A rivalry in sports has different meanings depending completely on perspective.
A team with a long history of a winning tradition is not likely to view those with lesser credentials as a rival, but teams with a little brother complex that are in close proximity may get up for games against the more historically powerful franchise.
The way the Lakers view the Clippers and the Suns, and the way those teams view the Lakers are perfect examples of this.
Sticking with the same illustration, the Lakers view teams like the Celtics and the Spurs as rivals, because of multiple hard-fought postseason battles against these clubs, as well as their championship pedigrees that stack up almost equally to that of the storied Los Angeles franchise.
Ultimately, it’s in the eye of the beholder.
Once the Nets moved to Brooklyn last season — playing their home games a mere 6.1 miles from where the Knicks play at Madison Square Garden — they believed that a rivalry was immediately put into place. It didn’t seem as important to the Knicls, however, given the fact that they’ve been New York’s only NBA team essentially forever, and are embedded as such in the city’s culture.
Since Paul Pierce came to the Nets in a trade from the Celtics this summer, he’s been talking up the rivalry at seemingly every opportunity. His words haven’t gone unnoticed by Knicks starting point guard Raymond Felton, who believes Pierce’s words are indeed helping to fuel that fire.
From Abe Schwadron of SLAM:
SLAM: Can we expect the Knicks-Nets rivalry to continue to grow?
RF: Yeah, especially with Paul Pierce talking all this junk, each and every week. Saying something on some show, some radio show or whatever. It’s just boosting the rivalry, without a doubt. Like I say to people all the time, I don’t care what Brooklyn do, I don’t care if they have a better record than we do this year, we still got “New York” on our chest. We’re still New York’s team, regardless of what Brooklyn do. It just is what it is. …
They can say Brooklyn this, Brooklyn that, they got KG, they got Paul Pierce—OK, they’re going to be good, we know that. But they’re also going to be an older team as well. They’re not going to have the youth that they had last year. But I look forward to it. I love rivalries, I’ve been playing in them a long time.
Talking things up will certainly help generate interest. But for a true rivalry to exist, each team has to achieve some sustained measure of success against the other, and the Nets simply haven’t been around long enough yet to have that kind of impact on the Knicks’ New York market share.