Sports were designed for rivalries. In sports you have so much of what makes us human: tribalism, passion, the good guy the bad guy and much more. Throughout human history sports have evoked passion in both the competitors and the spectators. What is it about a sport that fires our passions so much? Is it the competition? Is it the chance to watch our hero match against another? Whatever it is there is no doubt that there have been some great sports rivalries throughout history. While the amateur ranks of collegiate sports has its fair share there has to be a way to narrow the list of great sports rivalries so this one focuses n professional rivalries. Admitted two Olympic competitors are on this list but they are professionals for all intents and purposes.
10. Broncos vs. Raiders
While NFL rivalries have lost some of their intensity because of the effects of free agency this still remains one of the classic rivalries in sports. This rivalry began back in the days of the AFL and was very much a David vs. Goliath match up. The Raiders were one of the dominant teams in not only the AFL but eventually the NFL as well while the Broncos struggled in obscurity for the first decade of their existence. This rivalry became much more prominent in the seventies when the Broncos became a legitimate contender, and it became a common thing for both teams to leave the benches and fall into a massive melee in the middle of the field. Times have changed and you don’t see the players as involved in it, but the fans rivalry between these two teams is still very alive.
9. Navratilova vs. Evert
For our next rivalry we look into the world of women’s tennis. Navratilova vs. Evert is not so much a rivalry between players (though they were fierce competitors) as it is a rivalry between images. Evert was pretty and girly and the face of women’s tennis while Navratilova was almost the exact opposite. Because these two were so different in image a rivalry was bound to be developed by the powers that be. This rivalry probably wouldn’t have been half what it was if both women were beautiful and that says something about our culture that should make us all examine ourselves a little bit.
8. Young vs. Montana
This is not so much a rivalry between two teams as it is between two men on the same team. Joe Montana was the three time super bowl MVP and Steve Young was the former first round pick who was considered by many to be a bust. This rivalry may have never developed had it not been for Montana getting injured and Young coming in and wowing the coaches. What happened next was a quarterback controversy that was only fueled by the two men themselves. Neither Montana nor Young tried to hide the fact that they thought they should be the starter and from an outsiders view they didn’t seem to like each other much either. Eventually Young won the starting job and Montana was traded to another team and the rivalry continued.
7. Thorpe vs. Phelps
Ian Thorpe vs. Michael Phelps was more than a rivalry between two very gifted athletes, it was definitive of the rivalry between the U.S. and Australian international swim teams. Thorpe was the Australian who had dominated his event for years. Phelps was the up and coming star of the American swim team. While Phelps was the better all-around competitor, Thorpe was the king of the freestyle race. This rivalry first began in the summer Olympics of 2000 and continued into 2004 as well. Phelps did eventually beat Thorpe and the rivalry no longer exists because Thorpe retired long before Phelps’ dominating performance in the 2008 summer Olympics. Yet it will stand out as one of the top sporting rivalries of all time.
6. Frazier vs. Ali
Joe Frazier and Mohammed Ali were two of the greatest boxers to ever exist. The fact that both of them existed at the near peak of their careers at the same time is simply amazing. Frazier and Ali were destined to eventually face each other in the ring, but what makes this rivalry worthy of this list is their final fight. Termed the Thrilla in Manila this fight between two of the greatest boxers in history was everything it should be. It was a brutal match between two men who virtually hated one another. Both Frazier and Ali tore into each other mercilessly for fourteen rounds neither giving an inch to the other. While Ali did win the fight by TKO the Thrilla in Manila will go down in history as one of the greatest sporting events ever.