The 25 Best Sidekicks in Sports History
Batman got all the love. Was Robin's name sung in the theme song?
Nope. Those lyrics are so good, though.
Was Robin a super-rich playboy like Bruce Wayne?
Nope, he was originally Dick Grayson, the 10-year-old acrobat turned orphan.
And don't get me started on the disparity in costume coolness between the two.
But Robin did make Batman's job easier, he was no slouch in the fighting department and he was another head for Batman to bounce ideas off of.
Too often, the Robins of the world are overlooked. Well, no more, my friends. Today, we honor the Robins in sport, aka The 25 Best Sidekicks in Sports History.
To the Bat Cave!
Er, to the slides, I mean...
How does this list define a sidekick?
1. Accents the superstar's abilities and makes that player better.
2. Fulfills various roles so that the superstar can concentrate on his strengths.
3. Backs up the superstar so that strategies aimed at making the star less effective won't work.
There are a lot of players that are considered sidekicks perhaps unfairly, as their talent level would suggest they were equivalent as players. A few of them will be on this list, and as talented as those players were, they will be ranked low, since they aren't sidekicks in the purest sense.
Rather, they are closer to fiiting into the dynamic-duo category, which in my opinion contains the following pairs (among many more):
Jerry West/Elgin Baylor, LeBron Wade/Dwyane Wade, Joe Montana/Jerry Rice, Mike Ditka/Mike Ditka's mustache, Bobby Orr/Phil Esposito, Peyton Manning/Marvin Harrison, Karl Malone/John Stockton, Peter Forsberg/Joe Sakic, Brian Wilson's beard/Brian Wilson.
You get the idea.
25. Kobe Bryant
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To me, this is a really tough one to include, as I have always looked upon them as a dynamic duo. Consider that Shaq didn't win a title in his early years and only won one post-Kobe with a similar player in Dwyane Wade, while Kobe has won two since the Shaq years as the lead dog.
Plus, Kobe was a big-time contributor during the three-peat, averaging 25.4 points per game during those three years to Shaq's 28.5 points per game.
But early in Kobe's career, there is no doubt it was Shaq's team, and even during the championship runs, the offense was often the most effective when it ran through Shaq.
Still, it is hard for me to label Kobe as anyone's sidekick, so he gets a lower ranking on this list.
24. Russell Westbrook
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Russell Westbrook is low on this list for one main reason—both he and Kevin Durant are young guns and haven't won anything yet. Plus, Westbrook is a stud and would be the No. 1 option on a lot of teams.
But there is no doubt that, if he remains healthy, Kevin Durant is not only going to be the top gun on the Thunder, but a top-five player in the NBA for years to come. And as good as Westbrook is, he will never have the ability of Durant.
So Westbrook goes low here, but this isn't quite a dynamic duo situation—Durant is the guy.
23. Lou Gehrig
There is only one reason why Lou Gehrig appears on this list—people reference him in sidekick terms, as he often played in the shadow of the flashier Babe Ruth and is perceived as the lesser player by many.
But consider this: When Ruth blasted 60 home runs in 1927, Gehrig batted .373 with 218 hits, 52 doubles, 18 triples, 47 home runs and 175 RBIs.
Read those numbers again. Incredible, right?
Gehrig finished his career as a .340 hitter with a .447 OBP (fifth best all-time), a .632 slugging percentage (third best all-time), 2,130 consecutive games played (second all-time), 1,888 runs scored (10th all-time), 2,721 hits, 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs (fifth all-time). He was a two-time MVP and won six World Series titles with the Yankees.
Ruth's numbers: .342 hitter with a .474 OBP (second all-time), a .690 slugging percentage (the best ever), 2,174 runs scored (fourth all-time), 2,873 hits, 714 home runs (third all-time) and 2,213 RBIs (second all-time). He was also a darn good pitcher with the Red Sox, won one MVP and won eight World Series titles (three with the Red Sox, five with the Yankees).
The legendary Ruth was the better ballplayer and certainly a larger personality. But Gehrig wasn't far behind and may be the most underrated player in baseball history. He was a perceived as a sidekick, so he had to be included, but Ruth wasn't as superior to him as people believe, so he goes low on the list.
22. Jaromir Jagr
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Good grief, look at that hair...
Eventually, Jaromir Jagr would become one of the league's most prolific scorers. But when he first broke into the league, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 1991 and 1992, the Penguins were indisputably Mario Lemieux's team.
Frankly, had Lemieux not been afflicted with so many injuries and Hodgkin's lymphoma, Jagr would have always played the sidekick despite his unbelievable talent.
