Summary List Placement
Tom Brady vs. LeBron James – The most transcendent post-retirement legacies of all time
Tom Brady and LeBron James never have and never will play across from each other on the same field or court. But as the two all-time greats get closer to the ends of their careers, their legacies are bound to be compared more and more in mainstream culture.
Brady and James have now separated themselves as the most transcendent athletes of a generation. But playing in a social media age has elevated their presence in society to a degree, unlike previous star athletes. It’s a dynamic that might make them the two most transcendent athletes of all time.
They still have some time left to round out their career resumes and reputations with win tallies, but that’s just one part of the conversation.
Brady and James essentially represent two different archetypes of cult figures in sports.
James is the calculated diplomat who’s been anointed as the ambassador for his NBA peers. His success stems from god-given talent and the willingness to put himself and other players ahead of conventional restraints in sports, like loyalty to coaches, executives, and even fans.
Brady is the ruthless competitor who’s embraced his reputation as the NFL’s stoic conquerer. His success stems from a compulsive obsession with victory manifested in personal sacrifices, whether it be daily lifestyle habits or even a bigger salary.
Brady vs. James is a rivalry between two distinct philosophies that not only define approaches to sports but approaches to life.
Naomi Osaka vs. Serena Williams – A rivalry of ages
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are not just rivals who could define a generation, but they’re a rivalry between generations, and one built on fondness and respect.
Williams, 39, has been a professional tennis player longer than Osaka, 23, has been alive. Osaka once looked up to Williams as a role model, but now she looks to her as a competitor.
Osaka won her first Grand Slam title in 2018 when she defeated Williams at the US Open, but it came on a controversial call by umpire Carlos Ramos. Osaka’s victory came with a barrage of boos from the crowd, leaving her in tears, but Williams came to console the young champion in an iconic act of compassion.
Williams is in the twilight of her career but reportedly won’t retire until she wins one more Grand Slam to tie Margaret Court with 24 for the most of all time. Williams will more than likely have to go through Osaka to get there.
As the longtime face of the sport, Williams will eventually pass that title to Osaka when she does retire, but she is undoubtedly itching to beat the 23-year-old star at least one more time.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens – The young faces leading the NFL’s next generation
The Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens have never been associated as rivals. They’ve only met in the postseason once in 2011 in a forgettable Wild Card game.
But that will change over the next decade.
Mahomes and Jackson could emerge as this generation’s version of Brady and Peyton Manning, who defined the NFL in the 2000s and early 2010s.
This emerging rivalry also now has a blockbuster trade under its belt, after the Ravens sent All-Pro offensive tackle to Kansas City in exchange for four draft picks.
The early results for the winner of that trade will be determined when the two teams meet on Sunday Night Football on Sept. 19.
Mahomes and the Chiefs have the leg up in the rivalry, winning the last three contests, but their Week 2 meeting will be in Baltimore, giving Jackson a chance to get his first win over the reigning AFC champion at home.
Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia – The blockbuster(s) a decade in the making
Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia haven’t faced each other in the boxing ring yet, but the eventual hype for their first matchup is inevitable.
The two lightweights already took some shots at each other in March in a series of trash-talk tweets.
Lol, relax lil man. It’s gonna come & you know it like I know it! https://t.co/0nxZeRvr3a
The winner will be able to headline lucrative pay-per-view shows for the rest of his career and become a combat sports icon like Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Anthony Joshua, and Conor McGregor.
But the stakes won’t just be high for Garcia and Davis. Their meeting will also be a vicarious rematch between their two mentors. Davis is Floyd Mayweather’s protege, while Garcia trained under Oscar de la Hoya.
Mayweather and de la Hoya met in 2007 in the most successful box office event in combat sports history at the time. But the rematch never happened, so the boxing world will have to settle for their proteges.
New York Knicks vs. Brooklyn Nets – A media capital’s long-awaited basketball renaissance
The Knicks and Nets were a source of sports shame in New York (and New Jersey before the Nets moved to Brooklyn in 2012) for the better part of the last two decades.
But this season marked the first time that both teams made the playoffs since 2013, and this time they’re not just lame-duck playoff pretenders.
“We want Brooklyn” 🗣
Knicks fans want the Nets after their Game 2 win
Brooklyn is a super team headlined by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. The trio is making a push toward the organization’s first championship. Beyond that, the talent is there to cement a dynasty if the group stays together.
