Come playoffs or even a regular season game, nothing gets the fans more pumped than a good ol’ fashioned rivalry. Throughout the decades of sports play, one of the most thrilling things to spectate is the intensity of sports rivalries.  In the NFL, you have the Cowboys and the Redskins (among many others); college, you have UT Longhorns and A&M Aggies; baseball has the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.  

Rivalries can be brought up by two teams in the same division playing for division titles, teams within a state competing to be the best of that state, teams battling over interstate highways (such as the I-10 rivalry in the NBA consisting of Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, New Orleans and Houston) or just two certain teams meeting in the playoffs several years in a row.

One of my favorite rivalries in basketball is the one between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Los Angeles Lakers have been in the league since the BAA and NBL merger in 1948, known then as the Minneapolis Lakers.  The Lakers were the first dynasty to win five championships in six years (1949-1954) and again in 1972, finally as the Los Angeles Lakers.  

The San Antonio Spurs started in the ABA and came to the NBA with the 1976 merger that brought a total of four former ABA teams to the NBA: Indiana, New York (soon to be New Jersey), San Antonio and Denver.

The rivalry started in the 1980s, but lacked real competition as the legendary “showtime” Lakers would beat George Gervin and the Spurs four out of four times in the playoffs en route to five championships and eight finals appearances in the 1980s.  It’s hard to consider something a rivalry when it’s one-sided. The Lakers won those series 4-0, 4-2, 3-0 and 3-0.

As the Lakers got older and started to rebuild, the Spurs added David Robinson in the 1989-1990 season after drafting him first overall in 1987.  The Spurs began to dominate and even defeated the Lakers two out of two times in the 1990s.  However, the Spurs always lacked something and did not reach the NBA finals until 1999 after receiving arguably the best Spur in history–Tim Duncan from the 1997 NBA draft.

The rivalry really took off in 2001. In 1999, Tim Duncan, Sean Elliot and David Robinson embarrassed future champs Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal by sweeping them 4-0, leading to San Antonio’s first ever NBA championship.  

The following playoffs in 2000 saw an injured Spurs dethroned in the first round by the Phoenix Suns (another Spurs rival). In 2001, the Lakers got their revenge by sweeping the Spurs 4-0 in the Western Conference finals on the way to a second consecutive championship.  

The Spurs were once again swept the following year in 2002, so the Lakers would go on to win a third consecutive championship.  In 2003, the Spurs finally beat the Lakers again 4-2 thanks to a missed buzzer-beater by Laker forward “Big Shot” Robert Horry in game five.

The Spurs went on to win their second championship that season, the last championship for hall-of-famer David Robinson.

In 2004, the Spurs were set up to win a consecutive championship, but Los Angeles once again stood in their way.  With each team winning two games at their home courts, the Spurs found themselves down by 16.  

After a comeback led by their bench, the Spurs ended up fighting back and took the lead. With 11 seconds left, Kobe Bryant took a jumper that sunk the bottom of the net, giving the Lakers the lead.  After a well-guarded Tim Duncan hit a fadeaway jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining, Laker guard Derek Fisher hit a turnaround jumper at the buzzer and smashed the Spurs dreams of a second consecutive championship.  

The Lakers, now with Gary Payton and Karl Malone along with Shaq and Kobe, made it to the finals but lost.

The two teams played each other again in 2008. Between 2004 and 2008, the Spurs won two championships and the Miami Heat won their first.

The rivalry cooled down a bit, but this new Lakers team without Shaq and with Pau Gasol beat the Spurs once again on the way to a finals appearance.  The last time these two teams played ended in a Spurs sweep of the first round in 2013.  But by then there wasn’t much of a rivalry.  However, when these two teams meet in the playoffs, the players know it, the fans know it, and it’s on!

These types of rivalries are interesting because (in this case) whoever wins the playoff series most likely goes on to win the championship, so the competition is fierce. It makes for great sports games and great sports memories.

