The NBA is no stranger to great rivalries. Some have been around for decades and have produced many epic encounters. Others are more recent but still have that high level of intensity and competitiveness.
A few of these top rivalries could be set to take place soon if the NBA can find a way to hold a reformatted playoffs, but there are no concrete plans as of yet.
But these are the rivalries SBOTOP NBA fans look forward to every season, whether they’re in the playoffs or not.
1. Los Angeles Lakers vs LA Clippers
Lakers-Clippers has historically been a nonexistent rivalry, with the Lakers the clear top team in LA. But that changed this year, with the Clippers adding Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with the hope of challenging LeBron James and the Lakers’ long dominance in the city.
The two LA teams were the top title favourites, and as the top two seeds in the West, they were on a collision course for the conference finals.
They gave a taste of just how great an all-LA playoff series would be with their three exciting regular-season meetings.
As long as James, Anthony Davis, Leonard, and George are all in town, Lakers-Clippers is by far the most anticipated rivalry in the league.
2. Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers
The Celtics and Sixers have a storied rivalry that dates back to the 1960s with the legendary Wilt Chamberlain-Bill Russell battles. It’s been a while since that rivalry has reached those heights, but it’s started to heat up again in recent years.
The Celtics famously knocked the Sixers out of the playoffs back in the 2017-18 season. They also got one over on Philly in the infamous Markelle Fultz-Jayson Tatum trade.
And this season, Al Horford signed with the Sixers in free agency. Meanwhile, Celtics guard Marcus Smart was ejected and fined for shoving 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid.
With both teams still expected to be among the top contenders in the East next season, don’t expect this revived rivalry to die down anytime soon.
3. Los Angeles Lakers vs Golden State Warriors
LeBron James has quite the history with the Golden State Warriors. He faced off against them in four-straight Finals during his second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, losing on three occasions.
But after having an inferior team during those runs, James finally had a supporting cast with Anthony Davis and co. that could help him take the Warriors down.
However, the Warriors were clearly in no shape to compete with James and the Lakers given the injuries to the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, as well as Kevin Durant’s departure.
Next year should be different, though. Curry and Thompson are both set to return and resume their rivalry with James as the Warriors look to reclaim their Western Conference crown.
4. New York Knicks vs Brooklyn Nets
Speaking of Durant, he left Golden State to team up with Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets. Their decision to form a dynamic duo in Brooklyn sent shockwaves throughout the league, but particularly in New York.
The Knicks — historically one of the marquee franchises in the NBA — had positioned themselves as major players for the two stars’ services with the hopes of finally ending decades of disappointment. But it was not to be as Brooklyn landed the two superstars.
Durant and Irving’s move to the Nets has helped fuel the dying fire of this New York rivalry. It will be quite an event to see them step foot at Madison Square Garden for the first time next season as Knicks fans will be sure to give them a hostile reception for passing them over in free agency.
5. Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics
It’s now been a decade since the Lakers and Celtics last met in the NBA Finals. But despite that lengthy drought, the most storied rivalry in NBA history is still alive and well.
This fierce rivalry has produced many memorable matchups throughout the years, and they added a couple more this season.
The Celtics handed the Lakers 139-107 beating in Boston, which was one of their best NBA 2020 results. And they very nearly swept the season series over LA. Jayson Tatum scored a career-high 41 points in a losing effort as the Lakers won, 114-112.
With James and Davis looking dominant and Tatum set for stardom, the Lakers-Celtics rivalry should still be among the most eagerly anticipated in the NBA for years to come.
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