Meanwhile, the Knicks surged into the playoffs as the NBA’s biggest surprise of the season. First-year head coach Tom Thibodeau led the budding stars with Julius Randle, R.J. Barrett, and Immanuel Quickley into the playoffs.
New York has been waiting for meaningful NBA Action for years, and now a city with a crazed basketball culture will have two of the NBA’s sexiest contenders just a subway ride apart.
Brooks Koepka vs. Bryson DeChambeau – Big bucks and bitter hatred
The most heated rivalry in golf became the most memed beef on the internet when Brooks Koepka showed the world just how much he dislikes Bryson DeChambeau.
During an interview, Koepka rolled his eyes when DeChambeau walked by in his loud metal spikes. Koepka was so caught up in his loathing for DeChambeau that he lost his train of thought.
i broke down that Brooks vs Bryson clip pic.twitter.com/GziV909fOv
But behind that clip lies a heated history between two of the fastest rising figures in the sport and one that will take center stage in the next decade of professional golf.
When these two inevitably do face off the golf course again, there will be a hefty financial and emotional reward on the line.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres – David and Goliath in SoCal
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been the kings of Southern California baseball for decades, but the Padres seem done being the little brother in this matchup.
The Padres are ready to challenge the Dodgers, and they haven’t been quiet about it either.
Fernando Tatis Jr. hit three home runs against Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer in April, which prompted the young slugger to show off with various gestures as he rounded the bases. It ignited a Twitter exchange between the two players, with each referring to themselves as the other’s “daddy.”
If you need to know what pitch is coming that badly, just ask daddy nicely next time @tatis_jr . You know I ain’t scared homie. https://t.co/dVbRDjH4Tx
The Dodgers defeated the Padres in the NLDS en route to the 2020 World Series title, and this year they will try to defend their status as the big brother.
What’s even more exciting is that the core talent on both teams is under contract control for several years after this, as fans buckle in for annual pennant races, potential playoff battles, and plenty of West Coast trash talk.
Kylian Mbappe vs. Erling Haaland – The next Messi and Ronaldo
Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland have only been on the same field for 116 minutes, but their futures are intertwined whether they like it or not.
Mbappe, a forward who plays for the French club Paris Saint-Germain, and Haaland, a striker for the German club Borussia Dortmund, have been contrasted for their talent and play styles since their teen years.
For older followers, their current reputations invoke memories of Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo at similar stages in their respective careers, according to Jonathan Wilson of Sports Illustrated.
As the two get older and gain more leverage as players, they will eventually get to take the next step and join clubs that will pit them against each other regularly.
College Athletes vs. The NCAA – A billion-dollar workers’ rights movement
Draconian financial customs in college sports deprived billions of dollars to generations of student-athletes over the last century. But the days of the NCAA and college programs keeping their athletes from the money they generate could be over soon.
New laws in multiple states will soon allow college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL). And nationwide reform to let athletes in every part of the country to sign endorsement deals could be on the horizon as well.
Had a good talk with Ashley Holt and @NBCLX about the current Alston vs NCAA Supreme Court case and the potential business opportunities for student athletes and small business that could stem from NIL reform. pic.twitter.com/c4E46TcxtS
The Supreme Court and federal legislature could also soon force schools to share athletic revenue directly with athletes. That would introduce a groundbreaking shift in the dynamics of college athletics from a competitive, financial, and academic standpoint.
Negotiations between the two sides are bound to be under the magnifying glass of sports, law, and business media for years to come.
Transgender Athletes vs. Conservative Lawmakers – The next sports integration movement
The rights of transgender athletes is bound to be the most sensitive topic in sports over the next decade.
More than 30 states have introduced bills that prevent transgender athletes from playing on teams for the sex other than the one assigned at birth. Mississippi and Idaho have already enacted those laws.
Some athletes like Megan Rapinoe have advocated for complete freedom for transgender athletes to participate as the gender of their choosing. However, the dynamic still has its critics, including Caitlin Jenner, a transgender woman who was once a star US Olympic athlete under the name Bruce Jenner.
.@mpinoe was not about to let GOP Rep. Scott Franklin get away with his transphobic line of questioning about women in sports pic.twitter.com/x0lftS5Hou
It’s a debate that will involve the undertones of a civil rights movement in sports over the next several years. The debate not only signifies a divide in sports, but the quintessential divide in sociological thinking in America.