Nothing makes for more compelling drama in sports than a great rivalry. Over the years there have been many great head to head matchups, both between individual players, and between teams. Going back through the decades these great rivalries have produced some of the most entertaining, and often controversial, moments in sports history. Here are my picks for the top 10 sports rivalries of all time:
10 – Army vs. NavyA rivalry that has spanned more than 120 years, there are few more bitterly contested games than those played by Army and Navy. These two revolve their entire college football programs around finding ways to beat the other, and over all this time, Navy has dominated recent years, winning the last dozen meetings between the two, skewing the overall record in their favor with an all time head to head record of 58-49-7.

9 – Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames

You have to be from Canada to really appreciate this rivalry, but if you’ve never seen these two go head to head trust me when I say this matchup belongs on a list of the top 10 sports rivalries of all time. Separated by only a few hours by car, these two proud hockey teams have played in the same division for close to 30 years, battling 8 times a year, with neither willing to give an inch. The rivalry was at its fiercest in the late 1980s when both clubs were a perennial threat to win the Stanley Cup. A lot of teeth have been lost in this classic war.

8 – Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe

The crafty Swede vs. the fiery American, this head to head clash provided some of the greatest moments in the history of tennis. Borg, much like Federer today, was a machine, seeming unflappable and nearly mistake free while dispatching of his opponents. McEnroe was the opposite, seemingly in a perpetual flap, yet able to channel enough of his energy to stay in the battle, taking risks to win big points. If they had played in different eras and hadn’t had to face each other, no doubt each of them would have many more tournament wins under their belts.

7 – Arnold Palmer vs. Jack Nicklaus

A classic tale of overlapping careers, the master, Arnold Palmer battled fiercely with the young prodigy, Jack Nicklaus, trying desperately to hold on to his crown as golf’s best. They dueled for years, but in the end Arnold was just getting too old, and Jack was just too good. Had these two been the same age, this great battle might have ranked even higher on the list of the top 10 sports rivalries of all time.

6 – Manchester United vs. Liverpool

Though in recent years Manchester United has battled Arsenal and Chelsea more fiercely, in all time head to head matchups there is no more heated, storied rivalry than that between Manchester United and Liverpool. These two club teams are the all time leaders in the history of English club football, racking up scores of trophies between them. The rivalry between the two teams is so intense that no player has been transferred between the two clubs in more than 40 years.

5 – Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys

Two of the top teams, and two of the best quarterbacks (Bradshaw and Staubach) of the 1970s, these two teams tried to kill one another every time they met up. No matter who lies where in overall league standings these two teams still seem to bring out the best in each other with every meeting, with neither side able to string together more than 2 wins in a row. Dallas holds the all time edge with a record of 16-15 in this bitterly contested rivalry.

4 – Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Here I go again, showing my Canadian heritage. Still, no one can deny that this matchup is one of the top 10 sports rivalries of all time. These two foes have been battling since 1917, capturing 35 Stanley Cups between them in that time. Some of the greatest players in hockey history have dueled one another over the 9 decades these teams have been clashing, and a Saturday night matchup between these two storied franchises brings the nation to a halt as Canadians everywhere stop what they are doing to watch the latest chapter in this ongoing feud.

3 – Mohammed Ali vs. Joe Frazier

Ali is the biggest legend in the history of boxing, and Frazier isn’t far behind. These two stepped inside the ring against each other 3 times over the course of their boxing careers, with Ali winning twice, including one of the greatest bouts of all time, The Thrilla in Manila, where Ali unleashed a brutal punishment on Frazier in the late rounds, before Frazier’s trainer stopped the fight in the intermission between the 14th and 15th rounds.

2 – Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The winningest team in NBA history vs. the flashiest. In the 1980s this bitter battle between basketball’s fiercest rivals provided breathtaking entertainment for fans of the sport, and there’s no question this is one of the greatest sports rivalries ever. Bird and McHale vs. Magic and Kareem. These two teams dominated the 80s, winning 8 championships between them. The rivalry has cooled off in recent years, but look for these two proud franchises to rise to clash again in the not-too-distant future.

1 – New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

This legendary duel between these two historic baseball franchises was a no-brainer for top spot on the list of the top 10 sports rivalries of all time. These two have been doing battle for more than a century, facing each other more than 1,700 times during that span. The Red Sox were a powerhouse early on in their history, winning five World Series, but when Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919, everything fell apart. The Yankees went on to become the most successful team in North American professional sports history, while the Red Sox floundered under the curse of the Bambino. The Red Sox went into one of the greatest championship droughts in sports, unable to win the World Series again until 2004. Along the way they achieved the impossible, coming back from a 3-0 series deficit in the ALCS against their nemesis, the New York Yankees. The curse of the Bambino was broken, and in recent years it has been Boston’s turn to hold the upper hand in the series.