Sports

The greatest one-on-one sports rivalries

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Like many storied rivalries from the past, the careers of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will be forever linked.

Although Brady is 10-4 in games against Manning’s teams — Indianapolis and Denver — since the 2004 playoffs they have split four decisions. Brady is ahead, 2-1, in the playoffs, but they’ve split two AFC championship games. Sunday’s conference title game will be the so-called “rubber match.”

Some of the other great one-on-one sports rivalries:

Martina Navratilova vs. Chris Evert: Two of the greatest women’s tennis players ever played each other 80 times from 1973-88. Navratilova won 43 of them, and beat Evert in 10 of 14 Grand Slam final matches. Rivalry winner: Navratilova.

Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird: From their showdown in the NCAA tournament finals to their great NBA rivalry, many credit these two with bringing the NBA to prominence. They each played in 13 seasons, made 12 All-Star teams and won three season MVPs most-valuable-player awards, but Magic won five NBA titles to Bird’s three. Rivalry winner: Johnson.

Jack Nicklaus vs. Arnold Palmer: The two men put golf on the map as they vied for majors against each other throughout the 1960s. Palmer won six majors in the 60s, but Nicklaus won seven, then went on to win 11 more. Rivalry winner: Nicklaus.

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier: They fought three times with the fights considered to be among the greatest in history. Frazier handed Ali the first defeat of his career in 1971, but lost the next two times they met, including the classic “Thrilla in Manila.” Rivalry winner: Ali.

Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell: If you look at individual stats, no one compares to Wilt Chamberlain, but he could never figure out how to defeat Russell. In the 1961-62 season, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game, but his Warriors lost to Russell’s Celtics in eight of 12 games. The next season, Wilt averaged 44.8 points per game, but the Celtics beat the Warriors eight out of nine times. Rivalry winner: Russell.

Affirmed vs. Alydar: In perhaps the three most thrilling Triple Crown races of all time, Affirmed defeated Alydar by a length - and- a- half at the Kentucky Derby, by a neck at the Preakness and by a nose at the Belmont to win the 1978 Triple Crown. Rivalry winner: Affirmed.

Sebastian Coe vs. Steve Ovett: The British runners traded the world record for the mile five times between 1979 and 1985, including three times during a 10-day period in 1981, and combined for six Olympic medals, four of them going to Coe. Rivalry winner: Coe.

Richard Petty vs. Cale Yarborough: Two of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time battled each other throughout the 1970s and early 80s. Yarborough was the first driver to win three straight NASCAR Winston Cup titles (1976-78) and also won four Daytona 500s, but Petty won seven NASCAR titles and seven Daytona 500s. He wasn’t called “The King” for no reason. Rivalry winner: Petty.

houston.mitchell@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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