The world brims with great talent and athleticism, but beyond the glorious wins, nothing compares to the level of competitiveness and epic matches between rivalries. As they vie for excellence and supremacy, stakes are higher, and emotions become stronger to players, teams, and fans.
In one of the highest and prestigious professional leagues in the U.S. and the world, the National Basketball Association (NBA) holds the most storied rivalries in the history of sports. Let’s take a look at some of its four best rivalries.
#4: Miami Heat vs. Orlando Magic
NBA rivalries are typically grouped into their respective conferences. It’s an easy yet great way to pin down which teams to bet on basketball on Sportsbet.
For more than 70 seasons, the Heat-Magic rivalry has always remained the only intense contest in the Southeast Division. Since November 1989, they have met a total of 129 times. Their bragging rights are fueled by sharing one state: Florida. Hence, it is also known as the Sunshine State rivalry. It started when both teams gained the spotlight in the NBA finals. The first was Magic in the 1990s, then followed by Heat in 1996.
Lebron James’ arrival to the Heat in the 2010s as a free agent made massive and successive headlines. Not only did Magic feel overshadowed by the former’s ‘extra’ coverage, but to other teams in the league as well.
#3: Chicago Bulls vs. Detroit Pistons
Bulls-Pistons rivalry dominated the late 1980s and early 1990s of the NBA, most especially when the former’s Michael Jordan became one of the greatest players in the league. He was the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in 1988.
However, no matter how strong and explosive Jordan was, the aggressive Bad Boys of Detroit were able to dominate their games through Isiah Thomas’ defensive basketball strategy called ‘Jordan Rules’. According to him, it was ‘to play him tough, to physically challenge him and to vary its defence so as to try to throw him off balance’.
#2: Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson
In terms of individual stats, the number of championships won, received honours and awards, the Bird-Johnson rivalry is the best in history. In fact, their epic feud goes way back to the 1979 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship game. Johnson’s Spartans beat Bird’s Sycamores.
You’d find more information about their intense rivalry in the 2010 TV documentary film entitled Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals. It chronicles their history and significant moments from 1979 until they became inductees in the NBA Hall of Fame.
#1: Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks
The Bulls have had quite a few rivalries, especially during Jordan’s era. It was them against Cavaliers and Pistons in the Central Division, whereas they are mainly opposed to the Knicks in the interdivisional. The latter feud notably peaked also in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.
What made the Bulls-Knicks rivalry so special was that both teams were unforgiving to their opponents as they climbed the playoff ladder. Other factors that contributed to the intensity was the bettors’ high-stakes and renowned players like Jordan, John Starks, and Patrick Ewing. If only online crypto sportsbooks (i.e. basketball on Sportsbet) was present at that time, wagering on these two contenders would certainly dominate most betting markets.