|The Celtics-Lakers and Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry of the 1980s was one of the most fun and competitive in NBA history. However, with both teams having less-than-stellar rosters right now, the rivalry just isn't what is used to be|
Throughout the colorful, exciting, and deep history of the NBA — and even heading back into the ABA — rivalries between teams have been a massive part of the landscape of basketball. Whether it is players, geographic location, off-court incidents, or even on-court disagreements (see: fights, brawls), take the regular fun of the NBA to a whole new level.
Even in the modern-day NBA that is dominated by so-called superteams, heated competitions between teams lasting more than just one season are still very prevalent and make the league that much more intriguing to new and old fans alike.
Rivalries bridge the entertainment value of basketball with the intricate X's and O's of the sport. So let's rank the top five current rivalries in the NBA as we head into the new 2013-14 season which will hopefully yield a new champion (with a rivalry that just missed the cut):
Honorable Mention: The Borough Battle– Brooklyn Nets vs New York Knicks
Admittedly, I am a Nets fan and would love nothing more to see the cross-NY rivalry between the Brooklyn Nets and Manhattan Knicks become one for the legends. However, the history between these two teams being good at the same time — last year was the first in awhile in which this was true — just is not there yet, and hopefully will be built soon.
5. The Battle of the Freeway: Los Angeles Lakers vs Los Angeles Clippers
A clear choice because these teams play in the same building and also due to the Clippers' recent covering-up of the Lakers' many championship banners. The Clippers and Lakers do not have any recent playoff history but the tension that comes with sharing an arena (and locker room) is enough to make this rivalry No. 5 on the official Crossover Chronicles rankings.
Metta World Peace, former Laker and current Knick, accentuated this one with his constant egging-on of other Clippers but now that he is in the Big Apple, current Clipper and fellow former Laker Matt Barnes takes over the role of instigator.
With Kobe's Lakers clearly diminishing in talent and championship viability, Blake Griffin's and Chris Paul's Clippers have a clear chance to take control of this convienient rivalry. Kobe wants no part of that though, and I am sure will display it during the season series between these squads once he returns.
4. The Heartland Showdown: Chicago Bulls vs Indiana Pacers
These Central Division foes have not met in the playoffs since 2011 (a 4-1 Chicago win) but play in neighboring states and get in each other's way a lot, both on the court and off of it. Derrick Rose recently called out the Pacers for not being a true rival which only incited angry responses from Indiana players believing that to be completely untrue.
Even with Rose missing all of the 2012-13 season, the Bulls finished only 4.5 games behind the Pacers, meaning the two squads will be much, much closer in terms of record this year. Bad blood already exists between these Midwest rivals and when the season starts and these teams face each other, the only thing we can expect to see is some extracurricular activities, like maybe some pushing, trash-talking, or even semi-fights.
3. The Southwest Standoff: San Antonio Spurs vs Oklahoma City Thunder
The old Western Conference elite vs the new Western Conference elite. There are not many sights on a basketball court that are better to see than Tim Duncan and Kevin Durant playing in the same game against each other. The fluidity they each play with is eerily similar, so when they face off, it's a true spectacle to watch.
Oklahoma City won the only playoff series between the Thunder and the Spurs, in the 2012 Western Conference Finals, but the Thunder still have not broken the championship hump in the Finals.
However, in order to get there, they have to make it through the highly-competitive West and the Spurs, specifically, whose varied play-makers cause matchup problems for Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and their team. It also helps San Antonio's case that its team is coached by the best one the NBA has seen in a long, long time. To be fair, though, even John Kuester would look like Red Auerbach compared to Scotty Brooks.
2. Seeing Red: Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls
See a pattern? The Bulls are just a pretty controversial team that manages to trash-talk/scuffle with basically any other contender it plays a significant amount of times a season (thanks Joakim Noah!). Like with Chicago vs the Pacers, Chicago-Miami involves playoff history (a 4-1 Heat win in the 2013 Conference Semifinals and the shocking 4-1 victory in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals) and some player-to-player confrontations that may carry over into this upcoming season.
Especially with the return of Derrick Rose, the Bulls are going to be much more competitive than they were just last May and when the Bulls extend series to as many games as possible, the higher the chance they can pull of an upset in a playoff series of the defending champion Heat.
With their so-called "enforcers" (Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, and maybe Carlos Boozer), the Bulls start a lot of non-basketball-related stuff during games, having the effect of taking its opposing team out of its normal gameplan and style.
1. The Championship Defense: Miami Heat vs San Antonio Spurs
Ah, the big daddy of all current NBA rivalries. When the 2013 NBA Finals was as close, dramatic, and down-to-the-wire as it was, how can the two teams involved not have a carry-over rivalry into the next campaign?
San Antonio is obviously aging and declining while the Heat are only just now reaching their prime, but the Spurs are by no means inferior in terms of talent to Miami. We will have to season what happens this year, but there is no reason the Spurs cannot compete with the Heat and the other elite NBA teams as they try to win one final championship between Duncan has to call it quits.
Other than the Finals matchup, San Antonio and Miami do not necessarily have the longest of rivalries going on, but with the freshness and disappointment of last year's defeat for the Spurs, revenge is definitely wanted in the worst way by Popovich's squad. Of course, Popovich has to actually play his players for this to be juicy (both Erik Spoelstra and Popovich held out stars during last year's regular season matchups).
Who knows, maybe the Spurs' swan song as a core group of starts will be another Finals appearance, preferably one ending with the Larry O'Brien Trophy heading to Texas?
That question, and others surrounding these teams, will make the 2013-14 season a crucial one for both San Antonio and Miami, and hopefully one filled with intrigue, pushing and shoving, and some incredible basketball.