NBA: Top 40 Rivalries of All-Time and Who's Won Them so Far
NBA history is filled with talented individuals and dominant franchises. They are the reasons the sport is so popular.
But when two of these dominant players or teams meet, they form what we like to call a rivalry.
It seems that each era in the NBA is defined by one rivalry. When the fans or players meet, fans are sure to pay attention. Games featuring major rivalries are highly anticipated, and when they begin, it's war.
The fans cheer louder, the boo louder, and stadiums are surely sold out.
This list focuses on the top 40 NBA rivalries of all-time; the ones that made fans' blood boil during the days preceding the infamous games.
40. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers
When the Clippers first moved to Los Angeles, these two teams were both is pursuit of being on top of the city.
It hasn't worked out so far for the Clippers.
The Lakers, over the past decade, have been one of the best teams in the league, and the Clippers have been one of the worst.
WINNER: Los Angeles Lakers:
The Lakers have dominated the Clips for a long time, and the rivalry has died down because of it.
With Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, and DeAndre Jordan, Clippers fans are hoping for a playoff-worthy season next year and a reinvigorated rivalry with the Lake Show.
39. Shaquille O'Neal vs. Yao Ming
When Yao Ming entered the league, he immediately became one of the best centers in the game. At 7'6", Yao was the second tallest player of all-time and brought a lot of skill to the court.
Shaq didn't like a new center in the league and formed a rivalry that, if you asked Yao, doesn't exist, but if you asked O'Neal, was one of the most well-known in the game.
WINNER: Shaquille O'Neal:
Yao Ming recently retired because of many injuries that made him less effective on the court.
Shaq recently retired because he was old.
Shaq has four rings; Yao has zero. Let's leave it at that.
38. Shaquille O'Neal vs. Ben Wallace
Over the last decade, dominant centers have been hard to come by. Shaquille O'Neal and Ben Wallace are two examples of a rare breed in the NBA.
In the 2004 NBA Finals, Shaq's Lakers were up against Wallace's Pistons. The series went to five games, and Detroit won four of the five.
The two met up once again when the Heat went up against the Pistons in 2005 and 2006. In 2005, the Pistons beat the Heat by winning Game 7 and lost in the Finals the San Antonio Spurs. During the 2006 playoffs, the Heat were the victors, winning Game 6 in Miami.
Shaquille has never been afraid to create rivalries between himself and a fellow NBA center, and Ben Wallace was one of his many targets during his time in the NBA.
WINNER: Ben Wallace
In their three playoff meetings, Ben Wallace's Pistons won the series twice. Ben Wallace was a dominant force in those games and is the undeniable winner of this rivalry.
37. Washington Wizards vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards have met three times in the playoffs in the last five years (2006, 2007, 2008). Each of these series were won by the Cavaliers.
The fire behind the rivalry, though, is not just the teams, but the players who filled their rosters.
The Cavaliers had LeBron James, Daniel Gibson, Larry Hughes, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, while the Wizards players included Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Caron Butler.
WINNER: Cleveland Cavaliers
As stated earlier, the Cavaliers won all three of their meetings with Washington.
36. Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams
Chris Paul and Deron Williams have been constantly compared throughout their NBA careers. They were both drafted in 2005, and have been the leaders of their respective teams throughout their careers.
They have both enjoyed successful careers and both played together on the 2008 Olympic squad.
There is one glaring difference between the two, though, and to me, that is playoff leadership.
Chris Paul has undoubtedly been the better of the two during the playoffs. He has made legitimate playoff series, going up against undeniably better opponents (the Spurs in 2008, and the Lakers in 2011). Deron Williams' Jazz were also worthy opponents, but were often dominated in the playoffs. He is now on the Nets and needs to be traded if he wants another chance to get the title.
WINNER: Chris Paul
Chris Paul has been the much better leader of the two throughout their NBA tenures. They have both put up spectacular numbers during their time in the league, but Chris Paul is a proven leader with plenty of time left in his career.
