Greatest rivalries in sports history
Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady
Since the turn of the century there hasn’t been a bigger rivalry in terms of quarterback vs. quarterback than Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. The two have faced each other 14 times, with Brady’s team coming out on top 10 times. In terms of stats, Brady has a definitive edge over Manning in every category except for passing yards per game (243.1 for Brady, 283.6 for Manning).
Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird
Not only did the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird define the careers of two hall-of-famers, but it gave the NBA a shot of positive energy it desperately needed. The competitiveness between the two created a made for television competition that shaped the NBA’s broadcasting future. Of course it helped that Bird and Magic played for the two most popular teams in the NBA.
Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin
The NHL desperately needed something for fans to gravitate towards after a lockout stopped the 2004-2005 season from taking place. Enter Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. The duo gave the league two marketable stars, but the two also gave the league a pair of must watch teams that defined the early stages of the NHL's comeback.
Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus
The Golden Bear and The King was a rare rivalry in golf that lasted over three decades. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were the exact opposite of each other and their fan base was just as different. Palmer was an everyman that galleries flocked to in mass. Nicklaus grew up playing on private country clubs and was rough around the edges. Their only similarity was the ability to dominate a golf course at will.
Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson
Tiger Woods has seen his fair share of rivals over the years, but none have had the run that Phil Mickelson has had. Much like Palmer, Mickelson became a man of the people as Tiger drifted further and further away from the galleries’ good graces. As both enter the latter stages of their careers, Tiger finds himself five majors away from topping Nicklaus and Phil is only two behind Palmer.
Nancy Kerrigan vs. Tonya Harding
The story of the 1994 Olympics starts and ends with the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding saga. Harding’s ex-husband conspired with another man to attack Kerrigan before the ladies’ singles competition. Kerrigan ended up winning the silver medal and Harding did not finish in the top three.
John McEnroe vs. Bjorn Borg
Fire and ice is the best way to describe the rivalry between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. Borg was known for being quiet and emotionless, while McEnroe was known for his tantrums on the court. The duo played against each other 14 times on the tour, including four major championships. McEnroe won three out of four of those majors.
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier
The best part of any rivalry is the sense of dislike between two individuals or two teams, but in the case of Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, there entire rivalry was based around their hatred for one another. The “Thrilla in Manila” and “Fight of the Century” are two of the best matches in the history of the sport. The two were exact opposites in the ring, but when they set foot inside, they created magic that older boxing fans will never forget.
Deion Sanders vs. Jerry Rice
Originally teammates on the 1994 Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers, Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice faced off many times when Sanders moved on to the conference rival Dallas Cowboys. In their primes, this was a battle of all-time greats.
Tyson Gay vs. Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt is the fastest man on the planet, but Tyson Gay isn't too far behind. Gay and Bolt are two of only three athletes to sweep the gold medal in the 100 m, 200 m and 4 x 100 relay at the track and field world championships. Gay remains one of only three sprinters to beat Bolt in a final since Bolt's 2008 record-setting performance at the Beijing Olympics.
Shaquille O'Neal vs. Kobe Bryant
This feud goes all the way back to the days when these two were teammates. While Shaq was clearly the alpha dog during the Lakers championships of the early 00's, Kobe was an up and coming young star. The pair battled for supremacy within the team before Kobe forced the Lakers to trade Shaq to the Heat. Shaq went on to win a title in Miami and wrote a rap song dissing his former teammate. Kobe may have had the last laugh though, as he won two more titles without the Big Diesel.
Spike Lee vs. Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller has a famed history with the New York Knicks, a team he consistently put up big numbers against. As a season ticket holder and avid New York fan, Spike Lee took exception to Miller's trash talking and demeanor on the court. The climax of this feud occurred in the 1995 Knicks-Pacers playoff series where Miller scored eight points in the final 18.7 seconds to secure a Game 1 victory for Indiana. Lee could only watch from his usual courtside seat as his beloved Knicks blew a six-point lead in the waning seconds.
Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are ushering in a new era of athletic, mobile quarterbacks. Their early success has given the pair a chance to be the Manning-Brady rivalry for a new generation.
Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal
Two of tennis's all-time greats are currently embroiled in one of the game's all-time rivalries. Federer and Nadal are the only players in history to have finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the ATP rankings for six consecutive years. Nadal has won 13 of their 15 matches on clay, 8 of 14 matches on hard court, while Federer has won 2 of their 3 matches on grass. Their 2008 Wimbledon final is considered one of the best tennis matches ever.
Pete Carroll vs. Jim Harbaugh
Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have a rivalry that goes beyond their tenures in the NFL. The pair faced off numerous times in the college ranks when Carroll was the head coach of USC and Harbaugh was at the helm of intrastate rival Stanford. This feud continued in the NFL when Carroll left USC for the Seahawks in 2010 and Harbaugh bounced to San Francisco a year later. The pinnacle of this rivalry came in 2009 while the two were still college coaches. With the game all but decided, Harbaugh's Cardinals went for two just to humiliate Carroll and the Trojans. During their customary postgame handshake, Carroll famously asked Harbaugh, "What's your deal?"
Roger Clemens vs. Mike Piazza
The Roger Clemens-Mike Piazza rivalry took off while the pair played in New York, Clemens with the Yankees and Piazza with the Mets. Clemens beaned Piazza in the head during a game between the two teams in 2000. Years after the incident, Piazza still gets riled up about it, saying there should have been a fight after he was hit. During the 2000 Subway Series, Piazza broke a bat on a Clemens pitch, sending a piece of the bat back to the mound. Clemens then proceeded to throw the bat in Piazza's direction, though he claimed he did not mean to throw it at him.
Mickey Ward vs. Arturo Gatti
Many consider the first of the three Mickey Ward-Arturo Gatti fights as one of the best boxing matches in history. Ward took the first match thanks to a ninth round knockdown, but both fighters suffered heavy damage and needed care from a trauma center after the fight. Gatti won both of the rematches. The first and third fights were named "Ring" magazines fights of the year in 2002 and 2003.
Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the undisputed best footballers in the world. Competing for the Copa del Rey while playing in La Liga, with Barcelona for Messi and Real Madrid for Ronaldo, the two face off annually. Beyond the Copa del Rey, Messi and Ronaldo are in the running for FIFA's Ballon d'Or, an award given out to the most outstanding player, and compete internationally for Argentina and Portugal respectively. While the pair insist there is no rivalry, they have admitted the other's excellence drives them to be better players.