Top 8 NBA Duos of All Time

Honorable Mentions:

Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudamire, Julius Erving and Moses Malone, and Russ and KD. 

#8: Larry Bird and Kevin McHale

These two formed the only duo that seemed to slow down the ‘80s Lakers. They led the Celtics to three championships and countless battles with the Lakers. The Celtics faced off against the Lakers three times in the finals during the ’80s and won once. They went to the finals 5 times in total and were a dominant presence almost every year. Bird is known as one of the all-time three-point shooters and a great slasher. He also had one of the highest game IQs ever and was a great defender.

Kevin McHale excelled in the paint with great footwork and finesse. McHale was an effective scorer, shooting 55.4% from the field during his career, as well as an underrated defender who used his length to his advantage in the post. Bird and McHale played with each other for twelve years and made it to the playoffs each year. Most don’t think of these two when it comes to basketball duos, but their play together was of legendary proportions. It might not all be in the stats but watch a game and you’ll see it in the tape.

#7: Tim Duncan and Tony Parker

These two players do not get as nearly as much recognition for how much they accomplished. This is probably because both like to stay away from the crowds and keep to themselves. but in that silence, they won four NBA Championships and made the playoffs every year together. They created a culture in San Antonio that demanded wins and they delivered. Tim Duncan was a two-time league MVP and is known as one of the greatest power forwards of all time.

Tony Parker supported Duncan with a steady average of 16 PPG and 6 APG during his time as a Spur. Together they have the highest all-time winning percentage with their worst regular season being 50-32 (which is a winning percentage of 61%). They both spent over 15 years together as Spurs and formed a dynasty. Not many other duos can say that. 

#6: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson

Even if you hate the Warriors you still have to admire greatness. The Splash Brothers took the NBA by storm the latter half of the decade (except this season, but they’re injured). Since Steve Kerr became their coach in the 2014-2015 season, they have won three NBA titles together and gone to the finals each year (except this season, but once again they’re injured). They also hold an impressive win percentage of 79% (not counting this season because once again they are both injured).

The Splash Brothers also helped the Warriors break the record for the best regular-season record, with 73 wins and only 9 losses. Steph Curry has been a two-time league MVP and has broken countless shooting records, while Klay has been the elite defender and elite shooter with averages of 20 points and 42% from three. This dynamic duo has reshaped the league to focus more on the 3-point shot, changing the way basketball is played forever, and what’s scarier is that they aren’t done yet).

#5: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal

Kobe and Shaq are one of the biggest what-ifs in NBA history. They played 8 seasons together and went to 4 finals, winning 3. They were both great players at the time, but once their relationship was beyond repair, one had to go. Shaq was traded to the Heat and that was the end. Kobe was a young star and Shaq was entering his prime when they teamed up and once Shaq left, the roles had changed.

Kobe was the star entering his prime and Shaq was an aging veteran (still dominant but aging). Would those two players still have won a title if Shaq didn’t leave? No one will know, but it’s safe to say many would have liked to see it happen. Shaq and Kobe are both Hall of Famers and have had legendary careers. I don’t need to bring up their stats or accolades to show you their greatness. It was in their play and on-court chemistry.

#4: John Stockton and Karl Malone

They are the greatest duo of all time that never won a title. They perfected the pick and roll offense, but that wasn’t enough to beat a Michael Jordan-led Bulls. Stockton and Malone’s chemistry was second to none, even though Stockton’s assist numbers are unknown because they played 18 seasons together, which is roughly 1476 games together (not counting playoffs or injuries).

They are also two Hall of Fame players in their own right. Stockton has the most assists and steals of all time. Malone was known for being an offensive threat who had a nasty post-game. He is second in points scored all-time (only behind Kareem). They both went to countless all-star teams and brought the Jazz to relevance during the ‘90s. But sadly, they couldn’t bring home a championship to symbolize their success. 

#3: Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

This duo was unstoppable during the ‘80s, bringing the Lakers 5 of their titles from a grand total of 8 finals. Kareem dominated with his classic skyhook, while Magic used his playmaking ability to generate great offense. Kareem is known as one of the best centers and also leads the NBA in most points all-time, and Magic is known as the greatest point guard of all time as well as one of the greatest passers ever.

They were the two centerpieces of a dominant team put together by Pat Riley. During the ‘80s basketball was struggling to bring in fans, but with the help of the Showtime Lakers and their rivalry with the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics, they saved basketball. Magic and Kareem were two of the biggest names at the time, and because of their popularity and dominance, they saved the NBA.

#2: Bob Cousy and Bill Russell

Bill Russell and Bob Cousy are the most successful duo on this list with making it to the finals every year and coming out with a record of 6-1. Their coach Red Auerbach introduced the fastbreak into the league, and with Russell’s ability to rebound and Cousy’s speed, they made a fastbreak style of offense that was almost indefensible. When Bill Russell won his sixth championship (last with Cousy) he went to the podium during a team dinner and said, “You meet very few men in life like Bob Cousy. I consider Cousy like a brother,”.

Russell and Cousy were close on the court but off there were strains. Cousy recounts this in an interview with Gary Waleik and expresses his admiration for Russell as well as regret for not supporting Russell and his racial protest. Cousy felt like he could have done more to support his teammate, but years of silence led to a “kind of love-hate relationship” from Cousy’s point of view. But even with that, both players respected each other and are legends who started a legendary dynasty.

#1: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

This duo needs no introduction, as they are arguably the most successful duo on this list. While playing together for ten years, they won six finals and didn’t lose a single one. Michael Jordan is recognized as the greatest player of all time. He shaped basketball during the ’90s and brought millions of fans to the sport. Scottie Pippen was Jordan’s Robin but was also a perennial All-Star talent himself with elite defense and an all-around display of offensive talent.

They led the Bulls to the second-best regular-season record in NBA history, going 72-10 by defeating teams like the Bad Boy Pistons, a Patrick Ewing led Knicks team, and a Jazz team led by John Stockton and Karl Malone. This duo defeated countless teams and also made up to key players on the infamous 1992 Dream Team. Together, they make up 6 championships, 18 All-NBA, 19 All-Defensive teams, and 21 All-Star appearances. With countless other accolades, this duo has proven itself as the best one-two punch on offense and defense.

 

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