Red's Weekly Top 5: Individual Sports Rivalries

Last week I was writing about the Greatest Sports Rivalries of All Time.  This was in terms of Team vs Team rivalries.  But that got me thinking….there are some fantastic Individual Sports Rivalries, as well.  So, as I’m wont to do, I’ve created my Top 5 Individual Sports Rivalries of All Time list:

1) Muhammad Ali/Joe Frazier – This rivalry had it all.  The Championship Belt once even changed hands out of the ring due to Ali’s ‘situation’ with the military/draft/war, etc.  But inside the ropes is was strictly business.  Frazier wins the first fight, known as the Fight of the Century, knocking Ail down for only the third time is his career….then Ali wins the next two, Ali/Frazier II and the Thrilla in Manila.  After that fight, Ali declared Frazier ‘the greatest fighter of all time’….after himself, of course.

2) Larry Bird/Magic Johnson – Wow…what can be said that hasn’t been said already.  From their matchup in the ’79 NCAA Championship Game to their seemingly every year reunion in the NBA Finals, it was classic East Coast/West Coast.  Bird wins Rookie of the Year, Magic wins the Championship.  And so it goes…..literally making the NBA what it is today.   Without this rivalry, Michael Jordan is not the icon he is today. 

3) Jack Nicklaus/Arnold Palmer – This rivalry was born when Nicklaus won his first professional tournament, the 1962 US Open.  He did so by beating local favorite Arnold Palmer in a playoff in only his 17th pro start.  It can best be summed up by this quote regarding the two golfers:   “When God created Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, he turned to Nicklaus and said: ‘You will be the greatest the game has ever seen.’ Then He turned to Palmer, adding: ‘But they will love you more.'”

4) Bill Russell/Wilt Chamberlain – It started just as soon as Wilt joined the league in 1959 – as was normally the case, Wilt would out perform Russell in terms of scoring….but Russell would dominate everything else and his C’s would almost always win – did I mention Russell even had a 40 rebound game against Wilt in the 1960 Playoffs…..FORTY rebounds??  Wow.  It was the epitome of the Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object

5) Pedro Martinez/NY Yankees – Ok, I know this is a reach in terms of an ‘individual’ rivalry, but it’s a lock in terms of the essence of a rivalry — MAN was this thing heated – Pete’s time with Boston included 1) an incident where he spiked Yankees bench coach, poor ol’ Don Zimmer, like a pigskin in the endzone, 2) a REAL head game with Yankees catcher Jorge Posada in which Pedro could be seen literally pointing to his head as if to say, “Here it comes, Georgie!”, and 3) that infamous Game 7 where Grady Little left him in too long, the Yanks rallied, and everyone remembers what Aaron “Bleeping” Boone did off Wakefield at the end – oh wait, you need more?  Ok.  How about when Pedro was with the Mets…..”Who’s Your Daddy?” anyone? 

I know there are others that deserve mention – post your favorites here and help me remember the great Individual Sports Rivalries I left out.

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