The Cavs and Warriors just solidified themselves even further into the history books by becoming the first to meet in the NBA Finals three years in a row. While many proclaim the Warriors as the best team of all-time (currently favored over the beloved 1996 Chicago Bulls) Cleveland also has arguably the best player of all-time (aside from MJ) in LeBron. There’s no question that Golden State vs. Cleveland has turned into something magical,
possibly the greatest rivalry in the history of basketball. But is it?
If not Golden State vs. Cleveland, than what has been the greatest rivalry surrounding two dynasties in NBA history?
Here are eight worthy of discussion:
Josh Helmuth is the editor of Crave Sports.
NBA Greatest Rivalry Dynasties
Celtics vs. 76ers/Warriors (1960s)
They couldn't meet in the Finals because they were both in the Eastern Conference, but Bill Russell and the Celtics proved to be Wilt Chamberlain's worst nightmare for much of the 60s, even though Wilt "The Stilt" was the most dominant center of his generation, arguably of all-time.
These two teams met in the NBA playoffs five times from 1960 to 1968, with Wilt's Warriors/Sixers squad only defeating them en route to taking the title in 1967. Still, Russell vs. Wilt, while both in their prime, is possibly the greatest basketball rivalry of all-time, and it all started when Wilt was in Philly.
PHOTO: Basketball: Phila. 76ers Wilt Chamberlain #13 in action, rebounding vs Boston Celtics Bill Russell #6. (Photo by John G. Zimmerman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Celtics vs. Sixers (1980s)
Everyone and your mother knows about Bird vs. Magic in the 80s, but the much-forgotten rivalry was Bird vs. Erving and Malone - The Celtics dynasty versus the 76ers dynasty.
It may be hard to believe for young Philly fans, but the 76ers were nearly every bit as good as the 80s Celtics. In fact Julius Erving, Mo Cheeks, Darryl Dawkins and Moses Malone's squad met with the Celtics in the NBA playoffs four times from 1980-1985, meeting in the Eastern Finals every time. Considering the Celtics also had four Hall of Famers on their roster with Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Kevin McHale, this was the best rivalry of the East since Wilt. vs. Russell. But again, the Celtics would prevail the most, winning 3 titles and going to 5 Finals, while the Sixers went to the Finals 3 times, winning one title in 1983.
PHOTO: Surrounded by 76ers' Julius Erving (left), Daryl Dawkins (center) and Caldwell Jones (right) , The Celtics' Larry Bird (#33) sinks a two-pointer, in the 2nd quarter of the seventh game of the NBA playoff semi-final at Boston Garden 5/3.
Bulls vs. Knicks (1990s)
Anyone growing up watching basketball in the 90s knew that MJ and the Knicks would meet in the playoffs, and MJ would destroy them in epic fashion, especially at Madison Square Garden. The Bulls defeated the Knicks in the playoffs in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1996. It's the main reason Patrick Ewing never got a title.
PHOTO: CHICAGO - 1991: Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls jumps to get a rebound against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York, 1991. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Michael Jordan
Bulls vs. Pistons (80s-90s)
Call them dirty, but the most hated basketball team outside of Michigan created "The Jordan Rules," a defensive 'strategy' that limited the effectiveness of Michael Jordan's epic offense. In other words, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman put the hammer down on MJ when he drove into the lane and were like white on rice playing perimeter D. It took Jordan several years to get through the Pistons in the playoffs, until 1991, when he won his first title. To this day, Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas hate each other.
PHOTO: CHICAGO - 1991: Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls jumps to throw a basket against the Detroit Pistons at United Center in Chicago, Illinois, 1991. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Lakers vs. Celtics (1980s)
The rivalry that truly started the snowball that made the NBA what it is today - the Celtics and Lakers both dominated the 80s. From 1980-1989, it was either the Lakers or Celtics or both playing in the NBA Finals. Bird vs. Magic even had it's own video game. Both
players had a rivalry of their own as they fought for supremacy -- In the height of the rivalry, Magic reportedly said “when the new schedule would come out each year, I’d grab it and circle the Boston games. To me, it was The Two and the other 80.” Bird responded, “the first thing I would do every morning was look at the box scores to see what Magic did. I didn’t care about anything else.”
Photo: 1989: Larry Bird #33 of the Boston Celtics throws during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers in 1989. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Larry Bird
Cavaliers vs. Warriors (2010s)
The best player in the world (LeBron) vs. possibly the best team the world has ever seen? Six to seven potential Hall of Famers? They've now met three years in a row - an NBA first. Is it impossible to think they could meet another three consecutive years? Cavs vs. Warriors is the modern day Celtics vs. Lakers of the 80s, folks. Embrace it. Love it. Appreciate it. This kind of rivalry only comes around every 30 years.
PHOTO: OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 05: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors goes up for a shot against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first half in Game 2 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 5, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Lakers vs. Kings (2000s)
From 2000 to 2002 there was no bigger rivalry in the NBA. The Kings, stacked with Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, are possibly one of the best teams in the last 30 years to not win a title. Standing in their way - the Shaq-Kobe Lakers dynasty that won three championships in a row during this span. However, the Kings came incredibly close to defeating them in the playoffs twice, and amongst bitter blood in which the 2002 Western Finals were proven to be fixed by referee
Here were the series results:
2000: Lakers over Kings 3-2 in 1st round, best of 5.
2001: Lakers over Kings 4-0 in Western Semis, best of 7.
2002: Lakers over Kings 4-3 in Western Finals, best of 7
(Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Celtics vs. Lakers (1960s)
One of the greatest rivalries in the history of sports began with Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and the Celtics vs. Elgin Baylor and Jerry West of the Lakers during the 1960s. From 1959-1969, these two teams met in the NBA Finals 7 times. What's amazing is that the Celtics won all 7 times, capturing 11 championships in the process.
PHOTO: BOSTON, MA - 1965: Leroy Ellis #25 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes up for the shot as Bill Russell #6 of the Boston Celtics attempts to block the shot from behind during their NBA basketball game circa 1965 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Don Nelson #19 of the Celtics looks on with Gail Goodrich #11 and Eligin Baylor #22 of the Lakers. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)