Sports

Sports Superstars Share Personal Stories Of Their Bitter, Historic Rivalries

Darren - April 15, 2021
Sports

Sports Superstars Share Personal Stories Of Their Bitter, Historic Rivalries

Darren - April 15, 2021
Mandatory Credit: Olympic Channel

16. Mack Horton and Sun Yang

Horton and Yang are two of the best swimmers of their generation. Hailing from Australia, Horton was an Olympic gold medallist, while Yang is the greatest Chinese swimmer of all time. However, Horton doesn’t respect his opponent because of his dubious doping history. This created one of the most interesting rivalries in amateur sports because of the antagonism between the pair.

Mandatory Credit: Olympic Channel

In 2016, Horton attracted the ire of Chinese Netizens after he shredded Yang in a cold-blooded statement. He told assembled media, “I don’t know if it’s a rivalry between me and him, just a rivalry between me and athletes who have tested positive.” Afterward, Horton stood by his comments and the Australian Olympic Committee supported their athlete. But some fans criticized him for failing to comment on suspended Australian swimmers.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

15. Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder

In 2019, Fury knocked out Deontay Wilder in their rematch. ‘The Gypsy King’ put on the performance of his life as he dominated the WBC heavyweight champion. It was a brilliant win but Wilder didn’t respond well to his first defeat. He proceeded to play the blame game and even accused Fury of hiding a golf weight in his glove. This was obviously nonsense and didn’t help his reputation.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

“I think he has lost his marbles,” Fury told TalkSport. “First of all, it was the suit, then it was the bicep injury, then his trainer was on our team, then the referee was against him, then I had weights in my gloves. Now someone has spiked his water. It’s one of those things, isn’t it?” Wilder also dropped one of his coaches because he threw in the towel against Fury. This was a wild situation.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

14. Petr Yan and Ajlamain Sterling

Yan fought Sterling in early 2021 as he defended his UFC bantamweight title for the first time. The Russian put a striking clinic on Sterling and it looked like it was only a matter of time before the end of the fight. Then, disaster struck. Sterling dropped to his knees with both hands on the ground. But Yan blasted him in the head with a ferocious knee. This was an illegal move and resulted in his disqualification.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

As a result, Sterling became champion and created one of the sport’s newest rivalries. Yan wasn’t happy because he lost his title after dominating. Later, Sterling said that Yan didn’t deserve a rematch. However, the Russian replied emphatically. “And I don’t understand why you didn’t shut up yet idiot,” Yan tweeted. “You already turned down the rematch multiple times coward. Sooner or later your day will come #fakechamp.”

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

13. John Terry and Anton Ferdinand

In 2011, England and Chelsea captain Terry racially abused Ferdinand on the field. The younger brother of Manchester United star Rio, and a Premier League defender in his own right, Ferdinand couldn’t believe what he heard. Terry received a suspension from soccer amongst other punishments. But it damaged his career and long-term perceptions of his character.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

It was many years before Ferdinand rewatched the incident because it hurt too much. “This is the first I am seeing it,” Ferdinand told the Daily Mail in 2020. “I am looking at the phone and rage just came over me. You know when you say your blood boils? It just hit me. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. I felt hurt but mainly anger towards him, I wanted to go and hurt him.”

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

12. Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas

The Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons had one of the NBA’s strongest rivalries in the ’90s. Jordan and Thomas were their two best players but the former had no respect for the latter. In one episode of “The Last Dance,” Jordan refused to watch footage of his Pistons’ rival. “You can show me anything you want,” he said. “There’s no way you’re not going to convince me he wasn’t an a**hole.”

