The Biggest Rivalries In Sports History

Daniel Collins

Written by: Daniel Collins

Last Updated:

Read Time: 6 minutes

Rivalries are a large part of what makes sports so great, and there are some outstanding rivalries throughout all of the professional sports. Most rivalries are built based on geographical locations, while others are born from repeated meetings in the postseason.

There are some iconic rivalries that almost every sports fan can name, but there are several more that fly under the radar. The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox are one of the most famous rivalries in all of sports, but did you know that the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers are intense rivals as well?

Rivalries play a large role in sports betting, but picking the correct winner in a rivalry game is a tricky proposition. We have done the research on some of the best rivalries in professional sports, and provided some history and betting insights that might help you moving forward. Take a look at some of the top rivalries from the NFL, NBA, and MLB, and hopefully, it gives you a better picture of who really dominates the rivalry.

NFL Rivalries By Team

Most of the rivalries in the National Football League are built based on the current divisions and conferences. It’s hard to develop a rivalry with a member from another conference because the teams don’t meet every single year.

The best rivalry in the NFL is without a doubt the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. The NFC North rivals have met a total of 197 times throughout the years, and dates all the way back to 1921. The Packers and Bears both share an intense rivalry with the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings as well, and the NFC North is always one of the most intense divisional battles.

One of the most intense rivalries in the NFL features the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, and the fans share an extreme hatred for one another. I guess you could call all of the AFC East teams rivals of the New England Patriots, but the Patriots have absolutely dominated them in the 21st century.

One of the most surprising rivalries in the NFL is between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. The Steelers and Browns have met 128 times, and it is the most storied rivalry in the American Football Conference. Rivalries have been established in the NFL for decades, but there is always a chance that new ones can come up in future seasons.

NBA Rivalries By Team

The best NBA rivalry in the past decade has been between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors and Cavs met in the NBA Finals in four straight seasons, but that rivalry is dead now that LeBron James has left Cleveland.

The most historic and iconic rivalry in the NBA is between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics and Lakers have combined to win 33 NBA Championships, and they often beat each other in the NBA Finals. The rest of the best rivalries in the NBA feature teams from the same conference and often the same division. In the case of the Clippers and Lakers, they are natural rivals that share the same building (Staples Center) in the same city of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Lakers have also developed a terrific rivalry with the San Antonio Spurs through the years, and they have been the gold standard in the Western Conference for much of this century. In the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls have developed intense rivalries with the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks. Both of these rivalries have taken a step back in recent seasons, but when Michael Jordan was leading the Bulls, they had some great clashes with Indiana and New York.

Since the Brooklyn Nets have moved to New York from New Jersey, the rivalry with the Knicks has become increasingly intense as well. The NBA will always belong to the Celtics and Lakers, but there are plenty of other rivalries to focus on.

MLB Rivalries By Team

The most famous rivalry in Major League Baseball, and all of sports is the intense rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The Yankees gave Red Sox fans nightmares for decades, but Boston has started to turn that rivalry around.

Fans in the Midwest will point to the rivalry between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs as the best in baseball. The state of Illinois is split right down the middle between Cubs and Cardinals fans, and this rivalry always delivers some memorable moments.

The West Coast also features a terrific rivalry in a pair of California teams. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are two of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball, and there is no love lost between these two teams. The Dodgers and Giants are routinely battling for the National League West crown, and there are always great series between the two teams each year.

A few of the up and coming rivalries in the Major Leagues feature the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers and Houston Astros. With the chance to play each other 19 teams during the regular season, Major League Baseball gives sports fans some of the best rivalries in all of sports.

College Football Rivalries

Looking at Past 20 Games & Series Splits

It is important to look at the complete history of any rivalry, but focusing on the last 20 games can help make predictions for future seasons. Not only do you want to look at the record of each team in the last 20 games, but you also want to look at the point spread and the records in relation to betting odds.

The Pittsburgh Steelers might have a 16-4 record against the Cleveland Browns in the last 20 games, but that doesn’t mean that they have performed well against the spread. Sportsbooks also set odds for the total amount of points or runs in each game, and looking at the past 20 games can help make a prediction for the upcoming season as well.

Looking all the way back at the results from 1935 probably won’t help when trying to pick a winner in any rivalry, but focusing on the last 20 games help to make predictions moving forward.