Rivalries in sports is poetic.
Whether it is the players or the fans, there is always someone you portray as the villain.
In the NBA, rivalries are done a little bit differently now.
Between all of the major sports, basketball is by far the most individualistic.
Furthermore, fanbases are mostly made up of players rather than teams.
Yes, you still have team fanbases, but the league is centered around their stars.
Superstars move every couple of years, which has made it hard for the fans to be engaged.
Rivalries of today in the NBA are not similar to the Celtics versus Lakers in the 80s.
However, there are different and distinct rivalries of today.
Some that you might have never paid attention to or even notice.
Here are the top three.
The Players VS The Referees
One of the few stories from this season was the criticism of referees and their handling of the game.
This is not the first year with problems with refs, nor will it be the last.
Rasheed Wallace had a long history with referees throughout the entirety of his career.
Phil Jackson loved picking on the refs during the playoffs for a psychological advantage, but it is different this season.
Players and coaches routinely attack the refs after every game.
There is almost a guarantee that every close game will involve some confrontation between refs and players.
This season has had very questionable technicals and ejections made by these refs.
Here is one of the many examples:
"The second technical was for throwing the ball in the direction of an official with force."
Crew Chief Josh Tiven on JJ Redick's ejection. pic.twitter.com/nZIorVPIk8
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) February 22, 2021
This rivalry has also led to grudges being held to certain players.
One of those players is Chris Paul.
Chris Paul is a notorious instigator with the refs, which has led to them holding grudges for years.
Thunder guard Chris Paul says referee Scott Foster made a point to tell him before the Game 7 loss to the Thunder tonight that he also reffed his Game 7 loss to the Spurs in 2008 when CP was with the Hornets.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) September 3, 2020
I believe that there is going to be a breaking point real soon for this rivalry, and it might not end well.
Big Market Teams VS Small Market Teams
Big markets have always had the upper advantage in the NBA.
That is why the Lakers have so many titles in the modern era.
Small market teams hate the big market teams for a multitude of reasons.
For the owners, they hate the enormous amount of money they make.
Gms hate them because of how easy it is to get great players, while the small market team has to luck out in the draft.
Small market fans hate the big market fans because they believe they are just there for the title seasons and have no true interest in the actual game.
Small market teams are worried that the league is too easy for the big market teams.
In an article by Howard Beck of SI, these teams have voiced their concerns.
We, the audience, would love to see some form of balance.
However, we see big additions being made for less than a million dollars on the buyout market.
Small market teams try to move these guys with no luck and have to buy them out.
Then the big market team scoops them up for pennies.
That has to sting.
It is understandable why these two sides are against each other for a very long time.
Steph Curry (Fans) VS Lebron (Fans)
Now is this one still a rivalry?
Was there ever any real animosity between Lebron and Steph?
Yes, there was.
We have easily forgotten the two wars the Warriors and Cavaliers had before KD joined.
Steph was taking the league by storm with some people wondering if he is the best player in the world.
After back-to-back MVPs and a 73-9 regular season record, we believed he stole the crown from Lebron.
Lebron hated this notion and let it be known in the finals that year.
LeBron blocks Steph Curry's shot, stares him down and talks trash pic.twitter.com/rEsQdzRdGq
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 17, 2016
Now things seem a little bit different between the two.
They are on better terms with even Lakers fans saying Steph should cross the bridge and come to LA.
Finally got to share the floor with @StephenCurry30! Well overdue and I loved every single second!! #GreatestShooterOfAllTime #ChangedHowTheGameIsPlayedByHimselfAlone #RespectBeyondWords #JustSomeKidsBornInAKRON🤴🏾
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 8, 2021
The rivalry will remain firing on all cylinders due to their individual fanbases.
Steph fans still believe that he will eventually be over the King one day.
Lebron fans still bring up that 2016 finals.
Furthermore, they still bring up Steph needing Durant and him never winning Finals MVP.
The beef may have died down between the two superstars, but the fans will not let it go away.