35. Ron Artest vs. Kobe Bryant
This rivalry defined the 2009 series between the Lakers and the Rockets. Technical fouls were countless and confrontations were not rare between these two.
It took seven games for the series to come to a close and the Lakers, as the victors, went on to win their first title since 2002.
WINNER: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant led his team past the Rockets in a series filled with controversy to say the least. After that, the Lakers went on to win the NBA championship, thus giving the Lakers their 15th Finals win with Kobe being the MVP of the postseason.
That next season, none other than Ron Artest signed with L.A. and the Lake Show won back-to-back titles and their 16th Championship as a franchise, with Kobe once again the MVP.
34. Kobe Bryant vs. Dwyane Wade
Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade have represented the shooting guard position for quite a while now. They are among the most electrifying players currently in the NBA.
Whenever these two meet, they go at each other like few others in the league.
Before the arrival of LeBron, it was the Kobe-Wade rivalry, not the Lakers-Heat rivalry.
WINNER: Kobe Bryant
Kobe has more titles, MVP trophies, and has notoriously produced well against Wade's Heat, making him the winner of this player vs. player rivalry.
33. Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett of the Celtics and Pau Gasol of the Lakers have been going at it ever since Gasol arrived in Los Angles. In his first year with the team, the Lakers met up with the Celtics in the NBA Finals, therefore introducing him to the long history of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.
In that series, KG was relentless in criticizing Gasol's toughness. Pau was dominated by "The Big Ticket." The Boston Celtics prevailed to win their 17th NBA title.
Then in 2010, they met up once again in the Finals, and the Lakers won in seven games for their 16th championship. This time Gasol turned the tables and was by far the better of the two in that series.
WINNER: Pau Gasol
Gasol and Garnett both immediately drastically changed their team's odds of winning the title for the better.
Gasol, though, has helped the Lakers win two titles while Garnett and Ray Allen together helped win Boston a single championship.
Gasol responded as well as anyone possibly could have in both the 2009 and 2010. Not only did he dominate against Dwight Howard in 2009, but he conquered Garnett and his trash-talking in the 2010 NBA Finals.
32. Shaquille O'Neal vs. Dwight Howard
Shaq, with his aging, refused to let Father Time get the best of him. He has tried to spark controversy numerous times with dominant centers all across the league (most of which failed).
Dwight Howard was one of his more recent and well-known of his attempts.
It all started before a game between the Suns and the Magic. Shaquille went on a trash-talking rage against the talented Magic center, stating he was just copying what he himself had invented. During the game, Shaq jumped at every opportunity he had to display his moves. Then, after the contest, Shaq accused Howard of "flopping" and sparked anger out of Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy.
WINNER: Dwight Howard
The funny thing is about all this controversy is that during the whole ordeal, Dwight seemed to just ignore everything Shaq was throwing at him. He remained unfazed and performed well. He scored 21 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the Magic win.
31. Hakeem Olajuwan vs. Dwight Howard
Hakeem Olajuwon is probably one of the best centers of all-time. Shaquille O'Neal is also one of the best centers of all-time.
In 1995, Hakeem's Rockets were matched up against Shaq's Magic in the NBA Finals.
Olajuwon was in his 11th year in the league, and Shaq was playing in his third season in the NBA.
The two were obviously the best players on their teams and the hype that led up to the matchup created a rivalry before the series even started.
WINNER: Hakeem Olajuwon
In the end, Hakeem and the Rockets dominated O'Neal and the Magic. Houston swept Orlando and Shaquille was almost nonexistent compared to Olajuwon.
And I'm willing to bet that if you asked Shaquille who he admired the most in his early years in the league, his answer would be Hakeem Olajuwon.
30. Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs
Over the last decade, arguably the toughest division in the NBA. The Rockets and the Spurs are no different.
Some of the names on both of these teams include: Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, David Robinson, George Gervin, and Moses Malone.