Gretzky had the numbers, but for my money, Lemieux was the most effortless and fluid hockey player I have ever seen. He made plays with alarming difficulty seem easy.
21. Bob Cousy
Bob Cousy is a Hall of Fame player and he was an MVP before Bill Russell ever entered the NBA, so it is hard to call him a sidekick.
That said, those Celtics teams were clearly all about Russell, who won four MVP awards before Cousy retired (and a fifth after).
I don't care how good you are—if a guy wins five MVPs while he is your teammate, you are a sidekick.
20. Yogi Berra
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Baseball is tough when defining sidekicks, because players perform more autonomously, unlike free-flowing team games like hockey or basketball.
Yogi Berra spent his career as one of the game's greatest catchers, providing valuable support for the pitching staff of the Yankees.
But history will probably leave him overshadowed by legends such as Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, even though he was a three-time MVP and 13-time World Series champion (10 as a player, three as a coach).
19. John Taylor
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John Taylor provided the perfect counterpart to Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver ever.
Though Taylor isn't nearly the player of many others listed here, he is a sidekick in the truest sense. While Rice dominated, Taylor kept defenses honest.
He had two 1,000-yard receiving years (1989 and 1991), caught 10 touchdown passes in 1989 and was named to two Pro Bowls (1988 and 1989).
18. Terrell Davis
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Sometimes, a superstar needs a sidekick to help him finally get over the hump.
Such was the case for John Elway, who was able to lead the Broncos to three Super Bowls—all losses—before Davis joined the team in 1995. The two would each win an MVP award in the two Super Bowl victories (Davis in 1997, Elway in 1998).
Though Davis was a star at that time, there is no doubt that those teams were still led by Elway, and the renewed running game led by Davis helped Elway finally ride into the sunset a two-time champion.
17. John LeClair
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Ah, the old "Legion of Doom" line—it evokes fond memories for a Flyers fan.
It also makes one wonder what might have been had Eric Lindros—for a brief period the NHL's most dominant player—not been injury prone and constantly feuding with general manager Bobby Clarke.
LeClair was Lindros' partner in crime during those years, scoring over 50 goals in three-consecutive seasons between 1996-98, and helping Lindros lead the team to the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals (where they were swept by the Red Wings).
LeClair was a physical, goal-scoring machine, but Lindros was an MVP (1995) and had the potential to be one of the game's all-time greats. Thus, linemate LeClair earns sidekick status.
16. Chris Bosh
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They came to Miami as a threesome, but methinks history will remember LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as a dynamic duo and Chris Bosh as a sidekick.
Simply put, James and Wade are top-10—if not top-five—players in the NBA, and Bosh isn't. He is an excellent player, and the Heat would not be nearly as scary without his low-post presence, but he simply isn't in the same league as the other two.
15. Penny Hardaway
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Though the pair never won a title, Shaq and Penny formed a dynamic duo, making it to the NBA Finals in the 1994-95 season (where they were swept by the Rockets).
During that season, Hardaway averaged 20.9 points, 7.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game with a .512 field-goal percentage. Paired with Shaq's 29.3 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, Hardaway provided the perfect compliment to Shaq's interior dominance.
14. Greg Anderson
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Sometimes a sidekick helps a superstar increase their powers, however unethical it might be.
And sometimes that sidekick might be held in contempt of court for refusing to testify against that star, and serve a limited amount of time in prison.
Oh, Barry Bonds, how far you have fallen.
13. Craig James
Ah yes, "The Pony Express."
During their time at SMU, Dickerson and James were dominant, though Dickerson eventually established himself as the more elite runner of the two, finishing his senior season third in the Heisman voting despite sharing carries with James.
For his career, Dickerson finished with 4,450 rushing yards and 48 touchdowns.
James was no slouch, either, finishing with 3,743 yards and 22 touchdowns.
12. Evgeni Malkin
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When healthy, Malkin is a scoring machine, as evidenced by the 219 points he tallied in the 2008 (106 points) and 2009 (113 points) seasons.
But Sid the Kid is the man in Pittsburgh, and if forced to make the comparison, Crosby would play the role of Lemieux and Malkin that of Jagr.
This is another situation that is very close to the Dynamic Duo phenomenon, though I think if you asked 10 NHL fans if they would rather have Crosby or Malkin, I feel confident most—if not all—would choose Crosby.
11. Jeff Kent
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Sometimes the relationship between a sidekick and a superstar is, shall we say, a bit rocky.
Batting behind Bonds in the Giants lineup, Kent provided the mercurial star protection from being pitched around and flourished in the role, bashing 689 RBIs and 175 home runs during his stint with the Giants. He also won the 2000 NL MVP.
