Sure, it has been overplayed -- and it has been relived in countless books. But that doesn't make the rivalry any less real. And this was the best decade in the history of the rivalry -- the victories went back and forth throughout. The Red Sox came back from 3-0 down. But the Yankees won the famous Pedro Martinez game. But the Red Sox were one of the few teams that had some success against Mariano Rivera. But the Yankees got A-Rod. And so on.
2 of 20Simon Bruty/SI
Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal
Just as "styles make fights" in boxing, the same goes for tennis. Federer-Nadal encompasses No. 1 vs. No. 2; righty vs. lefty; grace vs. power; elegance vs. grit. About the only thing missing is personal animus. On the other hand, this is the rare sports rivalry for which rooting for both sides seems perfectly reasonable.
3 of 20Bob Rosato/SI
New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts
Manning-Brady, Belichick-Dungy -- you can't beat that with a stick. The Pats won six straight from 2001 to 2004. The Colts have won five of six since. To say there's some distrust between the two organizations might be slightly understated. The Pats are sure the Colts jacked up the noise on the speakers every time they played in the RCA Dome. The Colts have been careful about security every time they go to Foxboro. And with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning not retiring anytime soon, this one should be the best rivalry for a few years to come.
4 of 20Lucy Nicholson/Reuters, John W. McDonough/SI (2)
Shaquille O'Neal vs. Kobe Bryant
They won three championships and played in four Finals over five years, but not even Phil Jackson could keep Shaq and Kobe together. When O'Neal was dealt to Miami in 2004, the story of Shaq and Kobe turned into a modern-day fable, an updated version of Lennon and McCartney detailing the importance of mutual respect and the need for sacrifice in the pursuit of team goals. As rivals, their reunion games were typically aired on national TV, and in 2009 they shared the MVP award at the All-Star Game.
5 of 20Greg Nelson/SI
North Carolina vs. Duke (college basketball)
As the decade dawned, Duke dominated the sport, especially North Carolina, winning 12 of the first 14 meetings en route to two Final Fours and a national title. But the Tar Heels have returned to the top, with three Final Fours and two national championships since 2005 and a 7-2 record against Duke. The 10-year tally is testament to two terrific teams: playing in the Final Four more years (six) than not (four), combining for three national titles, nine ACC tournament titles and four national players of the year. Facing off in the national title game is the only thing they haven't done. Yet.
6 of 20John Biever/SI
Oklahoma vs. Texas (college football)
The classic Red River Shootout, played annually on the grounds of the Texas State Fair, lost much of is luster when both programs went dormant in the `90s. But late-`90s arrivals of Mack Brown (Texas) and Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) soon turned it back into one of the nation's most important games. Four times, the teams met as top-five opponents, six times the winner went on to claim the Big 12 title, and Texas is currently bidding to claim the third national championship won by one of the two schools this decade.
7 of 20Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images
Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin
The NHL made a delightful commercial in 2008 in which Ovechkin orders half the room-service menu ("five lobsters ... lots of ketchup") and then gives his name as Sidney Crosby. (Crosby's one line, when he sees the room service carts, is, "Ovechkin.") Well, they are what they ate, or at least what Ovechkin ordered: lip-smackin' terrific. In a sense, this is a virtual rivalry, because they rarely share the ice. Just the spotlight. The second-round Pittsburgh-Washington series in 2009 was a magical seven games of Can You Top This? They each had eight goals. Ovechkin had six assists, one more than Crosby. Amazing.
8 of 20Bob Martin/SI, Clive Mason/Getty Images
Manchester United vs. Arsenal
The venom going back and forth between United and Arsenal in the mid-2000s was often just as entertaining as the majestic games themselves. Both teams won multiple Premiership titles this decade, and Arsenal's undefeated 2003-04 season remains the league's greatest achievement of the past 10 years. Best of all, the constant sniping between Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger is guaranteed to add a storyline to the pregame and postgame festivities.
9 of 20AP, Elsa/Getty Images
UConn vs. Tennessee (women's basketball)
Alas, the teams last played on Jan. 6, 2007, as Pat Summitt canceled the series following a longstanding feud with Geno Auriemma, who once referred to Tennessee as the "Evil Empire." The decision has cost women's basketball fans the sport's best rivalry. The teams played 14 times in the 2000s, including three national championships and one Final Four (all won by UConn), and regularly drew high television ratings. The Huskies won the majority of the games during the decade (9-5), but the Lady Vols swept the final three meetings behind superstar Candace Parker (pictured).
10 of 20Al Tielemans, Robert Beck/SI
Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson
Despite Woods' constancy (we're talking about on the course) and Mickelson's roller-coaster inconsistency over the years, they remain 1 and 1-A, the one rivalry that has outlasted Woods vs. Els, Woods vs. Garcia, Woods vs. Harrington and Mickelson vs. his own foolish shot selection. Woods vs. Mickelson truly mattered, not just because of their primacy as players but also because they were, like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird once were, the archetypes of record. Woods the steely-eyed master of his domain, Mickelson the gambling, smiling, club-twirling man of the people. As a fan, you were to some extent either a Phil Guy or a Tiger Guy.
