The NBA has a long history of some amazing rivalries. Everybody knows about the Lakers and the Celtics and the Bulls and the Pistons and even the Warriors and the Cavaliers in recent years. But there are so many great rivalries that tend to be overlooked, forgotten about, or just lost in the shuffle. To help correct that, we thought we’d remind you of some of the most underrated rivalries in NBA history.
Spurs vs Mavericks
This rivalry is big, but it should be a lot bigger outside the state of Texas. The Spurs and Mavericks fight for in-state bragging rights and jockey for position in the Southwest Division in every meeting.
From 2001 to 2014, they met in the playoffs six times with four of those six series going at least six games, including the Western Conference Finals in 2003. Plus, people forget that the Spurs got their start in Dallas, so there’s a lot of history between the two franchises and plenty of bad blood in recent years.
Knicks vs Bulls
Sadly, this rivalry has been buried beneath a pile of New York’s elongated mediocrity in recent years. But during the late 1980s and 90s, this was one of the rivalries that fueled the NBA’s popularity.
The memory of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen battling Patrick Ewing and John Starks remains strong in the minds of basketball purists. With both teams playing in major markets, this rivalry could reignite at any time if both teams were to get good at the same time.
Lakers vs Spurs
Somehow, this rivalry has been quickly forgotten amidst the new rivalries that have popped up in recent years. For the first decade of the 21st century, these were the two premier teams in the Western Conference, leading to final playoff meetings in either the conference semifinals or conference finals.
From 2001 to 2010, these teams combined for seven NBA titles and represented the Western Conference in the finals in all but one year. There were some epic battles during that time, creating a rivalry that shouldn’t have been forgotten so quickly.
Bucks vs Bulls
In fairness, things have been a little too friendly between these teams over the years. However, they are separated by less than 100 miles and have crossed paths in the playoffs a few times.
Now that Milwaukee has some star power, things are starting to heat up between the Bucks and Bulls. However, not enough folks outside the I-94 corridor are paying attention.
76ers vs Celtics
With both teams having bitter rivalries elsewhere, this one is too frequently pushed to the background. Dating back to the 1960s, Philadelphia and Boston have met in the playoffs over 20 times.
Both teams have always had star players, leading to some epic games over the years, both during the regular season and the playoffs. Most fans think of the Celtics and Lakers as being a big deal, but over half a century, this has been one of the top rivalries in the NBA.