Ever since about 2008, the NBA has entered a new golden era, as the style of play has become faster and better and there has been a major influx of new stars and superstars.
Right now, there is a good mix of older, established superstars such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, young superstars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and brand new stars such as Ja Morant.
The Golden State Warriors’ championship dynasty has continued, but new teams such as the Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, and Phoenix Suns have also emerged as legitimate challengers.
But one thing the NBA of 2022 doesn’t have is a legitimate, marketable rivalry.
It is something that fans always seem to demand, and they also always seem to lament the lack of such matchups.
Rivalries Made The NBA Into What It Is Today
If there is one rivalry that made the NBA a sports heavyweight in our nation, it is the Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics rivalry.
It dates back to 1959 when the two franchises met in the NBA Finals for the first time (the Lakers were still based in Minneapolis back then), and they have met for the world title 11 more times since.
The most recent chapter in the rivalry came about a decade ago, when they met in the Finals in 2008 and 2010, splitting both series.
But the rivalry’s 1980s iteration took the NBA from a fringe league into one that is integral to America’s sports landscape and pop culture.
There has also been the rivalry between the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, another one that seems about as old as the Bible.
Once the Lakers-Celtics rivalry died down following the 1987 championship series, the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons waged three fierce and vicious playoff battles in each of the next three years.
After that, Jordan’s Bulls forged a rivalry with Patrick Ewing‘s New York Knicks in the early 1990s that was just as full of hatred.
These rivalries not only get fans amped up, but they also bring in casual viewers who may normally not care that much about basketball or think it is boring under normal circumstances.
In recent years, the Warriors and James’ Cleveland Cavaliers played in the Finals four straight years, but even that matchup never really rose to the status of a true rivalry, and the two teams never developed a healthy antipathy for each other.
Candidates For The League’s Next Rivalry
Some have pointed to the Western Conference semifinals between the Warriors and Grizzlies as a possible harbinger of a new rivalry.
If the two teams meet again in a competitive playoff series this coming season, that could very well do it.
There is always the trinity of contenders in the Northeast: the 76ers, Celtics and Brooklyn Nets.
How about a revival of the Sixers-Celtics rivalry?
Perhaps the icy relationship between Kevin Durant and his former teammate James Harden could coalesce into some tension between both teams.
The Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving all breaking apart just to rekindle the Lakers vs. Celtics rivalry.. now that would be must watch TV!!! I know Adam Silver is praying for that right now 😂 pic.twitter.com/5n4XBX7KzZ
— Lakers Vino (@VinoUncorked) July 25, 2022
But the best option, by far, for the NBA’s next rivalry would be the fourth chapter of its best one ever – the Lakers and Celtics.
Durant reportedly wants the Nets to trade him, and the Celtics have been mentioned as a possible landing spot.
In addition, his teammate Kyrie Irving has been linked to the Lakers all summer.
Imagine LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving and the Lakers going against Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Malcolm Brogdon, and Celtics for Title #18 🍿 pic.twitter.com/hJ84puaNEm
— Lakers Lead (@LakersLead) August 11, 2022
If both trades were to go down by the end of the summer, they could set up an epic collision course for the world championship next summer.