The Top Rivalries in Sports History

Sports provide a fantastic outlet. They celebrate teamwork and athleticism while giving us something to root for. 

Sports rivalries add even more intrigue to the game. Watching a sport is fun, but nothing can compare to the exhilaration of competing against a historic rival. 

While scrolling through Reddit, I found a fun thread asking users to share the top rivalries in the history of sports. Some answers are exactly what you’d expect, but some users dug deep to find rivalries in niche sports. 

Here are the top responses. 

Yankees vs. Red Sox

The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox have a complicated rivalry spanning decades. 

Some say the rivalry began in 1919 when the Red Sox owner sold star Babe Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees. The “Curse of the Bambino” was born, and the Red Sox didn’t win another world series for nearly a century. 

“Yankees/Red Sox, I think, has to be the top contender due to its history. I mean, it stems back to Babe Ruth. I can’t think of many rivalries in US sports that are along those lines,” said one user. 

The epic rivalry flourishes, especially in the home cities of New York and Boston. The teams constantly meet on playoff fields, adding even more fuel for the bitter feud. 

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Barcelona vs. Real Madrid

The rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid is “Hands down, biggest rivalry on the biggest sport in the world,” claimed one user. 

“Real Madrid vs. Barcelona also has political overtones since Real was “Franco’s team” and basically was identified with the Spanish dictatorship while Barcelona was representative of Catalan nationalism, which was proscribed by Franco during his rule,” shared another, explaining why the rivalry is so intense. 

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were friends turned rivals. The two had very different opinions on the Vietnam war. Frazier supported the effort while Ali fled the country to avoid the draft. 

The rivalry came to a head in 1971’s Fight of the Century, which Frazier won after 15 grueling rounds. The two squared off in two more fights, where Ali triumphed. 

In the end, the two rekindled their friendship after years of animosity. 

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers

The oldest rivalry in the NFL sees the two NFC North teams battling it out for decades. The rivalry is over 100 years old, spanning over 180 games.

Tension at rivalry games is palpable, with fans on both sides raucously rooting for their own team. Though Greenbay is the current leader, the tides constantly change, and the Bears will have their day in the sun again. 

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Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward

The Gatti versus Ward rivalry is iconic because it stays in the ring. The two all-star boxers first faced off in 2002, an epic match that holds a rightful place in the boxing hall of fame. 

The two fighters were perfect mirrors of each other, making it hard for one to gain an advantage. They faced off numerous times, but the rivalry stayed in the ring throughout. 

Gatti and Ward became close friends after their first fight and even helped each other recover from the injuries gained in subsequent matches. When Ward retired, Gatti asked him to join his boxing entourage. 

The heartwarming rivalry between Gatti and Ward shows us that rivalries can be fun if we don’t take them too seriously outside the game. 

Lauda vs. Hunt

One Redditor mentioned a rivalry between Formula 1 racer Lauda and Hunt as the most iconic in sports history. 

The user said there are “several other infamous ones, but Lauda-Hunt is the gold standard. They even made a blockbuster movie about it recently,” referring to the 2013 Rush

Though Lauda and Hunt were enemies on the track, they were friends off it. The movie embellishes their offscreen rivalry for the sake of drama, but the two had tons of respect for one another. 

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Red Wings vs. Avalanche

One Redditor said that back in the day, this iconic hockey rivalry resulted in fantastic matches. 

“March 26th, 1997. Nothing was more awesome than watching the wings get revenge for the hit on Kris Draper that took place the previous year. You can watch it on YouTube,” they said. 

Michigan vs. Ohio State

When a rivalry is known as “the game,” you know it’s a good one! The yearly Ohio State versus Michigan college football game is lovingly called “the game” due to the intense rivalry between the two schools. 

The rivalry dates back to the 1800s before the teams even played football. When Michigan first applied to join the union, it tried to include part of Ohio’s territory in its map. The so-called “Toledo war” started the rivalry between the two states. 

Thankfully, they stick to football now when displaying the rivalry. 

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The Old Firm

The two Scottish Football teams, the Celtics and the Rangers, have a deep-seated rivalry. 

“Celtic vs. Rangers in Scotland is a really viscious rivalry that has roots in some deep-seated political opinions (Irish republicanism vs Unionism),” said one user. 

The teams are collectively called “the Old Firm,” but it’s unclear where the nickname originated. 

New York Knicks vs. Ownership

One user took the question as an opportunity to snark against a team’s ownership. 

Although the user specifically called out the New York Knicks ownerships, sports fans across the world can relate to the frustration of a poorly managed team. 

As fans, we question leadership decisions and scream into the void that we could manage things better. Chicago bears fan well remember the outrageous paycheck Jay Cutler earned, but Knick’s manager James Dolan seems to take the cake. 

Under his leadership, the Knicks became the worst team in the NBA. He also lashes out at fans and makes questionable hiring decisions. 

What’s Your Favorite Sports Rivalry?

Did your favorite sports rivalry make the list? What’s more iconic than the Bears vs. Packers or the Red Sox vs. Yankees? Who are you rooting for?