Special Report

20 Biggest Rivalries in Sports

Source: Jason Miller / Getty Images

15. Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals
> League: NFL
> Head to head leader: Bengals: 50-42

The Browns and Bengals were born to be rivals. The only two NFL teams from Ohio were both founded by the same man — Paul Brown. Brown was fired from the team that bears his name in 1963 by Art Modell, who bought the Cleveland Browns. Brown, who loathed Modell and wanted to get back into football, joined the expansion effort that eventually became the Bengals. The two owners’ personal animosity set the tone for the rivalry for years to come.

Despite the heated history, the on-field play of the two teams has put a damper on the rivalry in recent years. Neither team has won a playoff game since 1994, and both teams have failed to win the Super Bowl — the Browns have never even been to the final game. Still, the historic disdain and proximity of the fanbases make Browns-Bengals a heated rivalry, regardless of their records.

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14. St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs
> League: MLB
> Head to head leader: Cubs: 1,239-1,181 wins

As is the case with many of the biggest sports rivalries, the long-standing hatred between these two fanbases extends far beyond baseball, and is as much about the rivalry between these two major Midwestern cities. Fans of both teams likely are familiar with the Lou Brock trade, in which Chicago traded the future hall-of-famer for a song.

These two long-standing baseball franchises, each founded well before the turn of the 20th century, have faced off over 2,400 times, and Chicago holds a narrow lead on the series, and won the most recent postseason meeting between the two teams in 2015.

Source: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

13. Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls
> League: NBA
> Head to head leader: Pistons: 152-147

The Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls embody the tough, blue-collar spirit of the Midwest cities they represent. The “Bad Boy” Pistons of the 1980s and 1990s were known for their punishing physical play. No player absorbed more punishment than Michael Jordan. As a rising superstar looking to win his first title, Jordan became subject to Detroit’s “Jordan Rules” — meaning that Detroit’s players should do whatever it took to stop Jordan from getting to the basket. This meant the teams were constantly pushing, shoving, and fighting each other.

The teams met in four straight playoffs from 1988 to 1991, three of which came in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pistons won the first three matchups on their way to the 1989 and 1990 NBA titles. The Bulls finally took out the Pistons in 1991 on their way to their first of six NBA titles.

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12. Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs
> League: NHL
> Head to head leader: Canadiens: 358-300-88

This rivalry extends beyond sports to the cultural dissonance between Canada’s two largest cities. Toronto is in the province of Ontario, while Montreal is in the province of Quebec, where French is the most common language. While language may not be as much of a driving factor these days, the hatred between the two fanbases is rock-solid. These two Original Six teams have played each other close to 750 times in the regular season and faced off over a dozen times in the postseason, with the Habs holding the edge in wins between the two.

Source: Al Bello / Allsport / Getty Images

11. New York Knicks and Miami Heat
> League: NBA
> Head to head leader: Knicks: 78-73

Years of playoff matchups between the Knicks and Heat bred intense animosity that came to blows more than once. Two of the better teams in the East in the late 1990s, the Knicks and Heat faced off in the playoffs four consecutive times from 1997 to 2000. In their 1997 matchup in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, a small scuffle spiraled into a full on brawl. This resulted in four Knicks being ejected and six more suspended for future games. This may have cost New York the series, which they lost in seven games.

The animosity was still simmering the next season, a 1998 Knicks-Heat playoff game again devolved into a full-on brawl. At the very end of game four, Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning got tangled up and began throwing punches as Knicks’ coach Jeff Van Gundy desperately tried to stop Mourning by holding onto his leg.