NBA / Jul 30, 2010 / 1:21 pm

Finding the NBA’s Mayweather vs. Pacquiao rivalry

Dwyane Wade (Photo. Jeffery Salter)

How much does it say about media hype and Internet culture that perhaps the most heated sports rivalry of 2010 — Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather — involves two guys who have never actually competed against each other, and have rarely even been within arm’s reach of each other?

But check out any boxing message board, or the opinion columns and TV segments about the (hopefully) upcoming superfight. Mayweather/Pacquiao has bad blood flowing before the two even step into the ring.

In the NBA, every superstar plays each other at least twice a year (unless they’re on the same team), so you don’t really have the same element of a rivalry with zero payoff. But there are players who could create a great rivalry if they met in a big playoff series or with a championship on the line. Here are some of those untapped potential/coulda-been rivalries:

1. LeBron James vs. Dwyane Wade
While Kobe vs. LeBron has been the NBA’s premier rivalry lately — at least in terms of marketing — LeBron vs. Wade was typically more competitive and exciting. The two never met up in a playoff series, however, and now it won’t happen for at least the next six years.

2. Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James
If you still believe the NBA can manipulate postseason matchups to enhance their bottom line, don’t you think we would have seen a Lakers/Cavs NBA Finals by now? With LeBron staying in the East and having a stacked Miami lineup around him, the chances of a LeBron/Kobe matchup is now more likely than ever. But because LeBron’s team has so much talent, it won’t be seen as a 1-on-1 duel, but rather (erroneously) Kobe taking on Miami’s Big Three by himself.

3. Tim Duncan vs. Kevin Garnett
For a good decade or so we had arguably the two greatest power forwards in NBA history playing in the same conference at the same time, and yet Duncan vs. KG never materialized into a competitive postseason matchup. This was almost like the modern-day Russell vs. Wilt. Duncan’s teams were always a notch above KG’s squads, and then when Garnett moved to Boston and seriously contended for championships, Duncan was on his way downhill.

4. Yao Ming vs. Shaquille O’Neal
They actually did meet in the postseason one time, when the Lakers knocked off the Rockets in five games in the first round of the ’04 playoffs. But Yao was only in his second year in the League, while Shaq’s L.A. team was loaded with Kobe, Payton and Malone. That series was more about Steve Francis trying to upset the Lakers than anything Yao could do. With all the hype Yao had coming into the League, it was expected he and Shaq would battle it out for several years as the two best giants in the game. Didn’t quite work out that way.

5. Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams
Depending on who you ask, they’re the two best point guards in the world and will forever be linked to each other because they were taken 3rd and 4th in the 2005 NBA Draft. Deron and CP are so evenly matched, their head-to-head battles typically don’t produce great numbers, but it’s always competitive. We have yet to see them go at it for seven games in a playoff series, though.

Honorable mentionsCarmelo Anthony vs. LeBron James; Yao Ming vs. Dwight Howard, Allen Iverson vs. Stephon Marbury.

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    Bron Vs Kobe. Kobe the worker who has fought for everything and will take on ANY challenge and LeBron the guy more worried about his undefeated record than fighting the big fighters in their prime.

  • s.bucketz

    typical media over hyping nothing
    Melo Vs Gallinari last year was a real match-up..2 players goin at it takin turns knockin shots down in each others face and a lot of shit talkin goin on.

    1. you cant have a rivalry wit someone if ur gunna b givin em a hand job

    2. kobe eats lebron alive in the 4th quater

    3. TD vs KG never really materialized into any kind of beef.TD wooda been outta his mind to shit talk KG..KG vs the lakers was 10 times better

    4. Shaq vs Yao never materialized either…the same way TD wouldn’t talk shit to KG, Yao literally couldn’t talk shit to shaq

    5. They both play so well against each other that they dont put up numbers against each other.not the most fun and this is more of a media hyped rivalry than an actual rivalry.

  • s.bucketz

    wen did Yao and Dwight even play against each other??? And when did AI and Steph have beef???The only time they ever shared significant court time together was the ASG where they whooped the West’s ass by themselves

  • karizmatic

    I don’t think most people will see it as Kobe taking on the Big Three if that happens, but maybe I have too much faith in people.

