Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook and the four other most intense NBA rivalries ever

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The NBA can be a tempestuous place sometimes. It's not all business like some players would have you believe; it can be a very emotional environment too.

It's the reason Kobe Bryant had 20 loyal years with the L.A. Lakers. It's the reason LeBron James just had to return home and win a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It's the reason Kevin Durant gave one of the most sensitive acceptance speeches ever when he won the MVP award in 2014.

Speaking of KD, one of the main people he thanked in said speech was then-teammate Russell Westbrook.

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Oh, how times change.

Now it appears that Durant and Westbrook are at odds over the former's move to the Golden State Warriors this summer. All eyes will be on when KD and Russ face each other for the first time next season, but today, we are taking a look at the four other most intense rivalries in NBA history.

Honourable mentions go to Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone, LeBron James and Joakim Noah and Draymond Green with everyone, but they didn't quite make the cut.

Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O'Neal

We recently wrote about why these two have a long and storied history together, but they simply could not be omitted from this list.

This is the only feud that started as teammates, but sometimes people forget that these two all-time greats played together for eight long years between 1996-2004.

They won three successive championships in that space of time and the media could not get enough of the duo. From rap disses to training spats, these two were must see for way more than their exceptional talents.

You could surf the internet for days on information about the hatred between these two.

Michael Jordan & Isiah Thomas

This one got ugly in a hurry. Thomas was the leader of the 'Bad Boys' Detroit Piston squad of the late 80s and early 90s and they seemingly had the Bulls' number.

From 1988-1991, the Bulls and Pistons met in the postseason all four years with Thomas and co. taking the first three series. However, MJ would go on to become a phenomenon and certainly the best basketball player in the world at that time, if not ever.

The Bulls would defeat them in 1991 and Thomas, along with several teammates, refused to shake Jordan's hand after the Windy City secured the title. As a result, Jordan said he would not play on the 1992 Olympic 'Dream Team' if Thomas did, and there was only going to be one winner there.

As a result of this bitter feud, Chicago hated Thomas, which infuriated the guard even further. He was a Chicago son and he felt that MJ had turned the city against him. It appears as though time hasn't healed the wounds either, as he suggested in 2013 that LeBron was a better athlete that His Airness.

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson

This was a much more competitive rivalry.

It dates back to the college days of Bird and Johnson, where Bird's Indiana State Sycamores and Johnson's Michigan State Spartans met in the 1979 National Championship.

It continued in the NBA and served as another glorious chapter in the famous Lakers and Celtics rivalry. Bird and Johnson met three times in the NBA Finals, with Magic winning twice.

These two players dominated the 80's, taking eight of the 10 Finals on offer, and appearing in all 10 between them. This rivalry was strictly business, but it was must-see TV.

Wilt Chamberlain & Bill Russell

There was no such thing as 'small ball' when these two goliaths dominated the hardwood. The NBA was the land of the giants.

It's nearly been 40 years since both men retired and, unfortunately, Chamberlain is no longer with us. But still, the debate eternally rages on, who is better: Chamberlain or Russell?

Many suggested that Chamberlain - who scored the only 100 point game in NBA history - was the better player, but Russell - who has a record 11 NBA rings from 13 seasons - was the better teammate.

They started off as friends, but the two legends did not speak for two decades after Russell criticised Chamberlain after game seven of the 1969 Finals for having no heart.

Russell later privately apologised and then publicly. It remains the greatest matchup in NBA history: Russell's ability to succeed against Chamberlain's ability to produce historic numbers.

They guarded each other every single time they met and their careers ran almost identical in length through the 60's. Arguably, they put the NBA on the map.

LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Kobe Bryant
L.A. Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Kevin Durant
Oklahoma City Thunder
Northwest Division

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