One thing that hasn't been all over SportsCenter this week is where the Celtics-Lakers rivalry ranks all time, which got me thinking about what actually makes a good rivalry. What are the specific characteristics of a good rivalry, if it is in fact a true rivalry?
Rivalry is defined as a person or thing that is in a position to dispute another’s preeminence or superiority. But I'd add three other vital ingredients that must be present for the competition to be considered a great rivalry:
1. Salty, weathered, overly passionate old timers on both sides of the conflict. Think of your grandfather worn down over time. Salty to the point that when someone mentions a game back in '35 the old guy perks right up and has some venom in his tone as he recalls every possible detail of the contest.
2. There needs to be a hero and a villain. What made Ali-Frazier a great rivalry is that both played either role, depending on where you were from. Ali was the hero to the antiestablishment crowd in the 1960's while Frazier captured more of the "lunch pail" mainstream group. Both sides were vilified by the others fans.
3. But most importantly the rivalry has to be "even handed." Both teams have to do some winning and some losing. Here is a quick example. The Red Sox-Yankees seems like a great rivalry. Up until 2004 these two teams were as much a rivalry as a bee and a freight train. It had the previous two ingredients. The heroes were Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Nomar Garciaparra , and Pedro Martinez for the Red Sox; Joe DiMaggio, Thurmon Munson, Reggie Jackson, and Derek Jeter for the Yankees. It also had maybe the biggest villain of all in George Steinbrenner. Salty old timers? More than you can count. But the problem was until 2004 the Red Sox had won only 12 AL Pennants and only four after 1918. The Yankees on the other hand won 40. Case and point was that it was the most lopsided rivalry of all time. In fact, Yankee fans shouldn't have even acknowledged the rivalry until 2004 when the Red Sox came roaring back from a 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees in the House that Ruth built. So if a fan or player ever mumbles the phrase "we just can't beat those guys," then it isn't a rivalry, it's just a team you play a lot.
With this formula we should be able to extrapolate what are truly the best rivalries of all time. Aside from Ali vs. Frazier and the obvious like North Carolina-Duke, Michigan-Ohio State and the myriad college rivalries their schools create, there are very few true rivalries that can be considered legit. The only two other rivalries that should be considered dominant for their time are Brittany-Christina and Death Row-Bad Boy.
Aguilera and Spears went at it in a way the music world hadn't seen since Bad Boy and Death Row did in the 90’s. After watching these videos, if you don't think these two were going head-to-head with each other than you just weren't paying attention. It was epic. They were both trying to be trashier, hotter and more successful than the other. They even slept with the same dude for crying out loud. That's like Federer and Nadal both tagging the same European model in a battle for supremacy.
Aside from the aforementioned entertainment industry rivalries, the Celtics-Lakers rivalry has to get the nod for most competitive, and perhaps greatest, rivalry of all time. It has all the ingredients. Even-handed rivalry: check. The Celtics have 17 titles, the Lakers 14. In the '80s alone they collectively accounted for 8 titles. Larry Legend and his mates got the better of Magic and Showtime in '84 only to lose to them in '86. In 2008, the Celtics powered by LA in six games, which featured a memorable Game 4 comeback from 18 down with Paul Pierce's "I got him, he's mine" comment about guarding Kobe in the fourth quarter.
There've been heroes and there've been villains. Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parrish, James Worthy, Kevin McHale, the list goes on and on. Most of all, there are salty, weathered old-timers still carrying around their "Beat LA" and "Boston Sucks" signs. I hope Thursday night they sit the entire '86 Celtics across from the '86 Lakers and just videotape the constant snarls and glares at each other.
Beantown vs. Tinseltown. The We's (Rondo's Celtics) vs.The Me's (Kobe and the Lakers). Could this be the best rivalry in sports? I think so.
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Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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