Friday, July 4, 2014

Top 50 Rivalries in American Sports History (Part I)

Honorable Mentions: Texas-Texas A&M, Philadelphia Phillies-New York Mets, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State, New Jersey Devils-New York Rangers, Michael Jordan-Dominique Wilkins, Michigan-Michigan State, Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa

50. Ravens-Steelers (Pro Football): At one point the hottest rivalry in all of football, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have fought viciously every single time they meet on the field, seeing how both teams were defined by their hard-hitting, bone-crushing defense. The two teams both play in the AFC North, which  means they are required to play at least twice a year, yet we have seen these teams play in the postseason three times. The Ravens were a very young franchise when this rivalry began, but thanks to big names like Ray Lewis, James Harrison, Ed Reed, and Troy Polamalu, the Ravens-Steelers rivalry was always fun to watch.
49. Yankees-Mets (Pro Baseball): The Subway Series was formed when the MLB created inter-league play in 1997, and the tension between these two teams quickly carried over to the fanbases due to the fact that both stadiums are in New York. The rivalry gained a lot of notoriety, starting with Roger Clemens hitting Mike Piazza in the head with a fastball, which then put Piazza on the disabled list with a concussion. The two players faced each other yet again in the 2000 World Series, when a piece of Piazza's shattered bat nearly hit Clemens on the mound. When Clemens threw the bat at the baseline, both benches cleared, and the play quickly became the pinnacle of this rivalry. The Yankees went on to win the game, as well as the World Series.

48. Harvard-Yale (College Football): Seeing how these two schools are known for their academic prestige, it is surprising that the two football teams have one of the more passionate rivalries in all of college football. With the first game played in 1875, Harvard and Yale have battled it out on the football field 130 times over the years, having been deemed "The Game". The Harvard-Yale rivalry has been full of pranks between either side, including the kidnapping of the Yale bulldog mascot, and Harvard students giving fake tours of the Yale campus. While neither school is able to recruit the elite athletes from around the country, the Harvard-Yale rivalry still manages to attract huge crowds each year.

47. Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding: Many would not associate figure skating with incredibly heated rivalries, but the Kerrigan-Harding duo drew a lot of publicity towards the sport when Harding's husband hired a man to injure Kerrigan before the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championship. Eventually, Harding was forced to plead guilty, leading to her being stripped of her title and suspension for life from the USFA as a skater and coach. The two skaters will forever be associated with one another.

46. Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson (Boxing): Having beaten the heavily favored Mike Tyson in the first meeting, Evander Holyfield stepped into the arena for his second fight against Mike, unknowing of the strange twist that lay ahead. During the third round, Mike bit off part of Holyfield's ear during a clinch, and followed this mind-boggling decision by biting Holyfield's left ear later in the same round. Tyson ended up being disqualified, creating one of the stranger rivalries in all of sports.

45. Larry Bird-Dr. J (Pro Basketball): Larry Bird may have a serious reputation for his trash talking on the court, but the Celtics legend was certainly able to back it up. In a November game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Bird had outscored Philly's Dr. J 42 to 6, and supposedly, Bird continuously reminded Julius Erving with each shot that he made. Eventually the two players got into a shoving match, and both teams stormed onto the court in order to break up the fight. When it was all said and done, Bird and Dr. J were both fined $7,500 for their actions. Seeing how the Celtics had already come back to beat the 76ers in the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals, the fight between Bird and Erving shows that there was still tension between these two players.

44. Cubs-White Sox (Pro Baseball): A common pattern that we will see with many of the rivalries on this list is two teams that are based within the same city. The Cubs-White Sox rivalry, known by many nicknames, started in 1906 when the two teams played in the World Series. A notable moment from this rivalry started when White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski ran into Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, and as Pierzynski looked to return to his dugout, Barrett stood in his way, and eventually, Barrett threw a punch. The benches cleared, and Barrett was suspended for 10 games.

43. Knicks-Heat (Pro Basketball): When two teams meet each other in the playoffs for four straight seasons, a sense of bitterness is bound to develop between the two franchises. At one point in time, the Heat and Knicks were in the same division, so playing each other in the postseason four straight times certainly presented an opportunity for revenge. The first time the Heat and Knicks played in the playoffs, Miami coach Pat Riley supposedly asked P.J. Brown to start a fight in the hopes that several Knicks players will be suspended; Brown was successful, where Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston, Larry Johnson and John Starks were all suspended for one game. The Heat went on to win the series in 7 games. More fights took place between Miami and New York within the next three years, as well as buzzer-beaters, controversial calls, and many, many upsets. The rivalry is not quite the same now that the two teams are in different divisions, but the Knicks-Heat rivalry is one of the best in NBA history.

42. Shaq-Kobe (Pro Basketball): While these two superstars managed to win three consecutive titles while playing for the Lakers, Shaq and Kobe were unable to maintain their relationship, eventually resulting in a trade that sent Shaq to Miami. Despite their success together on the court, Shaq was once quoted as saying, "I have something to say. I think Kobe is playing too selfishly for us to win," yet clearly this was not the main reason behind Shaq's disappointment. The Lakers were winning games at the time, and Kobe began to gain a lot more attention due to his spectacular play, causing Shaq to ask for a trade in 2000 following a blowout win. Eventually, the two were split up, and although both players managed to win championships apart from one another, fans can't help but wonder what could have been if the two players had stayed together.

41. Penguins-Flyers: The Penguins-Flyers matchup is one of the more current rivalries on this list, as both teams have been very legitimate title contenders over the past few years. Having met each other in three of the past six Stanley Cup Playoffs, the in-state rivals clearly do not like one another, as seen with the many fights that take place on the ice. Some of the more memorable moments of this rivalry include a five-overtime game back in the 2000 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, as well as Pittsburgh's 43 game winless streak on the road against Philadelphia.

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