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10 Things: Sports’ greatest rivalries

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  1. El Clasico: 93-89-48. Real Madrid and Barcelona are separated by only four wins after 85 years of an intense, hatred-filled rivalry. Real Madrid represents Spanish nationalism whereas Barcelona symbolizes the fight for Catalonian independence. Many rivalries claim to be more than just a game, but El Clasico is one of the few that can back that up.
  2. The Battle of Tobacco Road: Duke and North Carolina are separated by a mere nine miles of highway and often play with a conference championship on the line. The Tar Heels have reached 18 Final Fours to the Blue Devils’ 15, and have a five-four edge in National Championships as well. Duke, however, has had the upper hand in recent years, winning the tournament in 2010.
  3. Iron Bowl: The state of Alabama has no major professional sports teams. What it does have, however, is the most heated rivalry in college football. Either Auburn or Alabama has played in the last five National Championship games, and the state has produced four consecutive championship teams in that time span. Both teams are ranked in the top five this season, making another matchup with national title implications highly likely.
  4. Canada–USA Women’s Ice Hockey: When there are only two elite teams in a sport, there is bound to be friction. There have been 20 major international ice hockey tournaments since the inaugural World Championship in 1990. One of the two teams has won the gold medal at every single tournament and they have faced off against one another in the finals an astounding 19 times.
  5. Lakers–Celtics: The two franchises have combined to win nearly half of all NBA Championships, an outlandish statistic. Additionally, the Lakers and Celtics have needed to beat each other to win a title on multiple occasions. Both are going through a brief period of irrelevance, but it won’t last. Boston and Los Angeles are basketball’s titletowns.
  6. New York Yankees–Boston Red Sox: Bostonians and New Yorkers hate each other for a myriad of reasons, and the rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees only adds fuel to the fire. For 86 years, the Red Sox went title-less while the Yankees won 26 times. In recent years, the Red Sox have been more successful, with three World Series rings to the Yankees’ one in the past decade.
  7. Montreal Canadiens–Toronto Maple Leafs: Let’s call the oldest rivalry in the NHL a historic one, too, given the recent ineptitude of the Leafs. The two teams have met 715 times in the regular season and have combined to win the Stanley Cup 37 times. On the national scale, Toronto and Montreal are constantly being compared and judged against one another as well.
  8. Roger Federer–Rafael Nadal: Men’s tennis has had its notable share of famous players. But Federer and Nadal have come to define the sport in the past decade. Federer is the embodiment of grace and surgical precision, while Nadal is all passion and fire. Both are in the conversation for greatest men’s tennis player in history, but the story is incomplete when just looking at one.
  9. Peyton Manning–Tom Brady: The quarterback in American football is arguably the most scrutinized position in professional sports. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are already locks for the Hall of Fame, and have played almost their entire careers in constant juxtaposition. In a sport with nearly 1,700 active players, the narrative almost always revolves around two: Brady and Manning.
  10. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova: They are two of the greatest women’s tennis players in history and they played each other in the championship game of tournaments 60 times. Unlike other rivalries that are based on mutual hatred or dislike, theirs was based on mutual respect and friendship. As the kids say these days: Game recognizes game.

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