One of the rivalry's most memorable moments came during the 1995 playoffs that put Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon up against San Antonio's David Robinson, two of the greatest centers of all-time. The Rockets won the series 4-2 and went on to win the NBA title with Hakeem as the MVP.
In another matchup on December 9, 2004, the Rockets were down by 10 points to the Spurs. The crowd was booing as one of the best comebacks in NBA history began to take place. In the span of 35 seconds, Tracy McGrady of the Rockets managed to score 13 points including a buzzer-beating three-pointer that won the game for Houston.
WINNER: Houston Rockets
The Rockets prevailed on both occasions listed above. The Spurs, in the last decade, have had much success, but Houston has not been a perennial casualty.
29. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns
The Lakers-Suns rivalry has gone on since 1970. That year, the Suns were up 3-1. But then the unthinkable happened. The Lakers came back to win the next three games.
They met again in 1982, 1984, 1985, and 1989, and the Lakers prevailed in all four series. Then in 1993, the Suns defeated the Lakers and in 2000, the Lakers prevailed 4-1 on their way to an NBA title.
One of their most memorable encounters was in the 2006 playoffs that put Kobe's Lakers (No. 7 seed) up against Nash's Suns (No. 2seed). The Lakers also had a 3-1 lead four games into a series filled with clutch performances and close wins. But then Phoenix turned the tables to win the next three games and the series.
They were up against each other again in 2007 and the Suns came up on top.
Another highly recognizeable moment in the rivalry was in 2010 where the No. 1-seeded Lakers went up against the No. 3-seeded Suns squad.
This time around, Kobe dominated.
The Black Mamba tore apart the Suns and lead them to a six-game series victory.
WINNER: Los Angeles Lakers
In their 10 meetings, the Lakers have won seven times. The Lakers have won 10 titles since their first meeting in 1970 and the Suns franchise has never won an NBA championship.
28. San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks
The Spurs and Mavericks both originated in Dallas. The Spurs entered the league as the Dallas Chaparrals.
It has been a heated rivalry for the last decade and the Spurs have won three of the five series they have played against one another.
WINNER: San Antonio Spurs
As stated earlier, the Spurs have won three of their five meetings and have three championship trophies since their first meeting in 2001. The Mavericks have one title since then, which came last season (in case you didn't know).
The Spurs are now older and are in no shape to win a title, so one can expect them to possibly turn the tables on the rivalry in the next few years.
27. Kobe Bryant vs. Paul Pierce
This rivalry is primarily based on the 2008 NBA Finals between Kobe's Lakers and Pierce's Celtics, but there are still other variables that influenced this decision.
In 2008, the rivalry between the two leaders of their squads started before the opening tip.
Kobe Bryant, the league MVP, along with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, were up against the newly assembled "Boston Three Party" of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and, oh yeah, Paul Pierce. Specifically, Kobe and Pierce constantly went after one another on the court. It was not only a physical game but a mental one during that series.
In the end, the emotional toughness and leadership of Paul Pierce lead the Celtics to their 17th title.
Then, in 2010, there was the unforgettable rematch between the two.
A slower and older Pierce was up against the emotionally driven Lakers. This time, Bryant and the Lake Show proved their dominance against a Boston team that beat them just two years before.
WINNER: Kobe Bryant
Although the two finals series between their two teams ended in a draw, during the regular season Kobe Bryant has stepped up while Paul Pierce has seemingly started going downhill.
26. Kobe Bryant vs. Tim Duncan
Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan. It's safe to say they dominated the 2000's.
They are two major forces in the basketball world.
Deciding the winner of this rivalry is based on their accomplishments spanning their respective NBA careers.
Tim Duncan. Duncan is undeniably the best power forward in the history of the NBA. He has been a dominant force in San Antonio for 13 years and has brought the team four championship trophies. He has played alongside players such as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and David Robinson and has still managed two MVP trophies.
With the exception of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant is the best shooting guard to ever play the game. What was once an athletic fan-dazzler has turned into the the Black Mamba with one of the deadliest games in the league. He has brought in five titles for Los Angeles and two Finals MVP trophies. He has played alongside Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom and has an MVP trophy.