  • D.I. Dollar

    This is dumb. Lebron and Wade or Lebron and Kobe don’t qualify as a rivalry because they don’t gaurd each other. Yeah, there was hype when the teams used to meet up, but to qualify as a rivalry you have to play the same position like the other 3 rivalries you listed. This is just another lame excuse to put LeBums name at the top of some stupid list that nobody cares about.

    Also, the Lakers are stacked. Why would anybody claim that a game or series against the Heat would Kobe against the big three. The Lakers have the BIG 6 maybe even 7. They have answers for anything the Heat think they can throw at the Lakers. They ain’t in the same class as a team.

  • Bruce

    That Kool-Aid drinker is just plain scared of the Rice-Eater!

  • Si-meon

    What about Rondo vs. Rose?? Are you joking me Dime?
    What we saw in the 08 Playoffs was only a taste of what we will see in the next decade.

  • karizmatic

    @ S Bucketz

    AI and Steph has always been a semi rivalry since back when they were both college stars at Georgetown and Georgia Tech, Steph was always compared to AI and the media tried to make it into a rivalry for a while, until AI’s career work proved he was on a different level from Marbury.

    I actually think Paul and Williams, might be a real rivalry. I think there is some animosity there especially on Williams side as he feels a little slighted that so many people regard Chris Paul as better than him. Deron plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that people regard Paul as better than him and the fact that until the last couple of years he was left off the all star team in part because of Chris Paul. So that one might actually be something.

    I actually think

  • Heckler

    most rivalries are built in the playoffs, but for the future, these may be some good ones:

    Greg Oden vs Andrew Bynum
    if they can both remain healthy (even for 4 quarters) this may be interesting. it has the potential to be an NBA rivalry and not just a personal battle.

    Carmelo Anthony vs Kevin Durant
    similar playing styles, but not. OKC may be a younger version of the Nuggets right now. but they may light it up on each other. can both average 30ppg in a series against each other?

    LeBron James vs Delonte West
    “lebron may be going down to south beach, but his mom is still riding west”. the rumors are reason alone for this to be a rivalry. it can be if Delonte finds a team

  • K Dizzle

    CP3 vs Rondo
    after the “I got a ring and you’ll never get one”
    Not to pick sides, but I hopes CP3 comes back healthy, gets traded to Orlando and we get a Eastern Conference semifinal of Orl vs Bos just so CP can SMASH him…

  • karizmatic

    @ K Dizzle

    At this point I’m not so sure CP3 would smash Rondo.

    I think Kevin Durant vs. Dirk Nowitski could be interesting.

  • JR

    Sasha Vujacic vs Goran Dragic!

  • JR

    BTW Gayweather is afraid of the Pacman…

  • ajay


  • Heckler

    another two we (fans) missed out on:

    Anfernee Hardaway vs Grant Hill
    in the mid 90s, these two were suppose to take over the league (from Jordan—before Vince and Kobe). Pistons and Magic never met in the playoffs and these two had major injuries and then switched teams. and if you think Wade vs Lebron would have been positive for the league, then Hardaway vs Hill was the earlier version of the same thing

    Alonzo Mourning vs Shaquille O’Neal
    Magic vs Hornets headlined by the big men in the middle. they used to talk shit about each other early in their careers. personal beef. and they both used to take it personal. offense and power vs defense and intensity. and both their teams were stacked with talent (hardaway, larry johnson, dell curry, nick anderson, dennis scott, muggys bouges). drafted in the same class. the leagues best rivalries normally include centers. this would have been it going into the remainder of the 1990s

    and just for honorable mention we never got to see:

    Karl Malone vs Charles Barkely
    when Chuck went west to the Suns, they never met the Jazz in the playoffs. at the time (1990s), Barkley/Malone were two of the best 3 (shawn kemp) power forwards in the NBA. it would have been nice for the NBA to make a rivalry out of those two, but they never met up in the postseason (at least I dont recall until Barkely went to Houston). a subplot of this rivalry could have been john stockton and kevin johnson

  • Detroit Dave

    These isn’t a rivalry but anybody remember those Gary Payton vs Jason Kidd games? Good stuff.