Come playoffs or even a regular season game, nothing gets the fans more pumped than a good ol’ fashioned rivalry. Throughout the decades of sports play, one of the most thrilling things to spectate is the intensity of sports rivalries.  In the NFL, you have the Cowboys and the Redskins (among many others); college, you have UT Longhorns and A&M Aggies; baseball has the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.  

Rivalries can be brought up by two teams in the same division playing for division titles, teams within a state competing to be the best of that state, teams battling over interstate highways (such as the I-10 rivalry in the NBA consisting of Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, New Orleans and Houston) or just two certain teams meeting in the playoffs several years in a row.

One of my favorite rivalries in basketball is the one between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Los Angeles Lakers have been in the league since the BAA and NBL merger in 1948, known then as the Minneapolis Lakers.  The Lakers were the first dynasty to win five championships in six years (1949-1954) and again in 1972, finally as the Los Angeles Lakers.  

The San Antonio Spurs started in the ABA and came to the NBA with the 1976 merger that brought a total of four former ABA teams to the NBA: Indiana, New York (soon to be New Jersey), San Antonio and Denver.

The rivalry started in the 1980s, but lacked real competition as the legendary “showtime” Lakers would beat George Gervin and the Spurs four out of four times in the playoffs en route to five championships and eight finals appearances in the 1980s.  It’s hard to consider something a rivalry when it’s one-sided. The Lakers won those series 4-0, 4-2, 3-0 and 3-0.

As the Lakers got older and started to rebuild, the Spurs added David Robinson in the 1989-1990 season after drafting him first overall in 1987.  The Spurs began to dominate and even defeated the Lakers two out of two times in the 1990s.  However, the Spurs always lacked something and did not reach the NBA finals until 1999 after receiving arguably the best Spur in history–Tim Duncan from the 1997 NBA draft.

The rivalry really took off in 2001. In 1999, Tim Duncan, Sean Elliot and David Robinson embarrassed future champs Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal by sweeping them 4-0, leading to San Antonio’s first ever NBA championship.  

The following playoffs in 2000 saw an injured Spurs dethroned in the first round by the Phoenix Suns (another Spurs rival). In 2001, the Lakers got their revenge by sweeping the Spurs 4-0 in the Western Conference finals on the way to a second consecutive championship.  

The Spurs were once again swept the following year in 2002, so the Lakers would go on to win a third consecutive championship.  In 2003, the Spurs finally beat the Lakers again 4-2 thanks to a missed buzzer-beater by Laker forward “Big Shot” Robert Horry in game five.

The Spurs went on to win their second championship that season, the last championship for hall-of-famer David Robinson.

In 2004, the Spurs were set up to win a consecutive championship, but Los Angeles once again stood in their way.  With each team winning two games at their home courts, the Spurs found themselves down by 16.  

After a comeback led by their bench, the Spurs ended up fighting back and took the lead. With 11 seconds left, Kobe Bryant took a jumper that sunk the bottom of the net, giving the Lakers the lead.  After a well-guarded Tim Duncan hit a fadeaway jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining, Laker guard Derek Fisher hit a turnaround jumper at the buzzer and smashed the Spurs dreams of a second consecutive championship.  

The Lakers, now with Gary Payton and Karl Malone along with Shaq and Kobe, made it to the finals but lost.

The two teams played each other again in 2008. Between 2004 and 2008, the Spurs won two championships and the Miami Heat won their first.

The rivalry cooled down a bit, but this new Lakers team without Shaq and with Pau Gasol beat the Spurs once again on the way to a finals appearance.  The last time these two teams played ended in a Spurs sweep of the first round in 2013.  But by then there wasn’t much of a rivalry.  However, when these two teams meet in the playoffs, the players know it, the fans know it, and it’s on!

These types of rivalries are interesting because (in this case) whoever wins the playoff series most likely goes on to win the championship, so the competition is fierce. It makes for great sports games and great sports memories.

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