The NBA has had some great rivalries over the years, and they always seemed to involve the game's biggest stars competing when the stakes are at their highest.
Here's a look at 10 of the best rivalries in NBA history.
NBAE/Getty ImagesAndrew D. Bernstein
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics
This one goes way back. Wilt Chamberlain battled Bill Russell in the playoffs four years in a row in the late 1960s, and the rivalry was renewed in the early 1980s with some fiercely competitive battles between Dr. J's Sixers and Larry Bird's Celtics.
NBAE/Getty ImagesDick Raphael
Boston Celtics vs. Detroit Pistons
This one went down in the 1980s between two teams that featured multiple Hall of Famers on their respective rosters. The Celtics beat the Pistons in the playoffs in 1985 and 1987 as their championship window was coming to a close, and Detroit returned the favor in 1988 and 1989 on their way to Finals appearances in both of those seasons.
NBAE/Getty ImagesDick Raphael
Detroit Pistons vs. Chicago Bulls
Just as the Pistons had to overcome the Celtics in order to win a championship, Michael Jordan's Bulls had to do the same with Detroit's Bad Boys. The Pistons eliminated the Bulls from the playoffs three years straight from 1988-90, before Chicago finally broke through with a sweep of Detroit in 1991 on the way to Jordan's first title. That Eastern Conference finals series famously ended with the Pistons walking off the floor without shaking hands with their opponents, which made perfect sense given that Detroit team's nasty persona.
Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks
Patrick Ewing and John Starks had the misfortune of playing at the same time Jordan was building a dynasty in Chicago, but they helped make things as difficult on the Bulls as possible in several memorable postseason series. The battles were extremely physical, and they took place in an era of the NBA when there were actual on-court fights.
The Bulls and Knicks met six times in the playoffs in an eight-year span from 1989-1996, and New York was only able to win once -- in 1994, when Jordan was off playing baseball.
NBAE/Getty ImagesRocky Widner
Indiana Pacers vs. New York Knicks
The Pacers and the Knicks met six times in the playoffs from 1993-2000, and those battles gave us some incredible highlights. Reggie Miller scored 25 fourth-quarter points in 1994's Game 5 while having an animated discussion with Spike Lee, and scored an incredible eight points in nine seconds in 1995's Game 1 to steal a victory on the road. The 1999 series gave us Larry Johnson's clutch four-point play in Game 3 of the Conference Finals, which helped the Knicks go on to a Finals appearance in the lockout-shortened season.
New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat
The Heat and the Knicks met in the playoffs for four consecutive years from 1997-2000, in physical battles that resulted in multiple altercations. The most memorable one involved a fight between Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson, which famously resulted in Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy wrapping himself around Mourning's leg in an attempt to break things up.
Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Phoenix Suns are the one team that Kobe Bryant has openly admitted to hating, and with good reason. He was eliminated from the playoffs in consecutive seasons in 2006 and 2007.
"They stopped me from getting a championship -- twice," Bryant said following his last game in Phoenix. "Damn right I hated them. Absolutely. Raja [Bell] and Steve and all of those good guys. Hated them. No question. ... That was a real rivalry to me. The Sacramento thing really wasn't one because we beat them every time. Phoenix, they kicked our butts and we had to bounce back and overcome them. That's a true rivalry."
The 2006 series went seven games, and was memorable for Bryant's heroics in Game 4, and for Raja Bell's clothesline in Game 5. Bryant got his revenge with a win in the 2010 Western Conference Finals, and the Suns haven't made the playoffs since.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs
The Lakers and Spurs have met in the playoffs 12 times since 1982, and one of the two teams represented the Western Conference in the Finals in 11 of 12 seasons from 1999-2010. More than a battle between franchises, however, it was a contest to see who could lay claim to being the best player of the era between Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. Each finished their Hall of Fame careers with five titles (though one of San Antonio's came in the lockout-shortened 1999 season), and purists believe Duncan to be the better player, while the NBA's more rabid fans prefer Bryant's flair for the game and his incredible scoring outbursts.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNoah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James may not believe this is a rivalry, but even the most casual NBA observer would strongly disagree. James came up short in the 2015 Finals after both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were lost due to injury, but still managed to push Golden State to six games before Stephen Curry and company got the job done. Then in 2016, James won a championship in the most dramatic way possible by taking down a 73-win Warriors team that held a 3-1 series lead.
James and the Cavaliers haven't been shy about taunting the Warriors over last season's title, and there was some chippiness in the two regular season meetings between the teams this year. Everyone expects these two clubs to battle for a championship in June for the third straight season, at which point James would be hard-pressed to deny that the rivalry does in fact exist.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics
Unquestionably the most storied rivalry in NBA history, the battles between the Lakers and Celtics have gone on since the league's earliest days. The two franchises have met in the Finals 12 different times over a 51-year span, and the rivalry in the 1980s between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird is credited with helping to push the league's popularity to an all-time high.
Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce brought it back into the national spotlight in the modern era with memorable Finals matchups in 2008 and 2010, the latter of which needed seven games to be decided, and ended with a hard-fought, defensive struggle of a contest won by the Lakers 83-79 to give Bryant the fifth and final championship of his career.