2. Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
This is the greatest rivalry in professional sports. During the years I lived in Boston — from around ’99 until 2009 — the rivalry had reached almost mythical proportions. Not only were the two teams consistently vying for AL supremacy and World Series appearances, but many of the biggest Red Sox fans had come to truly believe in the “Curse of the Bambino.” It wasn’t a fad. It wasn’t funny. It was REAL.
In 1919, Boston sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, and the franchise wouldn’t win a World Series for 86 years. In 2003, New York and Boston faced off over 25 times during one season, a record, and then matched up in the ALCS. With crazed Sox fans convinced the baseball gods were against them, they went on to blow Game 7 in extra innings, having squandered a late three-run lead.
Since then, both teams have won titles, and Boston was finally able to shake free of the dreaded curse. When they did — in 2004 — all of New England partied.
Baseball plays third fiddle nowadays to basketball and football, but it’s hard to find more rabid fanbases than the Yankees and Red Sox. With an impeccable history, these teams could miss the playoffs for 20 straight years and this matchup would still probably make this list.
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1. Auburn vs. Alabama
Last season’s Iron Bowl ended on one of the best plays I’ve ever seen, easily the best play of the past year. The reactions were priceless.
A longtime rivalry — it started in 1893! — that has all the ingredients of a great one, it’s once again the fans that put this one over the top. They hate each other so much they’ll resort to committing crimes to prove their point. For a long time, the two schools were the only ones in the state to belong to Division I FBS, and for a football-crazed state like ‘Bama.
The best part about this rivalry is that it only seems to get better, and both schools should be very, very good this year. Everyone remembers last year, obviously, but what about 2010 when Cam Newton drove Auburn back from a 24-0 deficit to win? That game helped determine the national title. Currently Alabama leads the all-time series, 42-35-1, but after winning the “Game of the Year” the Tigers will be back for blood on November 29.
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We might still have Kevin Durant and Lil B, but we’re all going to miss Indiana and Miami. For three straight years, the Pacers and Heat met up in the playoffs, and for three straight years LeBron, D-Wade, and the rest of South Beach sent Indiana packing. It can be hard to sell a rivalry that’s almost entirely one-sided, but not in this case. With the Pacers employing a new-age “Jordan Rules” against the softer, more athletic Miami players, the games turned into throwbacks.
“Our guys are getting punched in the face, man,” Chris Bosh told The Palm Beach Post after Indiana beat the Heat this year, 84-83. “We’re getting punched in the face and clotheslined out there.”
Credit the Pacers for knowing what they do well: Hit like football players.
Physicality was the only way they could beat Miami in a seven-game series. So Danny Granger turned it up in past years, getting into constant altercations. Roy Hibbert started owning the inside. David West did David West things. And Lance Stephenson went over the top, blowing in LeBron’s ear, flopping, calling him out through the media. In the end, the two sides developed a pretty testy relationship, bolstered by playing 19 playoff games in three years. (Miami won 12 of those games.)
But now Lance is gone, signing in Charlotte for an expanded role and $27 million and Paul George broke his leg and won’t play all year and, oh yeah, LeBron left for Cleveland. Even though it’s been far and away the best rivalry in the NBA over the past few seasons — just another reason why we need Kobe healthy — we can’t include it on this list now.
What you will see are longtime college football rivalries, longtime baseball rivalries, longtime NFL rivalries, and Patrick Beverley versus everybody. (At least the NBA still has that!) Everyone loves a good brouhaha, and all of the following teams/players are going to give it to you. Here are The Biggest Rivalries in Sports Right Now.
Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney