Biggest rivalry between players in NBA history

Every great NBA the player has / had a great opponent next to him. While Michael Jordan went down in history as one of the greatest players to ever hit the court, he could not be viewed in the same light if he wasn’t subjected to constant scrutiny by fellow All-Stars and league greats.

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Jordan has had quite a few opponents in the NBA. However, the Chicago Bulls graduate isn’t the only great player to have an opponent to lead them. Let’s take a look back at the history of the NBA and take a look at ten of the biggest rivalries between players to ever hit the court.

ten Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were once the greatest duo in the league. However, when the latter decided to leave for Golden State via text message in 2016, after telling his former teammate that he would stay, a rivalry developed between the two.

These two had intense battles on the court every time they matched, even they had a few clashes and almost fought on the court. The only thing holding back this rivalry was the lack of an off-season meeting between their two teams.

9 Shaquille O’Neal vs. Dwight Howard

Shaquille O’Neal’s career was coming to an end, while Dwight Howard’s was just beginning. Oddly enough, the conflict between them began after the latter used the Superman costume in a 2008 dunk contest. O’Neill, who had used the nickname before, felt slighted.

The two still have a rivalry today, and the former player takes every opportunity to play a prank on the Lakers center. At this point, O’Neal and Howard have been arguing for almost 15 years, despite the fact that one of them is already retired and the other is likely to retire soon.


eight Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan

This beef is incredibly weird given the numbers involved. Kevin Garnett is one of the best talkers to ever hit the court, and Tim Duncan is a fairly quiet player. The former Boston Celtic has always gone to great lengths to learn from his great comrade, which he has rarely done.

However, Duncan admitted that he sometimes poked the bear when he played Garnett, and it worked. The two had a strong rivalry on the court, like two of the greatest big men of the 2000s.

7 Russell Westbrook vs. Patrick Beverly

Russell Westbrook is one of the NBA stars. He is a former MVP and All-Star and will no doubt go down in history as one of the best to ever hit the court. With all this accolades, one would expect him to have a stronger opponent than Patrick Beverley.

For some reason, these two almost fight every time they are on the court. The feud between the two began in the 2013 playoffs when Beverly injured Westbrook, causing him to tear his meniscus. After this injury, they grabbed each other’s throats.

6 Michael Jordan vs. Isaiah Thomas

Michael Jordan’s fight with Isaiah Thomas was one of the biggest fights of his career. The two met several times in the playoffs as the Bulls sought to maintain their dominance and the Pistons posed the greatest threat to them.

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While many may have only seen the competitive rivalry between the two, Jordan truly hated Thomas off the court as well. The former MVP reportedly once demanded that the Great Pistons be kept out of the famous 1992 Dream Team.

5 Shaquille O’Neal vs. Kobe Bryant

The two were arguably the greatest duo in NBA history as they won multiple championships with the Los Angeles Lakers during their time together. However, by the end of O’Neal’s stay in Los Angeles, they were at each other’s throats.

When O’Neal left Los Angeles, he lashed out at Bryant in the media, to which the latter reacted in a similar manner. The only thing these two lacked was a great post-season series. Luckily, they reconciled and became friends until Bryant’s tragic passing in 2020.

four LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant

LeBron James has had many rivals, but none have been more than his beef with Kevin Durant. While the two haven’t had too many problems off the court, they do have a clear on-court rivalry as they are arguably the two best players in the league.

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The two have met many times in the playoffs and in the NBA Finals. Currently, Durant has a 2-1 lead over James in the Finals as the Golden State Warriors dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals.

3 Isaiah Thomas vs. Larry Bird

Larry Bird and Isaiah Thomas have met many times in the playoffs, in particular, they played well with each other in the 1988 Eastern Conference Finals. However, the real skirmish between the two mostly started off the court and began after the Pistons legend made some controversial comments.

Thomas once opined that if Byrd wasn’t white, he would be just another guy, which contributed to a great rivalry between the two. The battle has been known to continue past their gaming days. When Byrd was hired as Pacers general manager in 2003, one of his first decisions was to fire Thomas, who was the head coach at the time.

2 Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain

Fans were lucky to see Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain playing at the same time. While the latter’s stats were off the charts, the former was a serial winner with 11 championships in his career.

It helped that the two regularly competed against each other in the playoffs as stars of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Despite their fierce on-court rivalry, they were actually friends.

one Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird

From one pair of great Lakers and Celtics players to another. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had strong rivalries during their time in the league as the faces of two of the NBA’s greatest teams. It helped that they played in the NBA Finals three times against each other.

Johnson’s Lakers defeated Byrd’s Celtics two out of three times, giving him head-to-head advantage. Although the two had a strong rivalry while playing, they actually became friends after they retired.

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