The Best NBA Player Rivalries of All Time
In the world of sports, rivalries can cause a rollercoaster of emotions. Rivalries can be formed from players who have a certain amount of dislike and, simultaneously, respect for each other. They can also stem from a place of deep respect after many battles in which both players give it their all. Regardless of how they start, they are always something special and they created a lot of history. Here are some of the best NBA player rivalries of all time.
The NBA Player Rivalries
Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo
The first rivalry is between two point guards, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. The rivalry started in the summer of 2008 when Chris Paul made the US Olympic team over Rondo. After he got cut, Rondo was upset because he felt like deserved it after winning an NBA title. On December 1, 2009, Paul and Rondo got into a confrontation where Rondo told Paul “I’ve got a ring and you’re never gonna win one”. Then the rivalry hit a boiling point on October 20, 2018. This is when Rondo allegedly spit in the face of Paul and as a result started a fistfight at the Staples Center. It’s safe to say this rivalry isn’t going away anytime soon.
Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain
In the early days of the NBA, if you had a really good big man then you were going to be good. In the 1950s and all through the ’60s, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell battled for big man supremacy. With Wilt being the most dominant player of his era, and Bill being on the most dominant team of his era, the rivalry always seemed destined. Through their battles, one of the more memorable moments was the 1969 Finals where Russell’s Celtics defeated a Chamberlain-led Lakers in one of the biggest upsets in Finals history. They were able to take their respect for each other and turn it into freindship after retirement until Chamberlain’s death in 1999.
LeBron James and Stephen Curry
The Finals battles between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors were some of the greatest in recent history. Those Finals were highlighted by the superstars of each team, LeBron James and Stephen Curry. After the Warriors won the championship in 2015, Curry’s fame was on the rise and Golden State was eyeing a repeat. After completing the greatest regular season ever, in which the Warriors won 73 games, a repeat seemed inevitable. Then we saw the tide change after the Warriors were up 3-1 in the 2016 Finals when Cleveland completed the comeback to win the series in seven games. One of the more highlighted plays from that series was when James blocked a driving and pump-faking Curry, which ended with some trash talk. Both players share mutual respect despite the on-court intensity.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
When it comes to arguably the greatest player rivalry of all time, it didn’t start in the NBA. The rivalry began when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State defeated Larry Bird’s Indiana State for the National Championship. In their first year in the league, Bird won the Rookie of the Year award while Magic won his first ring. They wouldn’t meet in the NBA Finals until 1984. This is when we saw the rivalry at its best. In that series, Bird’s Celtics defeated Magic’s Lakers in seven games. The big play of that series was a Bird game-winner in overtime of Game 4. The rivalry, spurred by the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, would eventually get back to that same height in 1987 when Magic’s Lakers defeated Bird and his Celtics in six games. It was highlighted by Magic’s game-winning skyhook in game 4. After retirement, they have developed a friendship and are considered the saviors of the NBA.