5 biggest rivalries in NBA history

Rivalries in sports is what makes them interesting and entertaining. Here are the 5 best rivialries in NBA history.

Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics
Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics / Focus On Sport/GettyImages
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1. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

The rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers is not just the best rivalry in NBA history, but it is one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports. Both are the most storied franchises in the NBA, with 17 championships each, No other team has more than seven.

There are three different times when the Lakers and the Celtics matched up in the NBA Finals multiple times in the 1960s, the 1980s, and the late 2000s to early 2010s, and faced off a total of 12 times in the NBA Finals.

Their first NBA Finals matchup was in 1959 when the Boston Celtics beat the Minneapolis Lakers 4-0. Then in the 1960s, the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers faced off six times. The Celtics won every single series.

Every single of those finals included Bill Russell for the Celtics and Jerry West for the Lakers. Russell's leadership and team-oriented style of play allowed the Celtics to beat the Lakers two-dimensional play between Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Through their first seven matchups, the Celtics went 7-0.

Their rivalry died down during the 1970s, but it ramped up again in the 1980s when the Lakers got Magic Johnson and the Celtics got Larry Bird. They faced off in the NBA Finals three times in 1984, 1985, and 1987.

In 1984, due to a few poor moments by Magic Johnson, the Celtics won the series 4-3 and won their eighth straight finals against the Lakers in their all-time matchups. Then the following season in 1985, the Lakers finally broke through with Kareem turning back the clock and leading the Lakers to beat the Celtics, 4-2. The last time they faced each other in the 1980s, was 1987 which was the final matchup of the Bird v. Magic rivalry. Magic played phenomenally and led the Lakers to their second championship win over the Celtics, in six games.

The Lakers went on to win one more championship in 1988, but both the Lakers and Celtics took a back seat throughout the 1990s. The Lakers did end up three-peating from 2000-2002, but the Celtics didn't even make the NBA Finals for 21 years.

The Celtics finals drought ended in 2008 where they faced off against Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and the Lakers. That season the Celtics created a big three, trading for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to pair with Paul Pierce. They had a league-best 66 wins and were the heavy favorite. They did end up beating the Lakers, 4-2, adding the 17th championship to their collection and having a 9-2 record against the Lakers in the Finals.

As of right now, the last time the Lakers and Celtics matched up in the finals was 2010. Both teams had a very similar core as they did in the 2008 finals but this time, the Lakers were looking to repeat, after winning the 2009 finals against the Orlando Magic.

This time the Lakers would get the last laugh winning a brutal seven-game series against the Celtics. At that point, this was the Lakers' 16th championship, just one behind the Celtics. This would be their 12th, and last matchup in the NBA Finals. Overall, the Celtics have a 9-3 record against the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Then in 2020, the Lakers won their 17th championship, tying the Celtics all-time total. This would put a stalemate on who the greatest franchise in NBA history is because they both have the same number of championships.

Historically, the Celtics have dominated the Lakers in the Finals, but no other team has faced off against each other more in the Finals than the Lakers and Celtics. The history of playing each other in the finals so many times along with them being the most storied franchise in the NBA makes this the biggest rivalry in NBA History.

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