    Ray Allen (Seattle) vs Kobe

  • sh!tfaced

    If we’re gonna relate boxing to hoops then there’s no bigger rivalry than LJ vs Alonzo.

    of maybe Oakley vs whoever he needs to rough up. Barkley vs whoever pisses him off. Rodman vs himself…

    Any word from Pussyweather, btw…?

  • fallinup

    Mayweather vs. Pacman is far from a rivalry. Considering one is scared to meet up with the other… *wink wink @ GAYWEATHER… don’t be scurred at that crazy filipino… nuh nuh… don’t be scurred.

  • Robmo35

    Your forgetting Paul Pierce Vs Lebron. 2008 playoffs anyone?

  • Sporty-j

    Kobe vs the big 3? I could have sworn that they still have Gasol who im sure most would still take over Bosh, the better center, point guards, and Ron Artest. Dont make excuses for Kobe and the Laker fans because they have an all-star team to and a good bench like we do…

  • LakeShow84

    Damn could u imagine the battle between Deron and CP3 in a 7 game series???

    That would be BEAUTIFUL..

  • K Dizzle

    lol @ “Dont make excuses for Kobe and the Laker fans because they have an all-star team to and a good bench like we do…”

    Somebody please stop this kid….please LMAO!

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @Sporty-j — What I’m saying is the media and fans will hype Lakers/Heat as “Kobe vs Big Three” even if most of us know that’s not the case.

  • Stunnaboy09

    Kobe/Gasol vs The Miami Thrice is a pretty good matchup, though I can see LA just dumping it down to the bigs and completely destroying them. I mean when Joel Anthony is your defensive presence you got a problem.

    The NBA needs a CP/D-Will playoff series when they both have relatively equal squads. Settle the argument.

    Something tells me Boston New Orleans will be a pretty freakin amazing game. CP trying to shut Rondo up while Rondo trying to prove to haters hes legit.

  • Matt

    I’m sorry, but in order for a rivalry to actually exist, both parties need to actually be able to beat the others.

    As a Jazz fan, I hate the Lakers, not because they are our rivals, but because they have knocked us out of the playoffs the past couple years, which is why the rivalry of Deron Willams vs. Chris Paul isn’t a rivalry yet.

    Head to head, Deron is 11-3 vs. Paul. They have been in the league five seasons, yet Paul can’t even manage one win per year. Every time they meet, Deron absolutely destroys Chris.

    In order for this matchup to become a rivalry, the Hornets franchise needs to surround Paul with higher caliber players, because as it stands right now, Deron is on the better team with better teammates and a better coach. You can’t have a rivalry unless things are almost equal, which they aren’t.

    Yes, the stats are very close, and are two of the best guards in the league, but as it stands right now, in head to head matchups, Paul doesn’t stand a chance against Williams, and the historical stats of their head to head meetings will prove and do prove that

  • Bigdoggchad

    Yeah bron n melo could be a great rivalry if every game is like the last one. Both scored 40 n melo hit the game winner in LeBron’s mug in OT. What about melo vs. Durant? Its usually a shootout between them and the games are close think a couple times they were trading daggers down the stretch but usually melo got the last laugh. Think melo has hit 3 game winners the last 2 seasons against okc.

  • alf (from melmak)

    Jerry Sloan versus Phil Jackson.

  • M Intellect

    I think people need to realise that 2 of undisputed Top 3 NBA players are in Miami, with a Top 15 Guy with them too. That is bananas. LeBron/D-Wade can basically take a game off and let the other pick up the slack whereas Kobe HAS to perform coz his next best team-mate is a Top 20. After Pau there are some nice role players, but Miami have an unbelievable core and a pretty good rotation after that.

    Even PP, KG and Ray in Boston were like Top 20 at best when they came together and weren’t even close to what Miami have right now, so IF Kobe pulls this off with Pau who is NOT a marquee player or the best big man in the L, he is basically THE MAN.

    Before people argue about Pau being great, we saw in Memphis he was basically a star not a supetstar and is on the same level as Bosh, Amare or Boozer or even Big Al and Brook Lopez and is clearly a notch below Dirk and D-Ho.

  • Caderade

    Deron Williams is like 10-3 all time against Chris Paul. Going back to college, he has always dominated that match up.