The best NBA rivalry/rivalries always include a mixture of the following:
– The best players in the NBA, at the time, who everyone knows are all-time greats.
– 2 teams with great depth and a quality supporting cast.
– Some sort of previous duel history between the top players on each team
– And last but not least, they are either right next to each other, or in completely different places geographically.
Now not all of these are completely necessary, but a lot of them are huge parts of rivalries in the past 20 years.
The 21st Centuries Greatest Rivalries
Lakers vs Celtics
Kevin Garnett teams up with Paul Pearce to beat the Lakers in ’08 but the pair falls short the next year in the conference finals to the Magic. However, they make it back to the finals in 2010 but again fall to the Lakers. In 2008, the teams had 4 of the top 50 scorers in the league. In 2009, the 2 teams had 4 of the top 30 scorers in the league. And in 2010, the teams combined for 4 of the top 70 scorers in the league. This rivalry excited all fans, with stars left and right going at it when the teams clashed.
Spurs vs Heat
Then as Lebron moved to Miami, another rivalry emerged, Heat vs Spurs. Between 2011 and 2014, the Heat and Spurs made up for 6 of the 8 finals appearances. The Spurs were bounced in round one in 2011. They then fell in the Western Conference Finals to the Thunder in 2012 at the hands of Kevin Durant. However the next 2 years produced extremely fun finals series to watch, and some of the biggest shots in NBA history, one of which was the famous Ray Allen shot.
For those who do not know, Chris Bosh rebounded a missed Lebron James three-point attempt and kicked it out to Ray Allen for the craziest shot in NBA history. That shot won them game 6, forcing a game 7, which Miami took with ease.
Lebron and Tim Duncan, 2 Hall of Famers, made for one of the best rivalries in NBA history. It combines epic endings, with quality basketball, as well as drama. The drama comes from the 2014 finals series, as there were rumors that the Spurs used air conditioners and temperature changes to give Heat players cramps. The most famous cramp happened with a few minutes left in game 1 to Lebron James. Lebron sat out with a cramp for the rest of the game, and Kawhi Leonard scored 15 points in that time frame, where he had less than 5 in the rest of the game. This swung the momentum of the game in favor of the Spurs, and it eventually caused the heat to lose the series, and for Lebron to head back to Cleveland in free agency.
Cavaliers vs Warriors
And last but not least, the 21st-century rivalries follow Lebron back to Cleveland for yet another rivalry. Lebron faced off against the Warriors in 4 straight finals. While it was clear that almost every year the Warriors had the better team in each of those seasons, Lebron and the Cavs stole one right off their plates. Despite losing 3-1 after four games, the Cavs rallied back and won the next three. This brought Cleveland its first major sports championship in 54 years. However, the Cavaliers lost the next 2 finals, only winning one game between the two series. This led to Lebron’s departure from Cleveland to Los Angeles.
And now 2 years have passed. No new rivalries have emerged since. However now we take a deep dive into the next potential rivalry.
The Nets vs Lakers Potential Rivalry
The Nets and the Lakers rivalry brings some of the best features into a rivalry. It is the face-off of 2 of the NBA’s greatest players, Lebron James, and Kevin Durant. The supporting casts are as follows:
The Lakers dynamic duo is made up of Lebron and Anthony Davis, an all NBA power forward. The Lakers also have Andre Drummond, Dennis Schröder, and Montrezl Harrell, 3 quality role players who might be able to take the Lakers to the next level.
On the reverse, we have the Nets, who have a big 3 of KD, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. James and Kyrie are both 2 of the best playmakers in the NBA, and will likely be on an all NBA team this year. They also have great depth at the big men positions with Blake Griffen, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Deandre Jordan. They also have quality depth on the wings with Joe Harris, Landry Shamet, and Bruce Brown.
To close games, both teams will likely run the lineups as follows. For the Lakers, they will likely close playoff games with a lineup of Lebron James, Anthony Davis, Dennis Schröder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, and one of Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, or Andre Drummond, depending on the situation. The Nets will likely close games with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris, and one of Blake Griffen, Lamarcus Aldridge or Bruce Brown, depending on the situation.
Looking over these lineups, both teams have loads of talent. While it is unclear who will prevail, one thing is for certain, that every time these teams play, you will need to get your popcorn out.
So… can this really be one of the great rivalries?
When you look at the requirements for being one of the best rivalries, this checks almost every box. We have two of the best players, two great supporting casts, and 2 teams in opposite places.
Now one other thing we have a narrative to follow between the two stars. Kevin Durant has been known as a “snake” ever since joining the Warriors to beat Lebron. This time, he and Kyrie Irving have recruited James Harden, Blake Griffen, and LaMarcus Aldridge to join the team. There is also the narrative that Lebron has had super teams in the past and has one again this year. However, there is also a narrative it takes a super team, like the Nets, to beat him.
No matter what happens, the narrative will go its own way. However, we can be sure that no matter what, these teams should make for great games for the years to come.