Memories are muddy. With 10 years since the last playoff appearance, forgive Phoenix Suns fans for their struggle to recall what a real rivalry looks like.
This week, SB Nation has a theme across all sports where we talk about our favorite team’s greatest rivalry. When I got that email, though, my first thought was confusion and my second thought was that you can’t have a rivalry without some stakes in who wins or loses and quite frankly the Suns have not played for any real stakes in a decade. But I’m a good teammate so I’ll play along.
What is a rivalry anyway?
A rivalry is a regularly-contested competitive series between two teams fighting for the same outcome, where the winner is declared the champion of... something.
Rivalries are quite common in college, especially in football. In-state rivalries, like ASU and UofA even have a Territorial Cup for the winner each year. In-conference rivalries, like Ohio State and Michigan have been going on for over 100 years for the Big Ten Championship. It helps that there are only a dozen games a year for each college football team, so the annual year-ending matchup between rivals has a great deal of anticipation built into it.
Baseball has 162 games a year, but the 10 or so between the Yankees and Red Sox are special because of the proximity of New York to Boston and their 100-year history of fighting for the American League pennant. There are a few cross-state rivalries in MLB around the country, including (at least in DBacks minds) the DBacks/Dodgers rivalry.
Back in the ‘80s, the biggest NBA rivalry pitted opposite coasts and styles against each other in the form of the Lakers and Celtics in three NBA Finals in a single decade. But would those two teams be considered rivals today? Probably not, unless you’re bathing in nostalgia. Even their modern-day Finals matchup in 2008 failed to match the glory dripping from those ‘80s teams.
What other NBA rivalries are there? What teams have bad blood between them crossing multiple years? What fanbases hate each other to their core?
Sure there are intriguing matchups. But long-lasting rivalries? Would you really say that the Warriors and Cavaliers — opponents in three consecutive Finals since 2015 — are rivals? Do the Warriors, who have appeared in the last five Finals overall, even have a rival at all Probably not.
That’s the nature of NBA basketball these days. Franchises don’t hate each other. And with NBA salary structures in the CBA creating 40 percent roster turnover each year, players don’t hate each other for the jersey they wear either because the jerseys don’t stay the same.
Let’s bring this to the Suns.
Do the Phoenix Suns have a rival these days, in the eyes of the fans? Is there another team’s fanbase that hates the Suns as much as Suns fans hate them?
Could the Spurs be considered a rival? Sure, Suns fans hate the Spurs, but the Suns only beat them once in the playoffs in the last 15 years. And I really doubt Spurs fans think much about the Suns.
Could the Lakers be considered a rival? Suns fans hate Lakers fans, and used to hate Kobe Bean Bryant with a passion, but neither team has played a really meaningful games in almost a decade.
Maybe the Blazers? Or should we set our sights lower and say the Kings?
I need your help, Suns fans. Vote, and then talk about it in the comments.
Who is the Suns biggest rival?
This poll is closed
Some other team (note in comments)
Suns don’t have a rival