The 30 greatest NBA team rivalries in league history

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Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors, LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors, LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The passing of time has brought with it many NBA rivalries, most born out of playoff battles, but others developed through varying circumstances.

Rivalries of any kind are one of the special things that make sports so great. The idea that a game means more than what the final score may indicate can bring out so much in an athlete — both positive and negative — which in turn can and has created some truly memorable moments throughout time.

Ever-forming storylines will always play a part, but what makes a rivalry more than anything is repetition. To match up with the same opponent over and over does bring out something different on both sides.

The NBA‘s history is ripe with this type of hatred, but of course, not every team is in a constant battle with the other 29, only a select few, if any. A difference in direction could keep a rivalry dormant, while the right conditions and circumstances bring back the chance to re-ignite a once extinguished flame.

When it comes to these rankings, you are sure to notice three distinct groupings. The first grouping sets up a few teams whose mutual bitterness is attributed mostly to their geographical circumstances. A second grouping consists of the many rivalries that begin and end with a specific — albeit highly entertaining — time frame.

The third is the cream of the crop, those with an innate hatred that, if not currently present, festers at the surface until both sides rediscover their relevancy. It’s a distinction that may place some above others, but shouldn’t ultimately take away from the tremendous level of basketball excellence each level has provided the fans.





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