11 of 20AP
Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti
Their trilogy offered fans an old-school thrill that had been missing from most of the decade's superbouts. Their first fight, on May 18, 2002, was a 10-round extravaganza of give-and-take violence, highlighted by a ninth round of almost cartoonish ferocity in which both men were nearly finished off. Ward won that one by narrow decision. The next two bouts, both won by Gatti, were, if not quite as spectacular, just as gloriously two-sided.
12 of 20AP, Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Tony Stewart vs. Kurt Busch
The two drivers with two of the biggest personalities in the sport frequently spar -- both verbally and on the track. They certainly don't make feuds like they used to in NASCAR, such as when the likes Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough were trading blows at Daytona in '79. But word in the garage is that Stewart punched Busch after a practice session in the days before the 2008 Daytona 500, and their simmering dislike of each other makes this a feud to watch in coming years.
13 of 20John Biever/SI
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Here's all you need to know about this matchup: In 2003, the Steelers' Joey Porter and the Ravens' Ray Lewis had to be separated during the coin toss before a season finale that had no playoff-seeding implications. The rivalry is equal parts bad blood and hard hitting, and that the teams often play high-stakes games elevates national interest.
14 of 20Rich Frishman, Jeffery A. Salter/SI
J.J. Redick vs. Adam Morrison
Their teams never played each other, but Duke's Redick and Gonzaga's Morrison waged a scintillating battle from opposite coasts during the 2005-06 season. Morrison edged out Redick for the national scoring title (28.4 ppg to Redick's 27.4), but Redick walked away with the Naismith and Wooden awards. Alas, neither player got what he wanted, which was a chance to play for a national championship. Both of their teams lost in the Sweet 16.
15 of 20AP
Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz
It began in the late 1990s when Ortiz verbally and physically took shots at Shamrock's Lion's Den. But it wasn't until the two were matched at UFC 40 that the true nature of their rivalry took shape. Their promotional weight and genuine contempt made UFC 40 Zuffa's most successful pay-per-view before The Ultimate Fighter debuted in 2005. The rematch at UFC 61 (aptly dubbed "Bitter Rivals") set a then-UFC record of 775,000 pay-per-view units sold. Though Ortiz easily won both bouts, they were matched once more (free on SpikeTV) and drew 5.7 million viewers.
16 of 20Bongarts/Getty Images, John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images
France vs. Italy
<i>Les Bleus</i> and the Azzurri engaged in two of the most memorable big games of all time this decade. In the Euro 2000 final, Italy was seconds away from winning 1-0 when Sylvain Wiltord's last-ditch goal sent the game into extra time. David Trezeguet's golden goal gave France a 2-1 win and made <i>les Bleus</i> the first team to hold the World Cup and European Championship trophies at the same time since West Germany in 1974. The tables turned, though, in the 2006 World Cup final, when Italy came from behind to tie the game, then profited from Zinedine Zidane's legendary ejection (below) to prevail on penalties.
17 of 20John W. McDonough/SI
Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs
This rivalry didn't generate a great deal of emotional heat, but there is no denying that the Spurs and Lakers measured themselves against one another while sharing seven championships to dominate the decade. The Lakers won four of their five playoff series, including a tightly contested victory in the 2004 Western semifinals that turned on a game-winning shot by Derek Fisher following an inbounds with 0.4 seconds left.
18 of 20Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Keith Primeau's goal for Philadelphia in the fifth overtime of their first-round playoff game in 2000 was a singular moment between the franchises, but the rivalry didn't warm until 2005 with the arrival of Sidney Crosby. Or, as they call him in Philly, Cindy Crosby. Crosby's debut in Philadelphia on Nov. 16, 2005, didn't go at all well. Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher whacked him with his stick across the mouth -- no call -- and Crosby's subsequent complaints earned him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The playoff series in 2008 and '09 -- including Crosby's battles with Mike Richards -- made for outstanding theater.
19 of 20Mel Levine/SI
Moneyball vs. Tradition (MLB)
Moneyball -- despite what many may think -- is not really about on-base percentage or not giving away an out with a sacrifice bunt. It is about a new way of looking at baseball and trying to find market inefficiencies. And this rivalry of old vs. new was the overriding theme of the decade. Some teams and fans embraced whatever new theories and information was out there; others clung to tradition and long-held beliefs about what makes a baseball team win. Both sides had their victories, though it does seem that on-base percentage, at least, has moved its way into the mainstream.
20 of 20David E. Klutho/SI
U.S. vs. Canada women's hockey
These rivals have stood sticks and shoulders above the rest of the world over the decade. The Canadians captured the biggest events -- Olympic gold in Turin and Salt Lake -- while the U.S. has taken the last two world championships and the last four international competitions. Look for these two teams to meet in the finals of the Olympic tournament next February in Vancouver.<br><br>What rivalry would you add to the list? Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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