Brady-Manning among best individual rivalries in sports history
Jan 22, 2016 4:56a ET
Tom Brady has more championship rings. Peyton Manning has nearly all the passing records. Fans always will debate which quarterback is better. But there's no arguing it's one of the greatest rivalries in sports history. So it's fitting a Super Bowl berth is at stake for Brady-Manning 17. Brady and the New England Patriots are trying to repeat and earn their fifth NFL title. Manning and the Denver Broncos are aiming for the franchise's first championship in 16 years and his second. Brady won the first six meetings and he leads the series 11-5. They're tied 2-2 in the playoffs with Manning winning the past two, including the AFC Championship Game two years ago. Here are our other favorite individual rivalries.
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
It started in college, when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird met on the NCAA’s biggest stage, and continued as their rivalry revitalized the NBA in the ’80s. They met in the Finals three times in the decade, with Magic’s Lakers winning twice. 'When the new schedule would come out each year, I'd grab it and circle the Boston games,' Johnson said. Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein
Roger Federer (left) has a 17-14 edge over Rafael Nadal in career grand slam victories, but the head-to-head rivalry is one-sided. Nadal leads the series 23-11, including a 9-2 record in grand slams. Nadal's victory in the 2008 Wimbledon final is considered one of the best tennis matches in history. Both men also have long rivalries with Novak Djokovic. Honorable mentions: Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova; John McEnroe vs. Bjorn Borg. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI
Muhammad Ali (left) and Joe Frazier fought three times, including two of the most famous matches ever. Frazier defended his heavyweight championship with a unanimous decision over Ali in 1971 at Madison Square Garden in the 'Fight of the Century.' Ali won the rematch by decision in 1974. Then came 'The Thrilla in Manila' in 1975. Ali won on a TKO after 14 rounds. Honorable mention: Ray Robinson vs. Jake LaMotta. Photo: The Ring Magazine
Wilt Chamberlain (13) and Bill Russell went head-to-head 142 times over a decade from 1959-69. Russell's Boston Celtics beat Chamberlain's teams 85 times. Chamberlain shattered records. Russell collected championship banners, winning nine to Chamberlain's one.
Jack Nicklaus (left) and Arnold Palmer turned golf into a popular spectator sport on television. Nicklaus holds the record with 18 majors while Palmer captured seven in his career. They finished 1-2 four times in majors. Photo: H. Thompson
The Great One vs. The Magnificent One. Wayne Gretzky (right) and Mario Lemieux dominated the NHL for two decades with one of the two players winning the scoring title every year between 1980 and 1997 except for one season. They never faced each other in the playoffs, however. Photo: Denis Brodeur
Joltin' Joe vs. The Splendid Splinter. Yankees-Red Sox had to make the baseball list. Ted Williams (left) remains the last player to hit over .400, but his tremendous 1941 season was overshadowed by Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. Williams won two AL MVP awards and two triple crowns, but no World Series titles. DiMaggio was a three-time MVP who won nine World Series championships with New York. Photo: Iconic Archive
No one could match Tiger Woods during his ascent to the top of the golf world, but Phil Mickelson sure tried. They’ve dueled plenty of times, including at Augusta in 2001 and 2002, with Tiger winning and Phil finishing third both times. Mickelson finally won the Masters in 2004, 2006 and 2010, and the two combined to win three majors in 2005. They bombed when paired at the 2004 Ryder Cup, though. Let’s face it: These two were meant to be rivals. Photo: Andy Lyons
Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard put on an epic, 15-round title fight in 1980, a rematch that gave us the famous 'No mas' finish, and a rubber match that settled the score for good in favor of Leonard. 'A day doesn’t go by that I’m not asked about the No Mas fight,' Leonard said. Photo: The Ring Magazine
It's unusual to refer to teammates as rivals, but that's what Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were with the Los Angeles Lakers. They famously feuded while winning three straight titles, then continued to clash when Shaq moved on to Miami and beyond. O'Neal bragged when he won another title without Kobe, and Bryant did the same when he won two more. They may be more friendly now that Shaq's retired and Kobe's on his way out, but we won't be surprised if we find them playing a heated game of H-O-R-S-E in the future. Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein
The two best soccer players in the world play in the same league for two powerhouse teams. Since the Ballon d'Or was first awarded to the world's top player in 2010, Lionel Messi (right) and Cristiano Ronaldo are the only men to win it (Messi, 2010-12, 2015; Ronaldo 2013-14). In 2008, Ronaldo won the FIFA player of the year award, and Messi won in 2009. Messi's Barcelona club won the UEFA championship last season, and Ronaldo's Real Madrid has not won the Spanish league since 2012, giving Messi some recent bragging rights. Internationally, Messi and Argentina lost to Germany in the finals of the World Cup, while Portugal and Ronaldo failed to get out of the group stage. Photo: PAUL ELLIS
10 under-the-radar Patriots who helped build a dynasty