest rivalries of the early and mid-years of the game

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