The best sports rivalries require something that makes each city passionate about the game and a history in which the two teams have played in big games against each other. Chasing for the same prize and the ability to end the other teams’ season is a powerful motivator, especially when one team has been the obstacle to the other.
For example, the 2010 NBA Final Game 7 between longtime rivals Los Angeles and Boston still is the second highest rated NBA game of all-time. The two teams have met in the finals twelve times, which highlights one of the other important elements of a great rivalry – it has to be a clash of the titans and not a consolation game to see who sucks least.
In contrast, SB Nation does a good assessment of the Anaheim Angels-Oakland A’s non-rivalry, since while both teams have been frequent contenders in the American League West they rarely have been contenders at the same time.
With that in mind, both Los Angeles and San Francisco have seen a resurgence in their sports teams (with the Lakers being a glaring exception), bringing the spotlight back to this I-5 rivalry. Last week, as the baseball season got into swing with series between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s and Anaheim Angels, basketball and hockey prepared to launch their playoffs with the greatest buzz surrounding first round series between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors.
So what are the greatest of the NoCal/SoCal rivalries in recent memory (so no Rams-49ers)?
Hockey Magazine calls this the best rivalry in the NHL today.
Are They Good:
- Since 2000, the Sharks have finished first or second in their division every year except 2012-13 and 2002-03 (with latter year being the only time they missed the playoffs in that period), with 3 trips to the Conference Finals.
- Since a 6-year playoff drought from 2003-2009, the Kings have come back with a vengeance, trailing the Sharks by an average of only 6 points over the last 5 years, as they won they reached the Conference Finals twice and won the Stanley Cup once.
Are They an Obstacle?
- The two teams have faced each other in 3 of the last four playoffs, with the Sharks on the verge of winning their second series. In contrast, while the Ducks have been a stronger period throughout this period, they only faced the Sharks once in the playoffs.
|San Jose Sharks||131||57||55||7||12||133||.508||366||388||2.79||2.96|
In 2011, the Sharks won Game 3 of their first-round series 6-5 in overtime, after trailing 4-0.
In the second round in 2013, the Kings came back from 3-2 series deficit to win a dramatic 7th game at the Staple Center as goalie Jonathan Quick shut down the Sharks 2-1.
Also known as the “California Clasico,” it has been called “perhaps the most historic and intense rivalry the league has.” In reality, it it two rivalries. One between the Galaxy and the original San Jose team that relocated to Houston after the 2005 season and the other an expansion team that was added in 2008.
Are They Good:
- From 1999-2007, all but 2 of the MLS Cups featured one of the two teams (or the Earthquake’s successor entity the Houston Dynamo). In total, both the Galaxy and the Earthquakes-Dynamo have a 4-2 record in the Cup,.
- Since 2008, the Earthquake have only made the playoffs twice.
Are They an Obstacle:
- In 2001, 2011 and 2012 the MSL Cup had both teams with San Jose winning the first matchup and the Galaxy beating the Dynamo in 2011 and 2012.
- The two teams squared off in the first round of the 2003 MLS Cup playoffs in what would become an epic series. Los Angeles won the first game at home 2-0 in the two-game aggregate-goal series. In the second game in San Jose, the Galaxy scored two early goals to widen its aggregate lead to four goals, only to have San Jose with a young Landon Donovan (now with the Galaxy) score five unanswered goals to win the series 5-4. Many neutral MLS pundits at the time viewed that game as the best in league history
The rivalry further intensified in 2012 with the new San Jose team. During the regular season, the Earthquakes twice won stunning come from behind victories including overcoming a 3-2 halftime deficit to win 4-3. The two teams met again in the Western Conference Semi-finals. San Jose defeated Los Angeles 1-0 in the first leg but the Galaxy came back and defeated the Earthquakes 3-1 at Buck Shaw Stadium (3-2 on aggregate) to advance en route to their 4th title. It was the Earthquakes only loss at Buck Shaw all season.
- The Galaxy is 5-3-1 against the Earthquakes in the Playoffs
|LA wins||Draws||San Jose wins||LA goals||San Jose goals|
|MLS Regular season||22||15||17||75||70|
|U.S. Open Cup||3||1||0||6||2|
In 2003, San Jose overcomes 4-0 deficit to win playoff series.