WINNER: Kobe Bryant
Kobe is one of the most accomplished and respected players of all-time. He is already, in my opinion, a top-5 player of all-time and still has time in his career to get even higher on that list.
25. Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat
The odds of these two teams meeting twice in the championship series in six seasons is very slim. But, hey, it happened. Both in 2006 and in 2011, these two teams met in the Finals.
In 2006, Dwyane Wade became an elite superstar in the NBA by leading his underdog Miami team to their first NBA title in franchise history.
Last season, Dirk Nowitzki's lust for a title came out victorious and the Mavericks earned their first title in team history.
WINNER: Dallas Mavericks
No team has been as embarrassed as the Miami Heat were when they lost in the 2011 NBA Finals. The "Decision"(pun intended) to bring over Chris Bosh and LeBron James to play alongside Dwyane Wade turned out to be a failure the first time around. No one but the Mavericks can be credited for their loss.
24. Ron Artest vs. Detroit Pistons
This rivalry began with what may be the most infamous moment in the history of the NBA.
With less than a minute left in the game, Artest's Pistons were up 97-82 against the Detroit Pistons. As Ben Wallace went up for a layup, Artest came up from under the hoop and committed a hard foul on the airborne Wallace. Wallace didn't want to back down without a fight and shoved Ron to the floor. A flourish of players, coaches, trainers, and officials from both squads crowded around the scorers' table.
As things heated up, Ron Artest was tightly guarded by fellow teammate Reggie Miller (who was currently inactive) and stretched out on the scorers' table just to the left of the brawl. Then, as "True Warrior" cooled down, a fan decided to show his anger towards the visiting Pacer by throwing a beer at Indiana's small forward.
In the heat of the moment, Ron jetted into the stands and attacked the beverage-heaving fan. Fans surrounded the Pacer and with much determination, restrained Artest. As officials and players finally escorted Ron-Ron off the court, two fans confronted Artest and another boxing match broke out. The fight only lasted seconds, though, and, after all of the chaos, Artest finally ended up in the locker room.
The suspensions included 73 games for Ron Artest (plus playoffs—grand total 86 games), 30 games for Stephen Jackson (Pacers, going into stands), 15 games for Jermaine O'Neal (Pacers), six games for Ben Wallace (Pistons), five games for Anthony Johnson (Pacers), and one game for each Reggie Miller (Pacers), Chancey Billups (Pistons), Elden Campbell (Pistons), and Derrick Coleman (Pistons).
WINNER: Detroit Pistons
The Pistons got away with only nine games total in suspension. They may have lost, but the Pacers got a grand total of 136 games in suspension, including 86 for Ron Artest.
23. Jerry West vs. Oscar Robertson
This rivalry is between two of the best point guards that played in the 60's. They are arguably two of the top five point guards in the history of the NBA.
As Jerry West entered the league, Oscar had already made strides as an NBA player, but as they both hit their primes, they became equals on the court in terms of skills and ability.
Jerry West won a single title, was a twelve-time all-star, and was a ten-time All-NBA first team selection.
Oscar Robertson won a single title, a regular season MVP trophy, and was the Rookie of the Year in 1961. He was a 12-time all-star and a nine-time All-NBA first team selection.
WINNER: Oscar Robertson
In terms of their individual careers, Oscar was more successful in his overall game. In one season of his career, he averaged a triple-double.
Jerry West couldn't get a championship with both Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain on his team. Oscar virtually single-handedly turned around the Rochester Royals.
22. Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant
Once Michael officially became the best player of all-time, countless talents have been compared to and called the "next Jordan."
Possibly the closest thing we've seen to Mike is none other than Kobe Bryant.
Let's list off their similarities. They are both shooting guards, the two are very clutch players, and are deadly mid-range shooters.
WINNER: Michael Jordan
As stated earlier, Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all-time, so giving him the win for this rivalry is a no-brainer.
21. Philidelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Four historic meetings have defined this rivalry: those of 1980, 1982, 1983, and 2001.
Entering Game 6 of the 1980 NBA finals, the Sixers were down 3-2 to the Lakers. They had the advantage in Game 6, though, because of the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabar. It was up to rookie Earvin "Magic" Johnson to start at center and carry the Lakers to the title.
To he delivered would be an understatement. Magic scored 42 points, grabbed 15 boards, dished out seven assists, and had two steals in the series-clinching Game 6 of the 1980 finals.
In 1982, the teams met for the second time and the Lakers were victorious once again.
But then, in 1983, the Sixers, having obtained Moses Malone prior to that season, not only beat Los Angles, but swept L.A. to win the third championship in franchise history.
Finally, in 2001, there was a rematch that left off from 1983. The Los Angeles Lakers, coming off a championship, were matched up against Allen Iverson's Sixers.
In Game 1, Iverson was on fire. At one point, while being tightly guarded by the Lakers' Tyronn Lue, Iverson nailed a step-back jumper that sent Lue to the floor. On his way back to his team's own side of the court, "The Answer" blatantly stepped over the grounded Lue right in front of the Lakers bench. Philadelphia went on to win that game, but the Lakers proved too much for the Sixers and won the next four games and the series.
WINNER: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers won three out of their four Finals meetings. Need I say more? Players such as Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson made a name for themselves in these series.
20. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets
The two teams have met eight times in the playoffs (1981, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1996, 1999, 2004, and 2009).
Their two most memorable meetings were in 1981 and 2009.
In 1981, the Lakers were crushed in one of the most well known moments in the history of the NBA playoffs. With less than a single second left in the game, Houston center Ralph Sampson tipped in a shot that put an immediate halt to Showtime for that season.
In 2009, the Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom's Lakers were up against Ron Artest, Aaron Brooks, Yao Ming, and the Houston Rockets. In Game 1, the Rockets shocked the Lakers in Los Angeles. In Game 2, the Lakers displayed their experience and won. In Game 3, Yao Ming suffered a foot injury and the Lakers prevailed.
The next three games were won 2-1 by the Rockets, but the Lakers went on to win Game 7 and the series.
WINNER: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have won five of the eight meetings between the two squads.
It's true that the Rockets have crushed the hearts of Lakers legends such as Michael Cooper, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and Magic Johnson. However, in the end, the point of a playoff series is to make it to the next round, and against one another the Lakers did it best.
19. LeBron James vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
It all started with "The Decision."
LeBron had been the heart and soul of the Cavaliers for years, but had failed multiple times in the pursuit of an NBA championship.
LeBron James became a free agent in 2010 and had multiple teams after his talent.
In the end, though, James just wanted to win, and his best shot was with Miami. This move crushed Cleveland players, fans, and staff, and were unforgiving of LeBron for taking the "easy way out."
WINNER: LeBron James
When LeBron's Heat were visiting the Cavaliers, the fans were ruthless. Creative posters and relentless boos were thrown at James the entire game, but instead of discouraging James, the hatred pushed him to show Cleveland what they were missing without LeBron by its side.
When one player can leave a No. 1-seeded team and they become the most pitiful squad in the entire league, you know you are the winner of that rivalry.
18. Chicago Bulls vs. Detroit Pistons
During their six championship runs, the Bulls constantly met up with teams on what seamed to be a regular basis. These teams include the Jazz, Knicks, and on this slide, the Pistons.
The "Bad Boys" were a thorn in the side of many NBA franchises, and leaning towards the end of that era, they were the undeniable antagonists in their relationship with Chicago.
WINNER: Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan proved time and time again that he was too much for even the tough Detroit defense. As stated before, he won six titles, and the Pistons were simply one of the Bulls' many casualties.
17. Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz
In both 1997 and 1998, the Utah Jazz went up against the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. The rivalry was home to players such as Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Jeff Hornacek from the Jazz and Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman from the Bulls.
