clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Celebrating the greatest relationships in sports on Valentine’s Day

We love to celebrate love.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Getty Images

Who doesn’t love a holiday based on romantic guilt and manufactured consumerism? That’s right, Valentine’s Day is back — and it’s the reason every grocery store will be slammed at 5:15 p.m. as confused lovers wander around the flower section hastily trying to choose the right bouquet.

Too much is made of Valentine’s Day being specifically about romance. Kids in elementary school have it right. It’s an opportunity to spread platonic love too, and give everyone a temporary Spongebob tattoo. The world of sports is full of league-defining relationships. Some of these last for decades, others have rocky roads along the way — but ultimately it’s about two or more people coming together to achieve something more than themselves.

Now look, sure we could give you actual couples in sports or go through some incredible past pairings like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, or Karl Malone and John Stockton — but we all know about those guys. Let’s dig a little deeper.

These are some of the greatest relationships in sporting history, and we really hope they at least send a text message to each other today so they can relive their once-firey sporting partnership.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick

AFC Wild Card: Tennesee Titans Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

When Tom Brady departed the chilly environs of New England for the sunny Florida shores, it touched off rampant speculation about the relationship between the quarterback and his former head coach, as well as a deluge of think pieces about whether the Patriots dynasty was due more to the QB, or the HC.

In reality, that relationship may be stronger than ever, and rumors of a fracture between the two seem ill advised. Belichick recently talked at length about Brady’s brilliance, on Brady’s own podcast. For his part, Brady opened up about Belichick and their relationship, calling the questions over who was more responsible for New England’s success “stupid.”

Maybe it is true after all: Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Mark Schofield

Cristiano Ronaldo and himself


The old saying goes that you can’t love someone until you love yourself. Cristiano Rolando embodies this ideal. Nobody loves themselves more than Ronaldo, and now he gets to keep the affair going in Saudi Arabia where he’ll never let it end.

It’s beautiful, really.

— James Dator

Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez

Oracle Red Bull Racing Home Run Event Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images for Oracle Red Bull Racing

At first blush, you might think everything is rosy over at Red Bull. Max Verstappen is a two-time Drivers’ Champion, and the team secured their first Constructors’ Championship since 2013 last year, bringing to an end an impressive run from Mercedes. Beyond that, they just reached an agreement to work with Ford starting in the 2026 season.

Yet, there might be simmering tension between Verstappen and Red Bull’s other driver, Sergio Pérez.

Near the end of last season, at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Verstappen was given a command from pit lane to move aside and let Pérez pass near the end of the race. Verstappen had already secured the Drivers’ Championship by that point in the season, while Pérez was locked in a battle for second place with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen, however, ignored the request. As the race drew to a close he told his team: “I told you already last summer. You guys don’t ask that again to me, ok? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it.”

Following the race, Pérez aired his frustrations. “I don’t understand why he didn’t give me the position, even with everything I have done for him. If he has two titles, it’s because of my help!” Perez said.

The incident forced the team to hold a session to clear the air, and everyone said all the right things in New York City recently when the team broke cover on their RB19 for the upcoming season. So things between the two Red Bull drivers might be fine for now.

But let’s wait to see what happens when they return to the track.

Mark Schofield

Jim Irsay and Jeff Saturday

Jim Irsay, owner, and new interim head coach Jeff Saturday have a laugh on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, during a press conference at the Colts headquarters in Indianapolis. Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

The best relationships feature partners who are willing to work with the other’s flaws and help them become better. But who’s to criticize a partnership where you just overlook their flaws entirely and charge forward with reckless abandon? I’m pretty sure that’s how some of the great tragic relationships in literary history reached a certain point.

Colts owner Jim Irsay decided to fire head coach Frank Reich in early November. During the game ahead of Reich’s dismissal, Irsay reportedly called Saturday to vent about the game. They spoke multiple times that day and by the end of the day, Irsay was suggesting Saturday leave his job as an ESPN analyst and take over as interim head coach.

Saturday had zero NFL or college coaching experience, and had only coached at the high school level. But that didn’t stop Irsay from moving forward with it. Saturday acknowledged it could fail and he’d be fine stepping aside if it didn’t work out.

The Colts won Saturday’s debut the next week, beating the Raiders 25-20 in Las Vegas. Irsay posted a victory tweet and all seemed well. Of course, the Colts then proceeded to lose their final seven games and Saturday looked entirely outmatched as a head coach.

One would have thought that would be the end of it and the Colts would move on. While Irsay did eventually hire Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, it didn’t stop Irsay from interviewing Saturday TWICE in spite of how unqualified he was for the job. Find yourself a partner like that.

— David Fucillo

Roger Goodell and the Dark Lord himself

Getty Images

You can pick whatever version of the “Dark Lord” appeals to you really. Look, it’s impossible to be as hated as Roger Goodell and relish in it the way Goodell does, unless he’s being advised by a dark hand.

Whether it’s getting booed at the draft, of booed at the Super Bowl, or being booed at a state fair, or presumably being booed during a visit to a high school — Goodell feeds off this energy and it only makes him more powerful.

What a power couple.

— James Dator

Damian Lillard and The Grind

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers

In an era where NBA players request trades and switch teams the moment even the slightest inconvenience happens, there is one man that simply refuses to run from the challenge of leading his team to the mountaintop, even though he probably should have years ago.

That man is Damian Lillard and he loves the grind more than any superstar we have seen in recent memory. He’s given the Portland Trailblazers everything he possibly could, but they still find themselves 11th in the Western Conference and fighting desperately for a play-in spot and the right to get beatdown in the first round.

Despite this, have you heard Dame complain? No.

Have you seen him request a trade? No.

He just goes out there, busts a few players’ asses, and is perfectly content to keep doing it with the Trailblazers no matter the outcome.

Damian Lillard loves the grind more than anyone else in the NBA.

We just wish that love was being reciprocated.

— Jacolby Hart

Aaron Rodgers and Pat McAfee

Aaron Rodgers and sitting in the dark

Aaron Rodgers and Ayahuasca

Aaron Rodgers and weird stuff

Aaron Rodgers and the section of Barnes & Noble with books about witchcraft

Aaron Rodgers and football