5 most epic NBA rivalries in the last 75 years

Filipinos are among the most passionate NBA fans in the world — no contest. Making up the largest regional NBA Facebook page with over 5.1 million followers, the Philippines also holds the distinction of having the third-largest number of NBA League Pass subscribers in the entire Asia-Pacific region. It’s more so now with NBA League Pass, the league’s premium live game subscription service made more affordable and accessible by PLDT Home.

Our love of the game goes back to our colonial roots. The Americans’ introduction of the sport to our school system only led to more Filipinos breathing in basketball early on in their youth. Years later, the NBA made us love the sport even more that basketball has since become an indelible part of our culture.

But what exactly makes the NBA more exciting within the Filipino basketball community? Nothing quite answers this more perfectly than the rivalries, which have been so rich, storied, and polarizing that it has bred some truly memorable moments in basketball history. Let’s do a rundown below on some of the fiercest matchups in league history!

Celtics vs. Lakers

The longstanding rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers is almost as old as the NBA itself. From 1959 until 2010, the two teams squared off in the finals 12 times, with the Celtics dominating with nine championships and the Lakers snatching three. In the 1980s, the rivalry reached its most fiery with a matchup of the titans: Celtics legend Larry Bird versus Lakers icon Magic Johnson. This storied rivalry catapulted the careers of more players from the Celtics (Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo) and the Lakers (Kobe Bryant, O’Neal, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and Pau Gasol).

Lakers vs. Pistons

Making up one of the most enduring rivalries in NBA history, the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons settled eight playoff series from 1950 to 1962. The competition, however, peaked during the NBA finals back in 1988, 1989, and 2004 – with Magic Johnson dueling against fellow superstar Isaiah Thomas. The Lakers won a hard-fought, seven-game series in 1988. Thomas and the Pistons then got their revenge in 1989 with a series sweep. Acing the 2004 NBA Finals at 4-1, the defensively dominant Pistons demolished the star-studded Lakers that then had Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone in one team! However, despite the Lakers having slammed more wins overall, the Pistons are not very far behind in head-to-head playoff wins.

Bulls vs. Knicks

The rivalry between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks has been steadily brewing since the 1980s, with both teams consistently pitted against each other. But it was in the Michael Jordan era that Pinoys started to get hooked. During Chicago’s MJ-led teams from 1989 to 1996, the Knicks and Bulls would clash six times in the postseason — with Chicago winning five of them. Ever the tough challenger, the Knicks always played aggressive and physical against the Bulls. In the 1993-94 postseason playoffs, with Pat Riley then coaching New York, the Knicks eliminated the Bulls in seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals! During that postseason run, the Knicks would eventually lose the championship to the Houston Rockets.

Knicks vs. Heat

The fierce rivalry all started when five-time champion coach Pat Riley suddenly resigned from the Knicks to join the Heat in 1995. The tension became full-blown when the teams met four consecutive times in the playoffs from 1997 to 2000, with New York winning three of the four meetings. Arguably the most unforgettable moment of the rivalry happened in 1999 during the decisive Game 5 of the first round — with 0.8 seconds left on the clock, the Knicks’ Allan Houston hit a running one-hander to give his team a 78-77 victory. Such feat made it to the record books as only the second time that a no. 8 seed had defeated a no. 1 in NBA Playoff history.  

Cavaliers vs. Warriors

Relatively recent, the rivalry between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors grew while contending in the NBA Finals from 2015 to 2018. The media, which hyped the David vs Goliath face-off between Stephen Curry and LeBron James, would only add fuel to the fire. The Warriors won three of these duels (2015, 2017, 2018) while the Cavaliers snatched the 2016 title. One of the biggest games Pinoy fans have seen to come out of this rivalry was the decider in the 2016 NBA Finals. Fighting their way back from a 3-1 series deficit, the Cavaliers won two consecutive games to force a deciding game in Golden State. During the fourth quarter of Game 7, with the Warriors looking as though they would advance with an Andre Iguodala layup, James came out of nowhere to block the shot. Moments later, Kyrie Irving drained a massive triple-over Curry to win the Cavalier’s first NBA championship and Cleveland’s first major sports title since 1964.

Stay updated on the rivalries, playoffs, & more via NBA League Pass powered by PLDT Home!

Fans are eager to witness current and budding rivalries, marking their calendars for the NBA Play-In Tournament and Playoffs to begin on April 13 and 17 PHT respectively. For NBA fans in the Philippines, the easiest way to watch games live and on-demand is through NBA League Pass, which also offers access to the latest news on favorite teams and players, scores, stats, schedules, and more.

Made more affordable and accessed more conveniently through PLDT Home, recently recognized at the prestigious Ookla® Speedtest Awards™as the Philippines’ fastest broadband network, NBA League Pass allows Filipino fans live and on-demand access to NBA games for the remainder of the season.

For as low as PHP85 per month, PLDT Home Fiber subscribers can get into the NBA action and watch three games of their choice. They can also opt for the PHP485 per month package, which allows unlimited access to exclusive NBA content including game replays and programming. What’s more, PLDT Home subscribers can easily sign up for the League Pass through their myHome account!For more information on the NBA League Pass, please visit https://pldthome.com/nba-leaguepass

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