Biggest Sports Rivalries of All Time: From Brady vs. Manning to Sosa vs. McGwire

Jordan Cohn
April 01, 2020 - 1:03 pm

Nothing intensifies an exciting sports contest like a storied rivalry to add an extra level of history, tension and intrigue to the game.

Whether it’s due to proximity, a deep past of tightly contested matchups, unforgettable or controversial moments or a relationship between two or more opposing players, rivalries make for some of the biggest matchups of the year in every sports season. When a matchup between two teams has the ability to raise the players’ performances and the fans’ passion during the game, the spirit of competition goes to another level. Rifts in friendships? Not out of the question.

While it’s hard to “grade” them, per se, as fan bases are likely biased toward their own rivalries as the biggest and most intense ones, you can definitely take an objective approach to see which ones have spurred the most national attention and which are the longest-running.

It’s also important to differentiate between a rivalry and a feud. A feud, in my eyes, is a bitter relationship between individuals that has resulted in some legitimate bad blood. It could have nothing to do with their performance on the field and playing history against each other, which are the most important components of a great rivalry (at least in my mind). We’ll save feuds for another time, so apologies to anyone expecting Terrell Owens and one of his many quarterbacks on this list.

Here is a list of each sport’s biggest rivalries, whether it’s between individuals, teams or entire nations.

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