WINNER: Chicago Bulls
One has to wonder whether if Michael Jordan had stuck to baseball, Karl Malone and John Stockton would have gotten the championships they deserved.
Well, because Michael Jordan came back to the sport of basketball, that didn't happen, and the Bulls won two of their NBA titles against the seemingly cursed Utah Jazz.
16. Kobe Bryant vs. Shaquille O'Neal
Kobe and Shaq spent eight seasons together and in that time won three titles.
But by 2004, Kobe and Shaq were sick of each other. Coming off a loss to the Pistons in the Finals, Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, and Brian Grant. The two stars' egos seemed to have gotten too big for a single team.
In 2006, Shaq, with Dwyane Wade by his side, won his fourth ring as an NBA player.
Then, during the 2007-08 NBA season the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol and the team has since won two titles with Kobe as the Finals MVP both times.
WINNER: Kobe Bryant
Shaq constantly said that Kobe couldn't win a title without him.
Well, he did.
The two split up with three rings in their possession apiece. Shaq is now retired and has four rings, while Kobe has five rings with plenty of years ahead of him to earn more.
15. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons and the Lakers have been battling it out since their first meeting in 1950. They have met in a total of 11 playoff series.
Their most memorable battles took place in 1988, 1989, and 2004.
In 1988/89, the two faced off in the NBA finals, in which the Lakers won the first of two and the Pistons prevailed in the rematch.
In 2004, the Lakers, looking for their fourth title in five years, lost to the rejuvenated "Pistons Bad Boys."
WINNER: Los Angeles Lakers
When a team wins eight of their 11 meetings against a single team, it is hard for one to say that the franchise that prevailed in three of those series are the victor of the rivalry (no matter how heart-breaking the losses).
14. Michael Jordan vs. Dominique Wilkins
These players are arguably the two most electrifying stars in the history of the NBA. They both, over the span of their careers, displayed ridiculous athleticism and dazzled fans for many years.
The rivalry has been recognized because of their countless regular season meetings and historic dunk contest battle.
Every Bulls-Hawks game turned into a Wilkins-Jordan matchup. They were at the ends of number of classic NBA shootouts.
Also, in 1987, the two went up against one another in a classic NBA dunk contest. In the end, Jordan prevailed in the event, but it went back and forth throughout the contest.
WINNER: Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan took the league by storm and won six titles in the process. Wilkins took the league by storm as well but never won an NBA championship.
Jordan is now recognized as the greatest NBA player of all-time. Wilkins, while great, would be lucky to be considered a top-20 player of all-time.
13. Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks
The Bulls of the 90's are probably the second best (behind the 60's Celtics) dynasty in the history of NBA basketball.
On the way to that title, many teams attempted to take down Jordan and the Bulls.
The Knicks, on this list, are the top team to do so. The Knicks-Bulls rivalry is home to many all-time greats such as Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and Scottie Pippen.
They met six times between 1989 and 1996.
WINNER: Chicago Bulls
With Michael Jordan on the team, the Bulls have never lost to the Knicks in a playoff series.
What else is there to say?
12. Dominique Wilkins vs. Larry Bird
These two players took part in what has become the greatest shootout in the history of NBA basketball.
In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the two superstars were undoubtedly the stars of the occasion. They both delivered in the way that fans and NBA fanatics had hoped for.
WINNER: Larry Bird
In the end, they played the way they did to keep their teams' seasons alive, and Larry Bird did just that as he led the Celtics to a 102-100 victory over Dominique's Hawks.
11. Tim Duncan vs. Shaquille O'Neal
The Lakers and the Spurs were undeniably the two most dominant teams of the 2000's. The squads were home to two of the most dominating big men in the history of the NBA: the Spurs' Tim Duncan, and the Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal.
Not only were these players undeniably dominant, but they were also the obvious leaders of their squads.
WINNER: Shaquille O'Neal
Between 1999 and 2004, Shaq won three Finals MVP trophies to Duncan's two. And when they matched up against each other, it seemed that Shaq's power and strength dominated Duncan's finesse play. This was my reasoning for choosing Shaq as the winner of this rivalry.