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

However, this came as a massive surprise to Thomas when the series emerged in 2021. “The competition that we all had on the floor, I truly just thought it was on the floor,” Thomas told CBS Sports. He explained that he liked Jordan and was disappointed with the portrayal of their relationship because their families had even had dinner together. Jordan even gifted Thomas’s son a pair of shoes.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

11. The Real Dog

The first of two Conor McGregor rivalries on this list, the Irishman knows how to make people dislike him. His relationship with Nate Diaz is one of the most interesting in the UFC because the pair should never have fought. However, after taking a fight against the Irishman as a late replacement, Diaz inflicted McGregor’s first UFC defeat. But the Irishman got revenge a year later. Since then, they maintained their rivalry and feud online.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

In 2021, the pair went back and forth with a series of tweets. At one point McGregor tore into the fact that Diaz was a journeyman. “I forget nothing bro and you’ll see that soon enough,” he wrote. “And don’t talk to me about a little slap in a scuffle. I had them all trapped thinking they were dead. You’re the king of nothing. You couldn’t even win your own belt they made for you, let alone any other.”

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

10. They Hate Us

In 2021, the Philadelphia Eagles rocked the NFL with a defeat against Washington. This meant that the latter went to the playoffs at the expense of the New York Giants. However, the drama came from the fact that the Eagles replaced QB Jalen Hurts with Nate Sudfield in the fourth quarter. A win would have damaged their prospects in the draft so Giants fans immediately pointed at this. In short, they accused the Eagles of throwing the game.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Giants’ Golden Tate was particularly furious about this turn of events. He offered play-by-play of the entire game as it unfolded and also made it clear that he thought the Eagles’ tactics were disgraceful. “I think the eagles just hate us more than Washington,” he tweeted. “That’s the only thing that could make sense right?” The optics were not good at all but the Eagles definitely didn’t care about the Giants’ fortunes.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

9. Lebron James and Kevin Durant

Two of the greatest players of their generation, Durant and James maintain a healthy rivalry. James holds the advantage when it comes to overall head-to-head results, but Durant has a better playoff record against his bitter foe. These two men don’t hate each other but they leave everything out there on the court. Furthermore, Durant says that King James is one of his favorite opponents.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

In 2020, Durant explained why this rivalry means so much. “Just having somebody that’s been around since I took basketball seriously and we’re still playing against each other,” he told Barstool Sports. “That’s pretty special to me. The longevity. You can call it a rivalry or whatever, but to have somebody at the same position and guarding each other when we play is definitely special because he’s one of the best players ever that touched the floor.”

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

8. Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier

Jones and Cormier fought each other twice in the UFC. But this isn’t the full story of one of the nastiest rivalries in all of MMA. Jones was the volatile superstar whose wild lifestyle cost him inside the cage. The UFC stripped him on multiple occasions and made Cormier their champion. This fed into the pair’s rivalry and their relationship, or lack of one. In sum, they developed an intense hatred.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Prior to UFC 200 in 2016, Cormier opened up on his opinion of Jones’s character. He said, “Sobering truth is, his history dictates and determines that the same thing is going to happen. That is him at his core… He will not change. He’s the same guy. He’s rotten at his core and he will continue to f*** up.” Those are some harsh words, but the proof is in the pudding.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

7. Greatness

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are two of the most successful and iconic quarterbacks in NFL history. Former Patriots star Brady went 11-6 against Manning’s Colts and Broncos. But he also played in a more settled team for a longer period of time. Meanwhile, Manning maintained an 87.2 passer rating against Brady’s 92.8. The two of them made their games very compelling.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The best players want to test themselves against the best. These two men were the greatest of their generation. Peyton Manning told NFL.com: “All I can say about Tom Brady is that he plays the position the way it’s supposed to be played. As the quarterback, it’s always a great honor and privilege to have competed against Brady over the course of the past 16, 17 years that he and I have been in the league together.”

