Championship rematches across sports


The Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers are set to meet in the College Football Playoff for the fourth consecutive season when they take the field for the CFP National Championship at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, on Monday (8 p.m. ET on ESPN).

The Tide and Tigers previously tangled for the championship in 2016 and 2017 and also faced off in the semifinals in 2018. Alabama took home the trophy in 2016 with a 45-40 win, while Clemson roared back for the title in 2017 with a 35-31 victory. In last season’s semifinal, Alabama came out on top 24-6 on its way to the national championship.

As we prepare for another epic battle, let’s take a look back at some rematches in other sports.


Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

The Warriors and Cavaliers faced off in the NBA Finals each year from 2015 to 2018, marking the first time the same two teams have met for the title in four consecutive seasons. Stephen Curry and the Warriors took home the championship in 2015, 2017 and 2018, while LeBron James and the Cavs won it all in 2016. After the 2018 season, James left Cleveland for the Lakers, almost certainly putting an end to the Warriors-Cavs streak.

Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs: 2013, 2014

The Heat and Spurs met in back-to-back NBA Finals in 2013 and 2014. James and the Heat won the first meeting in seven games, giving Miami its second straight title and dealing San Antonio its first Finals defeat. The Spurs, led by Kawhi Leonard, came back to take the championship the following season in five games, denying the Heat a three-peat.

Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz: 1997, 1998

The Bulls defeated the Jazz in the NBA Finals in 1997 and again in 1998 for their third consecutive championship. The Bulls beat the Seattle SuperSonics for the title in 1996. Chicago sealed both series against Karl Malone, John Stockton and the Jazz with winning shots in Game 6, by Steve Kerr in ’97 and the following year by Michael Jordan, who was named Finals MVP each year from 1996 to ’98.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons: 1988, 1989

James Worthy, Magic Johnson and the Lakers defeated the Pistons in seven games for the 1988 NBA championship, their second straight title. The two teams met again in 1989, and Joe Dumars and the Pistons avenged their loss the previous year with a sweep of the Lakers to claim the title and deny L.A. a three-peat. Detroit went on to win back-to-back titles of its own, beating the Portland Trail Blazers the following season in the Finals.

Lakers vs. Boston Celtics: 1984, 1985

In the 1984 and 1985 Finals, the Lakers and Celtics met for the title for the first time since 1969. Larry Bird and the Celtics took care of business in seven games in 1984. After losing the first game in the 1985 Finals by 34 points, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and the Lakers roared back in six games for the championship. The Lakers beat the Celtics again in 1987, winning in six games.

Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers: 1982, 1983

The Lakers and 76ers faced off in the 1982 and 1983 Finals after having previously met in the 1980 Finals (won by the Lakers in six games). In 1982, the Lakers, led by Magic Johnson, once again defeated the 76ers in six games. After the ’82 season, Philadelphia acquired Moses Malone, who was named Finals MVP in 1983, as the 76ers swept the Lakers for the NBA championship.

Other rematches of note: Washington Bullets vs. Seattle SuperSonics, 1978 and 1979; New York Knicks vs. Lakers, 1972 and 1973


Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills: 1992, 1993

In the only Super Bowl rematch in NFL history, the Cowboys and Bills faced off after the 1992 and 1993 seasons, with the Cowboys coming out victorious on both occasions. Led by Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, Dallas won Super Bowl XXVII, 52-17, and Super Bowl XXVIII, 30-13. Meanwhile, the Bills suffered their third and fourth consecutive losses in the Super Bowl.

Other rematches of note: Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants, 1961 and 1962; Baltimore Colts vs. Giants, 1958 and 1959


Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: 2008, 2009

The Red Wings and Penguins faced off for the Stanley Cup in 2008 and 2009, the first time since 2003 that two United States-based teams met in the final. The Red Wings defeated the Penguins in six games in 2008 and Henrik Zetterberg won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP. Pittsburgh came back in 2009 to beat Detroit in seven games, with Evgeni Malkin earning MVP honors.

Edmonton Oilers vs. New York Islanders: 1983, 1984

Led by Billy Smith, the Islanders swept the Oilers in 1983 for their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. The Oilers bounced back the following season as the two teams met again for the Stanley Cup in 1984. This time, it was Edmonton coming away victorious in five games, with Mark Messier taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Other rematches of note: Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins, 1977 and 1978; Canadiens vs. St. Louis Blues, 1968 and 1969


United States vs. Japan: 2011, 2015

The United States and Japan faced off in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in both 2011 and 2015. In 2011 in Germany, Japan won 3-1 on a penalty shootout after a 2-2 tie, including extra time. Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach scored goals during regular time for the U.S., but only Wambach converted in the shootout. In 2015 in Canada, the United States scored four goals in the first 16 minutes, including three by Carli Lloyd, on the way to a 5-2 win. Lloyd was the first to record a hat trick in a Women’s World Cup final.

Argentina vs. West Germany: 1986, 1990

Diego Maradona led Argentina to win its second (and last) World Cup in Mexico City in 1986, defeating West Germany 3-2 on a goal by Jorge Burruchaga in the 84th minute. West Germany won the rematch four years later in Italy 1-0 on a penalty by Andreas Brehme in the 85th minute.

Other rematches of note in MLS: Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders, 2016 and 2017; LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo, 2011 and 2012


Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti: 2002, 2003

Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti first battled in May 2002, with Ward knocking down Gatti in the ninth round and winning a majority decision in a wild fight. They met again in November 2002, with Gatti coming out on top in another crazy bout. The two faced off for a third straight time in 2003, and Ward landed a sixth-round knockdown of Gatti, but Gatti came back and won by unanimous decision. Both boxers were taken to the hospital for injuries they suffered during the back-and-forth match.

Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson: 1996, 1997

Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson fought for the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship in 1996 in the first fight between the two. Holyfield landed punches, while Tyson missed, and eventually Holyfield pulled off the upset of Tyson. They met again in 1997 for the heavyweight championship. After Holyfield dominated early, Tyson bit off part of Holyfield’s ear and was disqualified, giving Holyfield the win and allowing him to remain the heavyweight champion.

Other rematches of note: Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston, 1964 and 1965; Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran, 1980


Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer: 2006, 2007, 2008

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have played each other 38 times over the years, and several of those have been rematches. In 2006, they met in the French Open final and then a month later in the Wimbledon final. Nadal won the French Open, while Federer took home his fourth straight Wimbledon title. In 2007, Nadal again won the French Open and Federer was victorious at Wimbledon. In 2008, Nadal defeated Federer in both the French Open and Wimbledon finals, with the latter the longest final in Wimbledon history.

Serena Williams vs. Venus Williams: 2002, 2003

Serena Williams and Venus Williams have played each other 30 times in professional tournaments and met in four consecutive Grand Slam finals, the only two women to do so during the open era, from 2002 to 2003. Serena beat her sister in all four of those finals — the French Open, Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open. Serena leads their head-to-head matches overall, 18-12.

Other rematches of note: Novak Djokovic vs. Federer, 2015; Steffi Graf vs. Monica Seles, 1992

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