3. Bulls- Pistons: The Chicago Bulls of the Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen era had few rivals. Those Bulls ran off six NBA Championships in an eight year span. The two years they didn’t win were because Jordan was trying to play baseball. There just wasn’t anyone who could hang with them. Thus, no rivalry. But on the way up for #23, before Pippen joined him, there was one team who got the better of him. That team was known as “The Bad Boys”. They were the Pistons of Isaiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. The Pistons took over from the Bird/McHale/Parrish Celtics of the mid 1980’s. They were a tough minded club that prided itself on defense. This was unusual for the NBA which routinely saw both teams score well over 100 points, even in the playoffs. The Pistons made a few enemies along the way. Laimbeer was considered a dirty player more fitted for playing for the Oakland/LA Raiders than the NBA.
When Jordan’s Bulls made their way to the playoffs in his early years, the Pistons were waiting for him. In 1988, 1989, and 1990 the Pistons beat the Bulls on the way to the NBA Finals. 1989 and 1990, the two met in the Conference Finals with the Pistons winning 4-2 and 4-3. Both times Detroit went on to win the Championship. In 1991 however, the Bulls finally climbed the mountain, beating Detroit 4-0. That set the Bulls dynasty in motion and ended the Pistons run. The blood feud was so intense between these two that Thomas, Laimbeer, and Mark Aguirre walked off the floor with 7 seconds left rather than congratulate Michael and the Bulls.
2. Duke- North Carolina: These two schools sit eight miles apart. Frequently they are the two best teams in college basketball. They have both won multiple NCAA Tournaments. In fact, they have won two of the last three, Carolina winning in 2009 and Duke in 2010. They first met in 1920. They have played at least twice a year ever since. UNC is the big state school. Duke is the small private school. Carolina is the baby blue, while Duke is the royal blue. Carolina has the huge fan base while Duke has the smaller but just as proud small one. Both have sent a multitude of players to the NBA. Both have had some of the college game’s greatest players. Jordan, Worthy, Montross, Ford, Kupchak, O’Koren, Perkins, Carter, Jamison, Lebo, Hansbrough and so many other greats have donned the Carolina Blue. While Ferry, Spanarkel, Gminski, Dawkins, Battier, Laettner, Hurley, Hill, Brand, Singler, Smith, Parks, Redick and so many others have worn the Duke Blue and White.
These two giants of the game have played 232 times with the Tar heels leading 131-101. For the last 128 times the two have met, at least one of them has been ranked in the AP poll. 1960 was the last time the two met when neither was ranked by AP, however the Heels were ranked #12 by UPI. The last time the two met when neither was ranked in either poll was 1955. They have met 69 times with both teams ranked. Carolina has a slight 35-34 edge in those meetings. Duke’s Coach K is 36-36 vs. Carolina while UNC’s Coach Williams is 8-9 vs. Duke. You cannot get much more parity than that.