Top 10 NBA Team Rivalries Of All Time

The Historical Rivalries That Have Shaped The NBA.

nba rivals

Two good players battling against each other on the court can make each other better. The same is true when it comes to two teams. There is nothing like a good rivalry to forge progress.

Over the years, there have been dozens of heated rivalries across the NBA, and today we are going to talk about 10 historical rivalries that left their mark on the NBA. Visit here for the best NBA odds on current rivalries, matches, and tournaments.

Here are the 10 best NBA team rivalries of all time.

#10 - Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers (Russel vs Chamberlain)

This rivalry has been going on since 1964 - it's not the oldest rivalry in the NBA, but it is definitely not the newest.

Before the 76ers were in Philadelphia, they were the Syracuse Nationals. They first met in the East Coast Finals in 1965, and in the following 16 years, they played each other in big matches multiple times a year.

While their paths don't cross as much anymore, the rivalry still runs deep. If you attended a Celtics vs 76ers game, you would swear these two teams are still at war.

This era of the rivalry was dominated by the rivalry between Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.

#9 - New York Knicks vs. Baltimore Bullets

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks dominated the sport for so long that it is hard to remember what else was going on in the NBA during the late 60s and early 70s.

However, the Knicks and the Bullets were constantly battling it out to see who would go on to play (and be beaten by) the Bucks.

The teams played each other in the playoffs 3 years in a row (1969-1971). The Knicks won the first two, but the Bullets shocked everyone by winning the third.

#8 - Detroit Pistons vs. Chicago Bulls

You could rename this rivalry Thomas vs Jordan if you wanted to.

This rivalry was forged in the 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1991 playoffs - but spilled off the court as well.

The Pistons won the first three playoffs. They smashed the Bulls in the first one, the second win was closer, and the third one went to 7 games.

Finally, the Bulls won the playoffs in 1991 and then went on to win the NBA Finals that year.

#7 - Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers (Bird vs Erving)

This rivalry has to be mentioned again because of the rivalry it created between Larry Bird and Julius Erving. Many compare their rivalry to Chamberlain vs Russel even though it took place 20 years after.

When Bird joined the Celtics in 1979, he brought a level of competitiveness back to the team.

Both teams played in completely different styles but were almost perfectly matched - just like Bird and Erving.

#6 - Charlotte Hornets vs. Los Angeles Lakers

This rivalry is synonymous with two names: Shaq and Kobe. This is perhaps one of the most heartbreaking rivalries in the history of the NBA. Shaq and Kobe were teammates and did amazing things together.

However, when Shaq moved to the Lakers their friendship turned sour. There were public call-outs, dramatic matches on the court, and lots of issues behind the scenes.

Thankfully, the pair made up before Kobe Bryant's untimely death.

#5 - Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs

These teams have been playing each other since 1980, but their rivalry didn't kick off until the 1999 season.

They have played each other 6 times in the Conference Semi-Finals since - the Lakers have come out on top in 4 of these meetings.

#4 - Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors

This is one of the most recent rivalries in the NBA. It took place between 2014 and 2018. Some believe it ended in 2018 when LeBron James moved to the Lakers - but as we know, most rivalries don't stay dead in the NBA.

These two teams met in the NBA Finals 4 years in a row (2015-2018). The Warriors won 3 out of 4 of the titles.

#3 - Miami Heat vs. Orlando Magic

Both of these Florida teams were created in quick succession - the Heat in 1988 and Magic in 1989.

They were rivals from the start as well as being two of the newest teams in the league for a long time. Magic was the first of the two to make it to the NBA finals. The Heat currently leads the rivalry 73-56 overall.

Thankfully, these two teams have only met in the playoffs once - in 1997, the Heat won after 5 matches.

#2 - Boston Celtics vs. Houston Rockets

Teams like the 1970s Celtics led by Larry Bird were so good that they had multiple teams watching to knock them off the top spot.

Bird had another major rival in this era - Magic Johnson. Johnson played for the Rockets at the time.

We don't have time to cover their full rivalry, but if you are interested in NBA history then you have to check it out.

#1 - Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers

When it comes to rivalries at the NBA Finals, nothing comes close to the Celtics vs the Lakers.

These teams have played in the Finals 12 times. This is a record not only in the NBA but in all American sports finals.

The record currently sits at 9-3 to the Celtics. Who won the first 8 meetings in the finals.

*You may not completely agree with our list, but we are sure you will agree with us that rivalries are one of the best things for the NBA. Rivalries push the teams on top to fight harder, to get better, and never settle.

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