If you’re only a casual fan of the sport, you might not know off the top of your head what are the biggest basketball rivalries. There are many rivalries within this world, but a few stand out from the others.
At the college level, look to the state of North Carolina for one of the most passionate rivalries. The games between Carolina (UNC-Chapel Hill) and Duke University are such fervent affairs that they are often nationally televised across the whole country. These two Atlantic Coast Conference schools account for a great number of national titles, and it’s rare to have a Final Four without one or both teams involved.
At a professional level, the NBA seems to have two big rivalries, depending on the timeframe you’re looking at. If you’re talking about the league’s entire history of roughly five decades, then it’s easily the Boston Celtics versus the Los Angeles Lakers, as these two franchises dominated the 1980s when the league started hitting real success. Also, these two franchises have roughly half the titles the league has ever given out.
More recently, the biggest basketball rivalry in the NBA has been the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Golden State Warriors, as these two teams have faced each other in the Finals three consecutive times, a feat never before accomplished.
On an international level, the biggest basketball rivalry might just be the United States versus the rest of the world at the Olympics and other global games. Even before professionals were allowed to compete for their nations, the United States had dominated the men’s sport routinely, and has done so quite well after too. Many nations, particularly from Europe, have started closing the gap, but they’re often competing for a silver medal or second place.
One big rivalry that seems to be brewing is between the WNBA and the NBA, even though they’re part of the same larger organization. Women basketball players are struggling to prove that they can play just as well, competitively, and entertainingly as the men.