The word “rival” is lost in the NBA today. Too often we see camaraderie between players on opposing teams. With the growing presence of AAU basketball, the players have gotten closer and closer.
AAU isn’t the only thing that brings the players together as one. The Olympic basketball experience has done it as well. Obviously when these guys are all on the same team, they must get along in some capacity, but the 2012 NBA champion Miami Heat were formed because of a rumored plan that was created during an Olympic run in 2008 by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The triumvirate in South Beach became the new trend in the NBA. Everyone had to form their own super team. You had stars like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Amar’e Stoudemire planning similar moves of their own. Now we see them all playing with other superstars instead of against them.
The NBA, separate from the ABA, was founded in 1946, a time where grit and toughness were worshiped. The best players wanted to beat the snot out of the best players. They wanted to physically impose their will on an opposing team.
Even after the merger of the NBA and the ABA, the league was still a place of fierce competitiveness and rivalries. Now, in this new era of basketball post-Jordan, rivalries have come few and far between. We’ve seen glimpses here and there of rivalries that could have been. We’ve had the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards, the scrappy Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers, the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. We’re seeing something blossom between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Heat. We’ve even seen somewhat of a rebirth of the Celtics and the Lakers.
Now we’ve been given the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks (or if you go by last night’s crazy brawl, Boston and Brooklyn). Two teams, two boroughs, one city, a new beginning. Of course, this isn’t what we’ve seen from past rivalries. But it’s a start. Similar to the new “rivalry” between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Lakers, one franchise has something to prove to the other – the Lakers have been far more successful than the Clippers. But the Clippers have been extremely competitive and haven’t backed down from the Lakers one bit.
The Knicks and the Nets both have had moments in the past where each franchise has had success, but aside from a Finals appearance and a few playoff runs, the Nets really have no history. The Knicks have always owned New York and now the Nets are trying to rain on their parade. This could be the beginning of a beautiful rivalry.
With this in mind, let’s go back and pay homage to some of the greatest basketball rivalries of all time. The other potential rivalries have these kinds of standards to live up to. The top ten rivalries of all time showcased some of the greatest basketball ever played. It would be wrong to even compare them to what we have today.
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10. BOSTON CELTICS/LOS ANGELES LAKERS (2007-20010)
If anything, this rivalry is close to what we had back in the NBA’s best days. The Lakers and the Celtics would renew their rivalry many times by the end of the decade. It would be a treat for NBA fans all around the world to see.
The Celtics made the first move by acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. They paired the two with Paul Pierce to reincarnate the “Big Three” in Boston, and were poised to make another Finals run.
The Lakers saw this move and knew they had to take action if they wanted to keep Kobe Bryant happy. They made a midseason move for Pau Gasol about halfway through the 2007-2008 season. That propelled the Lakers back into the NBA Finals, where they played Boston in what was an epic series.
The Celtics won it 4-2, but you could tell that the fire was rekindled in the spirits of fans everywhere. I mean, this was classic stuff. The Celtics and the Lakers? It doesn’t get any better. You could argue that his rivalry is the greatest across all of pro sports.
They’d end up meeting in the Finals two out of three years, with each team winning one championship. In the 2009-2010 season, the series even stretched to seven games and really came down to a fourth quarter stand by the Lakers. It was the stuff of legends, and it proved to us that each of these franchises were back from their droughts.