10. San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Again, the Lakers and Spurs dominated the 2000's and have represented the Western Conference in countless playoff series.
The two squads have been home to future Hall of Famers in Kobe Bryant, Tim, Duncan, and Shaquille O'Neal.
They have met six times since 1999 in some of the most veteran-filled series the league has ever seen. Player rivalries were started (Kobe Bryant-Bruce Bowen, O'Neal-Duncan) and some have continued for years.
WINNER: Although they have split their six playoff meetings since 1999, the Lakers have won five titles while the Spurs have won four.
Simple math will tell you that the Lakers are the winners of this rivalry.
8. Philidelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics
The 76ers and the Celtics have sparked hatred on the court ever since the trade that sent Wilt Chamberlain to Philadelphia.
The trade is when it all started.
Wilt Chamberlain was now a Sixer, and Bill Russell was still a Celtic. These two centers were the most dominant forces in the NBA at the time, and are still recognized as two of the top five centers of all-time. These two (as you might be reminded about in a few sort slides) formed one of the single greatest rivalries in NBA history. They met up in the Conference Finals in 1965 when the Celtics robbed the Sixers of a Game 7 win when John Havlicek of the Celtics stole the in-bounds pass to end Philadelphia's season and send Boston to the Finals.
Then, when Julius Erving went from the ABA's New York Nets to the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, things again flared up. In multiple regular season games (1983, 1985) numerous players and coaches joined in on fights between the two squads, including multiple fights in a single game in 1983.
These players and coaches included included Moses Malone, Sedale Threatt, Larry Bird, Cedric Maxwell, Bill Cunningham (coach), Gerald Henderson, Julius Erving, Mark Iavaroni, and none other than the legendary Celtics coach Red Auarbach. One of these fights featured a choking match between Larry Bird and Julius Erving.
WINNER: Boston Celtics
Wilt Chamberlain won just a single title as a Sixer, and Julius Erving and Moses Malone only won a single championship. Meanwhile, Larry Bird won three rings and Bill Russell won eleven (both played as Celtics throughout their careers).
9. LeBron James vs. Boston Celtics
LeBron James is the best player currently in the NBA and one of the greatest talents the league has ever seen.
What has been questioned is his emotional toughness, and the veteran leadership of the Celtics has proven superior multiple times.
In 2008 and 2009, the Celtics took down LeBron and the Cavaliers to put an end to Cleveland's playoff hopes.
WINNER: Boston Celtics
Although LeBron, with Dwyane Wade and the Heat, were victorious this last season against an aging Celtics roster, LeBron's heart has been broken twice in three encounters with Boston.
7. Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Kings and the Lakers might not have deep roots, but their playoff battles in the early 2000's are enough to lock in the No. 7 spot.
The Kings were undeniably a very talented team those days with Mike Bibby in his prime as well as Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, and Vlade Divac at their core.
The Lakers had the historic tandem of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant as their main weapon, plus Robert Horry and Derek Fisher.
The fierce competition between individuals as well as teams is what set this rivalry apart. Vlade Divac and Chris Webber were up against the "Deisal" as Mike Bibby was unfairly matched up with Kobe.
WINNER: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have triumphed in each of their three playoff meetings. A perfect record is more than enough to name them the winners.
6. Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks
The Pacers and the Knicks formed what was among the most blood-thirsty rivalries in the history of the NBA with their playoff meetings in the 90's.
It featured Reggie Miller, John Starks, Mark Jackson, Patrick Ewing, and, oh yeah, Spike Lee.
Their were countless flagrant fouls and fights between what seemed every player on the two squads.
The frustration level reached its peak when Reggie Miller continuously taunted John Starks and Spike Lee. He caused people's emotions to get the best of them and eventually they were either kicked out of the game or hated by fans.
WINNER: Indiana Pacers
Although the two teams split their six postseason meetings, Reggie Miller and the Pacers humiliated Knicks players and fans and only added to Patrick Ewing's legacy of never being able to win a title.
5. Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics
The Hawks-Celtics rivalry started when the NBA was still young. Bob Pettit and the Hawks played against Bob Cousy, Bill Russell and the Celtics to represent the Eastern Conference for years.
Then in the 80's, the Hawks, led by Dominique Wilkins, went up against Larry Bird's Celtics. The two superstars went back and forth to give the world of basketball one of the greatest shootouts the league has ever seen.
In 2008, the rivalry was rejuvenated when Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, and Al Horford duked it out with the newly assembled "Big Three" of the Celtics. This series included a gutsy fight between bench player Zaza Pachulia of Atlanta and the Celtics' own Kevin Garnett.
WINNER: Boston Celtics
During all of the eras mentioned, the Celtics were a dominating team while the Hawks were solid at best. The Hawks franchise has won just one title in their history and the Celtics have won an NBA-best 17 championships.
4. Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James
This is probably the boldest selection on this entire list.
The rivalry has sparked a revolution in the world of basketball. They have both been considered the two best players in the NBA for multiple years and have been relentlessly compared in every aspect of their games.
The two have combined for three MVP trophies, five Finals appearances, and eight All-Star games in the last five years. They have arguably the most recognizable endorsements in the entire league with Nike.
WINNER: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant has won two titles in three Finals appearances and LeBron has won zero rings in two Finals attempts. When it counts, LeBron has failed to show up while Kobe has earned a reputation as the best crunch-time player in the NBA.
3. Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell formed what is known today as the greatest big man rivalry the league has ever seen. It featured two of the greatest centers and some of the greatest teams of all-time.
Wilt and Russell, during the span of their careers, formed unquestionable dynasties with their accomplishments on the basketball court. Russell was one of the league's greatest defenders while Wilt was one of the league's best offensive players.
Let's just say that in terms of this rivalry, opposites attract.
WINNER: Bill Russel
Bill Russell led his Celtics squad to 11 NBA titles while Wilt won just a single championship with the Lakers.
Although they both dominated the era, the edge has to be given to Russell on this one.
2. Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird
This is undeniably the most well-known and historic rivalry ever to hit the hardwood. It featured a 6'8" point guard in Magic Johnson and a smooth, finesse-style power/small forward in Larry Bird.
It all started in college when Larry Bird played for Indiana State and Magic played for Michigan State. The two met in the championship game in 1979 in which Magic Johnson shined to lead his team to the title.
When they both made the jump into the NBA, who would've guessed Larry would go to Boston and Magic would end up in Los Angeles? Not only did it add to the historic rivalry that already was, but it nurtured the intensity between the two, making every game between Magic and Bird a marquee event.
As NBA superstars, Bird went on to win three titles while Magic ended up with five, including edging out Bird and the Celtics in two of their three Finals meetings.
The two are now good friends and NBA legends. The are both Hall of Famers and top-10 basketball players of all-time.
WINNER: Magic Johnson
Johnson won five titles, including two against Bird and the Celtics. Larry won three titles and just one against the "Showtime" Lakers. Although both of their legacies are unquestionable, Magic just edged out Bird in this rivalry.
1. Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers
You knew this one was coming.
Not only is this rivalry undoubtedly the best in the NBA, but is probably the second best in all of sports behind the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
There are no two NBA teams with as much history as the Celtics and the Lakers. Both have been called home by superstars and NBA legends including Magic Johnson, Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, John Havlicek, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin McHale, Larry Bird, Gail Goodrich, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Paul Pierce.
They have combined for more than half of the NBA's 64 championship trophies with 33 total titles under the two teams' belts. Seventeen belong to the Celtics and 16 to the Lakers.
We have also seen legendary coaches come out of these two teams in Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson, and Pat Riley.
WINNER: Boston Celtics
In their 12 Finals meetings, the Celtics have won nine times. They cursed the Lakers up until 1985 and kept players such as Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Gail Goodrich from winning more than one NBA title.
One can expect more from these two teams for years to come.