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Ranking the Dallas Mavericks’ rivals

Who are the Mavericks’ rivals?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of the summer, a big debate broke out on the internet (surprising, I know) over which NBA teams were rivals. This started with a post on Reddit with a cool graphic showing who fans considered their favorite team’s biggest rivals, which you can find here.

Stuff like this is always fun and totally subjective, but I can tell you objectively that the Dallas Mavericks fans lurking on Reddit got this completely wrong. So with the new season just over the horizon, I decided to rank the Mavericks’ rivalries, from non-existent to most hated. Disagree? Drop who you hate the most in the comments.

Irrelevant

  • Cavaliers
  • Pistons
  • Nets. I guess you could muster up some feelings due to Kyrie Irving and Dorian Finney-Smith, but be honest...no you can’t.
  • Bulls. Maybe in the nineties, but not since.
  • Wizards. Kristaps who?
  • Magic
  • Hornets
  • Raptors. You could fall back on the old Canada versus the U.S. thing, but that’s about it.
  • Pacers. Rick Carlisle coaches them now, and it’s always fun to be the old coach.

Only because they’re in the West

  • Jazz
  • Blazers. Portland was the 2011 Mavericks’ first step on the way to a title, but it wasn’t a very close series, despite going to six games. Sorry, but I just can’t muster up much animosity.
  • Timberwolves
  • Kings

Rivals—for now—because of one trade

  • Hawks. The Hawks and Mavericks will be linked as long as Trae Young and Luka Doncic are on their rosters. Each matchup between these two teams was a big deal—at first. But the rivalry is quickly fading as it becomes obvious that Doncic is on a different level than Young.

MVP rivals

  • 76ers. There’s always going to be this desire to beat teams with perennial MVP candidates, and Philly has one in Joel Embiid. There’s no real beef here, just the clout that comes with Doncic prevailing over someone he’ll be competing with for the MVP trophy year after year.
  • Bucks. Similar to the 76ers, the Mavericks have no real rivalry with the Bucks. But Doncic will always be measured against Giannis Antetokounmpo since they’re both chasing the MVP award and a championship every year.
  • Celtics. This holds true for Boston as well, but with some added heat. Jayson Tatum and Doncic are still going after their first MVP trophies. When you add in the Celtics’ history, you can conjure up a bit of a rivalry here.

Has become a slight rivalry for some weird reason

  • Knicks. Due to transactional history—the Mavericks trading for Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson signing with New York—this has become a mini-rivalry that will probably fizzle in time. But there’s a bit of irritation between the fanbases and losing to the Knicks kind of sucks right now, even if it’s in the short term.

Recent playoff foes but not really rivals

  • Suns. Yes, Doncic and Devin Booker have a fun little back and forth going right now. But the Mavericks vanquished the Suns in one of the most anti-climatic Game 7’s in NBA history and that was two years ago. Phoenix has also completely dismantled that team. So what we’re left with is a Booker-Doncic rivalry and a franchise that’s never won the Finals. Not really a rivalry between teams.
  • Clippers. Honestly, I just put the Clippers ahead of Phoenix in case any Suns fans read this, just to annoy them. And I don’t have to worry about Clippers fans getting mad because there aren’t any Clippers fans. But this isn’t a real rivalry, because the Clippers have never even made the Finals and their two best players can’t string together six games without a DNP.

Recent success rivals

  • Warriors. The Warriors have put together one of the best runs in NBA history since 2015, so it’s always nice to beat them. Draymond Green can be very annoying to lose to, so you’re always pulling for the Mavericks to knock them off.
  • Nuggets. You’re always looking to beat the reigning champs. It gives you a measuring stick, lets you know how you stack up to the best. Add in the fact that Denver’s best player, Nikola Jokic, is a friend of Doncic, and it makes it really fun to beat the Nuggets.

Geographic and division rivals

  • Thunder. Just a three hour drive north of Dallas-Fort Worth, the Thunder are a natural rival for the Mavericks. They’ve only met in the playoffs three times (we’re not counting their time as the Seattle SuperSonics, that history stays in Seattle, because we’re ethically sound here at Mavs Moneyball), and they’ve never matched up when both teams were serious contenders. But if you live in the Dallas area, the last thing you want to do is run into someone from the Oklahoma City area and get to hear about how the Mavericks lost to the Thunder.
  • Pelicans. A division rival that can’t seem to get it together. But if Zion Williamson ever reaches his full potential, this could turn into fun interstate feud.
  • Grizzlies. Memphis and Dallas was looking to turn into a very real rivalry because the Grizzlies are actually good. But Ja Morant’s off-court issues have lowered the ceiling for Memphis, and right now this one is just on simmer.

Special Lakers hate division

  • Lakers. The Mavericks and the Lakers don’t have too much playoff history in recent years. Dallas demolished the Lakers in a sweep on their way to the 2011 title. They did match up three times in the eighties, with the Lakers winning every time. But beyond that, it’s just really fun to beat the Lakers. They’re always full of stars and high on drama, and the slightest bit of losing makes their fans squirm.

Too much history rivals

  • Heat. The NBA didn’t rig the 2006 NBA Finals so that the Heat would win. It’s just that the officials were wildly incompetent, biased, and possibly deployed by a sports adjacent deep state. But there were some suspicious calls that Mavericks fans are still mad about. Then came some post-Finals beef between Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade. And LeBron James and Wade making fun of Nowitzki for being ill during the 2011 Finals. There’s just a ton of history here. So it’s always fun to see the Heat lose.

The actual rivals

  • Rockets. The Rockets are in the same state, just about a four hour drive south of Dallas. They’ve won two championships, even though both were in the nineties. Houston and Dallas have been in a competition for best Texas city for more than 50 years. Even though the Rockets have been stuck in a rebuild for a few years now, but make no mistake—Dallas fans hate losing to Houston teams in any sport, and the feeling is mutual for fans in the Bayou City.
  • Spurs. Same idea, but with an annoying 20-plus years of excellence. The Spurs are a little farther south on I-35, but there’s less animosity between San Antonio and Dallas. They’ve met in the playoffs six times, with the Spurs having a slight edge, winning four of those six series. They’ve also had five championships since 1999, which is just about the time the Mavericks went from NBA cellar-dwellers to one of the better franchises in the league. San Antonio often beat Dallas on their way to a championship. It was annoying. The only way the 2011 title could’ve been better was by beating the Spurs on the way to the ring. When you consider how much they’ve won, the amount of postseason battles between the teams, and how close they are, the Spurs are the Mavericks’ big bad, and will be for years to come.