Top 5 Player Rivalries In Sports

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It’s pretty much a given fact that people are terrible. But sometimes, we find a singular person whom we find more terrible than anyone else in this world. If you’re an athlete, and that person is on another team, pretty soon everyone’s going to want to watch and your ticket sales are going to go through the roof. But what are the best rivalries in sports? Here are our top 5. Remember – these are personal opinion, so if you disagree, may we kindly direct you to the comments section below?


5) Venus vs. Serena Williams

There’s no shortage of tennis rivalries to go around (Evert-Navritalova, Borg-McEnroe, Sampras-Agassi to name a few). But I’m intrigued by the rivalry from the Williams sisters. Consider, not only have they both been at the top of their game for years, and not only have they frequently defeated each other for championships, but they grew up together. If you have siblings, think about how annoying they were growing up. Think about how frustrating it was when they won awards and got accolades and praise from authority figures. Ok, now imagine they’re literally the best in the world at a given thing. And imagine you’re #2 at that same thing. ISN’T THAT BANANAS!? Here’s hoping this rivalry sticks around for awhile yet.


4) Jack Nicklaus vs. Arnold Palmer

In the early 1960s, Arnold Palmer was king of the greens. He was heavily (and vocally) favored in the 1962 US Open, but he was surprisingly defeated by a young Jack Nicklaus, who not only upset Palmer, but he notched his first career victory. Over the next five years, they were the only people to wear the green jacket. Both have gone on record saying they’ve worked harder – and become better – knowing that the other one was out there. In fact, many credit golf’s popularity today with the attention (and coverage) this rivalry garnered. In other words, without Palmer-Nicklaus, there’s no Woods, Mickelson, Els, et al. That said, we know who wins the drink competition hands down.


3) Ali-Frazier

Upon their first meeting, both boxers could technically be considered champions. See, in 1967, Ali refused to join the Army, so the WBA stripped him of his championship. During that time, Frazier grabbed the title. When Ali was reinstated, he was hungry to get his title back. So they fought (amidst plenty of trash talking between the two, much of which is unpublishable here), and Frazier won by decision. Three years later, they fought again, and Ali won by decision. The world-famous Thrilla in Manila was the deciding point of the rubber match. After 14 rounds of brutal pounding, Frazier’s trainer wouldn’t allow him back in, and Ali compared the match to being as close to death as anything he could remember. Frazier retired shortly thereafter.


2) Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson

This famous rivalry started in the 1979 NCAA championship. From there, both players went to their ideal franchises – flashy Magic Johnson to the Lakers, and good ol’ boy Larry Bird to their rivals, the Boston Celtics. Their personal rivalry was arguably bigger than the team rivalries. But surprisingly, they became friends while shooting a commercial for Converse in 1986, and since then, started rooting for each other so they could compete against each other in the finals. Their friendship has outlasted their rivalry, and they remain close friends to this day.
1) Peyton Manning v. Tom Brady

Part of the appeal of the Johnson-Bird rivalry was that they were thematically different – flashy superstar vs. “The Hick from French Lick.” There are similar themes here. You’ve got the flashy, model-wed, Uggs-endorsing Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning, a big, comically-gifted dope. They’ve broken each others records time and time again, and by the time they finish their careers, my guess is that there will be a never-ending debate about who’s #1 of all time. So why are they the best rivalry? They helped spearhead changing the face of the NFL from “3 yards and a cloud of dust” to the aerial circus it is today. Without Brady-Manning, there’s less of a chance that we’d have the Rodgers, Wilsons, and Lucks of the world.


As always, the comments section is located below. Tell me how wrong I am, internet!



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