As the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors get set to meet four the fourth consecutive NBA Finals, the rivalry between the two teams is now well documented. They are not the only teams to have met multiple times to be called the best in the world, and won’t be the last. But over the time since sports has come into the public eye, there have been matchups for championships that were legendary and will stand the test of time. Let’s take a look at some of the top rivalries in the championship histories of all time.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors
Times Met For The NBA Title: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Yes, the Cavs and Warriors will once again meet for the right to claim the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
For the past four years, these two teams have been the gold standard in the NBA and just seemed to have been destined to meet each other. They have the two best players on the planet in LeBron James and Steph Curry, and each year the teams have clashed has been must-see television.
Golden State spoiled James and the Cavs first title for the city of Cleveland since 1964 in their first matchup, giving them their first NBA championship since the early 70’s. King James returned the favor a year later, leading his team from 3-1 down to win the series in seven. In the third installment of the trilogy, the Warriors and off-season pickup Kevin Durant overpowered LeBron and the Cavs in five. That series win gave the Warriors a 2-1 edge.
Now as the two teams are set to square off again. Cleveland looking to settle the score and possibly set up a fifth and deciding matchup in 2019, and Golden State looking to cement themselves as a dynasty with their third title in four years.
Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers
Times Met For The NBA Title: 1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1984, 1985, 1987, 2008, 2010
Probably the best championship rivalry of all time of the four major sports, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics were put on this earth to meet in the NBA Finals.
Before the Cavs and Warriors took over this decade, the Lakers and Celtics were the storylines and the matchup the entire country wanted to see. These two teams have fought each other since the late 50’s and there’s been interviews, documentaries, and legendary games that show just how deep this rivalry is.
The amount of star power and bad blood made for some all-time moments. From Bill Russell to Jerry West, Kareem, and Magic, to Bird and Parrish, all ending with Kobe and Paul Pierce, this rivalry had everything a basketball fan would want in a championship series. This rivalry ruled the NBA in the late 60’s and middle to late 80’s and every time they met, it was a spectacle of epic proportions.
The hope is that these two teams meet again for the title in the near future to add to the great legacy that has captivated the sports world.
New York Yankees vs Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers
Times Met in the World Series: 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1963, 1977, 1978, 1981
Next to the Yankees and Red Sox, there has not been a matchup that comes close to when the Yankees and the Dodgers clash.
The 20th century was the golden era for these two teams find each other waiting in the World Series. The teams met three times in the 40’s where they ruled the roost of the not only the New York baseball landscape but all of baseball. Those three matchups were filled with some of the greatest players of all time (DiMaggio, Robinson, Berra, Reese, Mantle, Snider), and it was the Yankees who would own the Dodgers heading into the 50’s.
It wasn’t until 1955 that the Bums from Brooklyn finally got over the hump beating the Yanks in seven. A year later, the Bombers took the title right back, The two clubs would meet again in 63′ with the Dodgers coming out on top. The two teams threw it back to the 50’s in 1977 and 1978 when they faced off in back-to-back World Series. They met for the final time in 1981, with Tommy LaSorda’s squad getting the best of the Yankees in six.
The Dodgers and Yankees have yet to meet for a world series since 81, but the moments this rivalry has left — Jackie Robinson stealing home plate, Don Larsen’s perfect game, Sandy Koufax’s dominance, Reggie Jackson’s three-home-run game — only magnifies just how special it will be when they once again see each other in the World Series.
New York Yankees vs New York/San Francisco Giants
Times Met in the World Series: 1921, 1922, 1923, 1936, 1937, 1951, 1962
It comes as no surprise that the Yankees and another New York turned California franchise championship rivalry has stood on its own.
The Yankees and Giants (before they headed West in 1958), shared the same borough in the Bronx. Yep, the first Yankee Stadium and the legendary Polo Grounds were a stone’s throw away from each other. The two clubs met three straight times in the early 20’s headlined by the greatest player who ever lived, Babe Ruth. John McGraw’s Giants were victorious in the first two installments. But in 23′, Ruth and the Yankees finally broke through winning the franchise first World Series title.
After a 13-year hiatus, the Yanks and Giants faced-off once again in 1936 and in 1937. Both times, the Yankees smashed their way to the title, giving them three titles to the Polo Grounders two. Following another long wait and the “Shot Heard Around the World”, the teams saw each other in 1951 ending in another Yankee championship. A few years after moving to San Francisco, the Giants lost in a memorable seven-game saga to the Bombers.
Now 56 years since they last met, the Yankees-Giants championship rivalry still ranks as one that shaped baseball. You can roll of the Hall of Famers and legendary ballparks, but baseball historians should hope these two teams will one day again square off in the Fall Classic.
Dallas Cowboys vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Times Met in the Superbowl: 1976, 1979, 1996
Considered the two most prominent franchises in the National Football League, people forget that the legendary rivalry the Steelers and Cowboys had.
Both teams started their rise to glory in the early 70’s and they finally tangled for the first time in Superbowl X. Pittsburgh would win the first of the three overall matchups 21-17 after Cowboys Hall of Fame QB Roger Staubach was picked off in the end zone late in the game. Somehow they didn’t meet for another three years but in Superbowl XIII, the rematch was on.
The Steelers and Cowboys put on a show for the ages in Superbowl 13, with some believing it’s one of the greatest games of all time. A record 20 players, coaches, and front office executives who took part in the game ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Pittsburgh would win that memorable game 35-31. It wasn’t until 1996, that the Dallas would finally beat the Steelers in the big game 27-17.
Since that 1996 matchup, the teams have come close to encountering each other again in the Superbowl, but haven’t been able to get over the hump. But one thing is for sure, the Steelers and Cowboys were what made the NFL so great.
Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier
Without a doubt, you can’t have a sports rivalry list without mentioning Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
Ali and Frazier was the biggest sports rivalry of the 1970’s and maybe of the 20th century. Every one of their fights is not only recognized by name — “The Fight of The Century, “Super Fight II” and “The Thrilla in Manila” — but by how they captivated the globe. “The Fight of The Century” was the most one of the most hyped events in the history of professional sport. On that memorable March evening in 1971, Madison Square Garden and the world bared witness to a 15-round battle won by Frazier via unanimous decision for the World Heavyweight Championship.
Frazier and Ali wouldn’t clash until three years later in 1974. In that second historic fight, the combatants went for 12 rounds in front of The Garden crowd with Ali being declared the winner. A year later, the conclusion to the trilogy took place in Manila. The final installment saw Ali come out on top in a 14-round TKO, keeping his Heavyweight title.
“Smokin Joe” and “The Greatest’s’ rivalry still sits as one of the most iconic of all time. Many have come close, but no one will ever come near the attraction that Ali-Frazier was.