What Are The Top Five NBA Playoff Rivalries?
The 2017 NBA Finals set to get underway Thursday night and it features the rubber match between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, both teams looking to make history. There will be plenty of story-lines to go around, as this is the first time in NBA history two teams are meeting in three consecutive finals along with LeBron James pursuit of another championship and his place among the NBA Greats along with the Warriors bringing in Kevin Durant to overcome their deficiencies that led to them wasting a 3-1 series lead last year.
But are they a rivalry? NBA history has been filled with great rivalries involving the elite players and with the 2017 NBA Finals having three NBA MVP Award winners to showcase, we could argue this year’s NBA Finals will be historic.
So what are the greatest NBA playoff rivalries in history? Here is my list:
No. 5: Utah Jazz vs. Houston Rockets
No. 4: New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers
- This rivalry can be considered the war of the 1990s. Reggie Miller was a big factor against New York as his Pacers teams gave the Knicks quite a few fits. However, the Knicks maintained 4-3 series advantage over “Miller Time" as Patrick Ewing led his team to the NBA Finals twice in the 1990's. The Pacers finally got over the hump by taking out the Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2000. While neither team won an NBA Title, the intensity of the rivalry and the great moments the two teams created for Basketball fans will never be forgotten.
No. 3: Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs
No. 2: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics
- Wilt Chamberlain against Bill Russell in the 1960s made for epic showdowns as the dominant players of their era. While Boston held a lopsided advantage in the 60's as Russell held a 7-1 series lead over Wilt, from 1980-85 marked a 2-2 split between the teams. The Sixers featured Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks to combat Boston’s Hall of Fame lineup of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Combining the 1960's and 1980's the two franchises appeared in Sixteen NBA Finals.
No. 1: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics
- Simply the greatest basketball rivalry in NBA history and one could make an argument for this being the greatest rivalry in sports history. Bill Russell dominated the Lakers and led the Celtics to seven titles over the team that moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles but Jerry West eventually teamed up with Chamberlain and the Lakers got their title years later. The 1980s were the golden era of the NBA with Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird going head to head three times and the two franchises combining to appear in the NBA Finals 10 consecutive years. The most recent showing of the rivalry was two finals matchups in 2008 and 2010 between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol against the Celtics’ “Big 3” of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. The two teams split those meetings. All time, the Celtics lead the series 9-3 including winning the first eight with Russell. However, the Lakers have won three of the last four while together the teams have combine for 33 championships with 17 belonging to Boston and 16 to Los Angeles.
Cleveland and Golden State meet for the third time and will try to replace one of these five pairings for a spot on this list with the star power to help make their case.
You can catch all of the action of the 2017 NBA Finals on 97.3 ESPN - Game One is set to tip off at 9 pm Thursday and Game Two at 8 pm on Sunday