Biggest Rivalries In Basketball By Team

biggest rivalries in basketball by team

Basketball is characterized as a sport that is famed for its ferocious intensity and thrilling energy. But this isn’t just what basketball is all about. The sport has seen some of the bitterest rivalries in history. Biggest rivalries in basketball by teams and players, sometimes go beyond the limits of simple competitions, captivating supporters’ hearts and leaving permanent legacies.

These fierce rivalries range from fiery clashes between legendary teams to personal rivalries between players. This eventually leads to an increase in the level of excitement and intensity in the sport. A few rivalries have developed from the famous team battles to become the biggest and most legendary in the sport’s history. 

Not only NBA rivalries but history is also known to have witnessed the biggest rivalries in college basketball as well as the biggest rivalries in NCAA basketball. Passion, history, and a fierce drive for success are some causes and reasons that led to these intense rivalries.

If you’re new to the sport and want to know some of the biggest rivalries in basketball by team of NBA, this piece is for you. Read on to find out What are the biggest rivalries in NBA.

Biggest Rivalries in Basketball by Team: Baltimore Bullets VS New York Kicks

When the NBA first gained popularity in the 1960s, the Boston Celtics were undoubtedly the dominant team in the league. However, the New York Knicks and Baltimore Bullets started to emerge as strong competitors during the Celtics era. When the two teams played in the 1969 NBA Playoffs, it was clear that they had the potential to become dominant teams in the league.

The Knicks had a strong team, including point guard Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, and Bill Bradley. However, on the other hand, the Bullets’ front line featured Elvin Hayes, the muscular Wes Unseld, and the great ball-handler Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. With an astounding 4-0 win, the Knicks took victory in the opening round of the playoffs. 

They met the Bullets again in 1970, but this time it was in a far more tight series that went to a nail-biting seventh game at Madison Square Garden, with the Knicks ultimately winning by a narrow score of 4-3. They defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win their first NBA championship.

The Bullets unexpectedly reversed the tables in 1971, winning the series after an intense seven-game struggle. Each team had won their home games until Baltimore broke the pattern by winning its final seventh game in New York.

They were defeated by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks, though, and their run to the NBA Finals was cut short. The battles between Frazier and Monroe were closely contested in all three of these series, and both players displayed tremendous talent. Their combined effectiveness on the court was essentially the same.

In a major trade in 1972, Monroe joined the Knicks, teaming with Frazier to form a potent one-two punch. From ’72 to ’74, the Knicks and Bullets faced off in three more playoff series, with the Knicks winning each. 

The NBA’s annual competition between New York and Baltimore captured the attention of fans and developed into must-see entertainment for all basketball lovers. All NBA fans now consider seeing New York and Baltimore required viewing for the spring NBA ritual. This rivalry is regarded as one of the team’s first biggest rivalries in basketball.

Biggest Rivalries in Basketball by Team: Detroit Pistons VS Chicago Bulls

Amongst all the rivalries in basketball history, the most intense was the one between Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls. These two teams competed against one another in several playoff series in the late 1980s and early 1990s, battling for dominance in the Eastern Conference. 

The Pistons were a strong team composed of players like Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Dennis Rodman. They were noted for their challenging and aggressive style of play. On the other side, Michael Jordan, who quickly rose to prominence as one of the best players of all time, led the Bulls.

The rivalry peaked in the late 1980s when the Pistons used their aggressiveness to frustrate Michael Jordan and the Bulls and regularly hindered their attempts to advance in the playoffs. A turning point in the rivalry was reached when the Bulls eventually defeated the Pistons and won their first NBA championships.

Despite the rivalry between the teams, their clashes demonstrated the fierceness, skill, and toughness that characterized the golden era of basketball and left a permanent legacy in the history of basketball.

Biggest Rivalries in Basketball by Team: New York Knicks VS Miami Heat

The New York Knicks and Miami Heat’s basketball rivalry has been fiery and intriguing. The rivalry, born out of their frequent collisions on the court, is fueled by proximity, dissimilar playing styles, and the competitive attitudes of both teams.

Both teams have battled off in several historic matches over the years, especially during the NBA playoffs. The rivalry erupted in the 1990s and the early 2000s when the Knicks and Heat engaged in several competitive playoff series characterized by tough competitions and conflicts. 

The opposing identities of the two teams contributed to further heightening the rivalry. The Knicks represent big-city glamour and toughness owing to their strong basketball heritage and passionate fan base. Because of New York’s long basketball tradition, their games are even more intense. On the other side, the Heat stands for Miami’s lively and flashy culture.

Because of this, it was common for the games between these two teams to be tense and exciting to watch due to the different ways they played. It is safe to say Miami Heat is the Knicks’ biggest rival.

Biggest Rivalries in Basketball by Team: Golden State Warriors VS Cleveland Cavaliers

The Golden State Warriors, who have the greatest rivalry in NBA history, have been one that is fascinating. The Warriors have clashed with numerous teams, resulting in fierce clashes on the court, thanks to their exceptional shooting ability and dominant style of play. 

Notably, their rivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers has marked itself in the history of basketball rivalries. The rivalry was spurred by numerous NBA Finals encounters and, in the end, led to the demonstration of the talent and determination of both teams. The Warriors were led by renowned players like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.

The rivalry between the two teams has thrilled fans worldwide, creating priceless memories and establishing their reputation as one of the NBA’s most captivating teams. However, following LeBron James’ switch from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018, the rivalry is regarded as ending.


Basketball has long been an exciting sport because of its fierce rivalries. Whether it’s college basketball, NCAA basketball, or NBA rivals week, these rivals are what shape the sport. These ongoing rivalries have captivated fans, defined eras, and added an eternal complexity to the game. History has seen everything from the legendary matchups between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers to the fiery battles between the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The most famous NBA rivalries include the historic showdown between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers and the fierce matchups between the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons in the 1980s and 1990s. Therefore, the Lakers’ biggest rival is Celtic.

The battle between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, fueled by their frequent matchups in the NBA Finals and their distinct playing styles, is widely recognized as the greatest rivalry in the history of the NBA.

The oldest rivalry in the NBA is between the two most powerful teams: Celtics and Lakers.

The teams Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks are the recent NBA rivalries by team 2023.