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

6. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor

Nurmagamedov and McGregor are two of the UFC’s most visible fighters. They also had one of the most toxic rivalries in the history of combat sports. McGregor even spent a night in jail after attacking a bus with Khabib on it. The pair finally fought in 2018 with Khabib winning by submission. However, the fight wasn’t over because a full-scale brawl broke out between both men’s camps afterward.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

In 2019, Khabib told ESPN that this rivalry will never end. “It will never be finished, ever,” he said. “Even if we see each other somewhere, we’re going to fight, 100 percent. It doesn’t matter if someone go to jail or something like this. I’m not scared about this – they go to hospital and we go to police. That’s it.” However, in 2021, Khabib retired from MMA competition so it’s unlikely they meet again in the cage.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

5. All-Time GOATs

We’ve looked at Peyton Manning’s perspective of one of the NFL’s great rivalries. Yet now it’s time to see what Tom Brady said about his most vaunted opponent. While they were both successful, Brady’s rise was more unlikely than that of Manning. The latter was one of the most-hyped rookie quarterbacks in the history of the league. The same certainly can’t be said of Brady.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Nonetheless, Brady has nothing but respect for his old rival. He also shares a friendship with him since Manning retired. Brady once told ESPN, “Manning has “been one of the greatest players to ever play. I’ve been fortunate to share a field with one of the best players that have ever played the game. And every time we play a Peyton Manning-led team, it comes down to the wire. Everything is usually at stake.”

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

4.  Red Rivalry

Rivalries come in different forms. Liverpool and Manchester United are two of the most successful clubs in English soccer. This created one of the most iconic rivalries in the Premier League. It also affects their players. Gary Neville was United’s right-back for over a decade and developed an intense hatred for his team’s main rivals. Overall, there was a lot of envy.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

In 2010, Neville told The Guardian, “I suppose it came from jealousy through my childhood – jealousy, hatred, passion for your own club. You don’t want them [Liverpool] to win anything, and you don’t like the people who are winning, just like I’ve seen in the last 15 or 16 years, from a good side, everybody is now ‘we all hate Man United’ – and they hate Man United because we are winning.”

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

3. Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haaland

Keane is one of English soccer’s most notorious hardmen. The former Manchester United captain held a grudge for a long time, as his rival Alf-Inge Haaland discovered. In one game against his foe, Keane collapsed to the ground with an ACL tear. Haaland didn’t realize how serious the injury was and stood over the Irishman. Then, he mocked him and told him to get up.

Mandatory Credit: GOAL

Keane bided his time but didn’t forget about the encounter. He waited for four years before going through Haaland with a brutal tackle. In his autobiography, Keane explained the notorious incident. “I’d waited long enough. I f***ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.” This is one of soccer’s darkest rivalries.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

1. Kobe and Shaq

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were Lakers’ teammates for a number of seasons. However, they also maintained one of the most toxic rivalries in the NBA. O’Neal felt threatened by the younger Bryant and attempted to assert his dominance. As Bryant matured and developed, he proved to be unstoppable. Finally, O’Neal departed and Bryant was the last man standing.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

In 2003, Bryant rocked the NBA after an interview with Jim Gray. He explained his frustration with Shaq. “There’s more to life than whose team this is,” he told Gray. “But this is his team. That means no more coming into camp fat and out of shape. No more blaming others for our team’s failure. ‘My team’ doesn’t mean only when we win; it means carrying the burden of defeat just as gracefully as you carry a championship trophy.”

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

1. Frazier and Ali II

We’ve already discussed one of boxing’s most intense rivalries from the perspective of Muhammad Ali. He developed a respect for Frazier, after branding him an Uncle Tom amongst other slurs. However, Frazier never forgave Ali and maintained a loathing for him all through his life. He also had no sympathy for Ali’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease and spoke openly about this.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

In 1996, Frazier described his hatred for his rival. “Truth is, I’d like to rumble with that sucker again—beat him up piece by piece and mail him back to Jesus…Now people ask me if I feel bad for him, now that things aren’t going so well for him. Nope. I don’t. Fact is, I don’t give a damn. They want me to love him, but I’ll open up the graveyard and bury his a** when the Lord chooses to take him.”

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