This week at SB Nation, we posited the question: who is your team's biggest rival?
Now, the Bobcats have had their fair share of contentious games against certain teams - the Lakers come to mind - but there really isn't a rivalry between the Bobcats and any one team. It's one thing to have a spacially-driven hatred of another team (Lakers vs Clippers, Spurs vs. Mavs, etc) or a hatred spurred on by historically contentious, physical and close games at the highest level over a period of time (Lakers vs Celtics, Celtics vs Knicks, Knicks vs Heat, etc) but it's completely different to play physically tough basketball against really good teams. Every team tries to do that. The Bobcats just did it really well for a span against the Lakers.
There's space to have a regional rivalry with the Atlanta Hawks, but, well, they just isn't one there. The Magic played the part of feisty foes in the past with the 2010 playoffs and some heated matches. But the playoffs wasn't a difficult sweep for Orlando and the other games had little meaning. The games haven't been particularly close nor important to instill any kind of dislike between players. Simply put, the Bobcats just haven't been good enough or important enough for long enough to cause any kind of bad blood with other teams or fanbases.
But they have caused bad blood with their own fanbase, which is why the Bobcats' biggest rival is ... themselves.
When you're the youngest child and your big brothers/sisters pick on you, that's not a rivalry in the same way that the two older siblings may have a rivalry, right? Instead, your rival becomes yourself. You challenge and compete fervently with yourself to improve. Then someday you catch up to your siblings and maybe surpass them and can compete with each other. That's what the Bobcats have been stuck in for a long time, save for the Larry Brown years.
And so they must continue to try to better themselves. They've tried the 'win-now' mode with a team short on talent and long on salary. Now the Bobcats need to challenge themselves to work harder, to scout more thoroughly, to gameplan more viciously, to understand trade and salary cap maneuvers more cunningly, to build a team better.
For now, their rival is themselves, looking to drive themselves further to best their older siblings. But someday the chips will fall like they do for other teams. Someday the Bobcats will be a contentious threat to opponents at a high level and rivalries with other teams will spring up, I have no doubt.