This wasn't quite a dynamic-duo situation, however—Bonds won the next two MVP awards during their time as teammates, en route to earning four straight, making it seven total for his career. In the history books, Kent will never be viewed in the same light as Bonds.
And for heaven's sake, Bonds on steroids was like Peter Parker transforming into Venom. He went from being an agile and formidable superhero in Spider-Man to a vicious, remarkably powerful one in Venom. But unlike Bonds, Parker separated from the Symbiote (read: steroids) before it tarnished his legacy as Spider-Man.
10. Reggie Wayne
Before he became Peyton Manning's No. 1 option, Wayne was the league's best No. 2 receiver behind Marvin Harrison.
Eventually, the two would become equals (giving nightmares fits), but while Harrison was in his prime, Wayne was just entering the league. Drafted in 2001, Wayne wouldn't crack 1,000 receiving yards until his fourth season, finishing with 77 catches for 1,210 yards and 12 touchdowns, essentially ending any notions that he was Harrison's sidekick.
9. Pau Gasol
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Kobe Bryant's NBA Finals appearances and wins after Shaq was traded by the Lakers: Zero appearances, zero titles.
Kobe Bryant's NBA Finals appearances and wins since Pau Gasol was acquired by the Lakers: Three appearances, two titles.
Kobe is the unquestioned No. 1 guy, and Pau is the sidekick his ego always needed.
8. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili
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While Tim Duncan is the unquestioned leader of the Spurs (sort of boring to watch) dynasty, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili played the part of the right and left-hand men. Between 2003-07, the Spurs won three titles, all in alternating years (2003, 2005, 2007).
Duncan should go down in NBA history as the greatest power forward ever, and Parker and Ginobili should go down as two of the better sidekicks in NBA history.
7. Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders? When was Barry Sanders a sidekick? You must be crazy!
While it is true that I am crazy, Sanders spent his first two seasons at Oklahoma State as a backup to All-American Thurman Thomas. During those two years, Sanders rushed for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns; nothing to sneeze about.
But consider this: The following season, Sanders rushed for 2,628 yards and 37 touchdowns, averaging a ridiculous 7.6 yards per carry. It is, without question, the greatest season in college football history.
Robin became Batman, though his name was Barry Sanders.
6. Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay
Known as "The Production Line," Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay joined Gordie Howe to form one of hockey's greatest lines ever assembled. The three would finish 1-2-3 in league scoring in 1950, with Lindsay winning the crown.
But after 1950, Howe became the dominant scorer, and the line was broken up in 1952 when Abel was traded.
At the time, the two may not have been considered sidekicks to Howe, though given Howe's legendary career, they may be remembered in those terms.
5. Mark Messier
While Jari Kurri joined Wayne Gretzky as elite goalscorers, Messier provided the Oilers dynasty with leadership, passion and grit and helped lead them to five Stanley Cups between 1984-90.
That team was so full of talent, it is hard to pick a sidekick. With Gretzky and Kurri renowned as high-scoring forwards, and Coffey one of the NHL's best defensemen, Messier filled in the cracks.
I equate him to Beast from The X-Men—not one of the coolest characters, but valuable for his leadership and toughness.
4. Joe Dumars
Dumars joined Isiah Thomas to form one of the best backcourts in NBA history, combining to win back-to-back titles in the 1989 and 1990 seasons.
Dumars was versatile enough to play either the point or shooting guard positions, he was one of the game's best defenders and has since been enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame.
But Thomas is one of the best point guards in NBA history and was named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players. That relegates Dumars to sidekick status.
3. James Worthy
Though James Worthy has earned the distinction of being one of the game's 50 greatest players, he was nonetheless the sidekick for two of the game's greatest stars in its history, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
As an aging Abdul-Jabbar became less effective in the late '80s, Worthy became the clear No. 2 option on the Lakers.
With the athleticism to run the court in the Lakers "Showtime" offense and the ability to play above the rim, Worthy was the perfect small forward for the Lakers during Magic's time there.
Though Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are legends, Worthy is one of the game's greatest sidekicks and one of its greatest players, period.
2. Kevin McHale
Honestly, the only difference in the description between McHale and Worthy is that McHale was a power forward and played for the Celtics. And you could probably add Robert Parish in the sidekick role, as history will always suggest Larry Bird was the ultimate superstar of the group.
The three combined to form the greatest frontline in NBA history and won three championships in the '80s. Were Bird not one of the game's greatest legends, you couldn't call either McHale or Parish a sidekick.
But given Bird's stature, the sidekick label sticks.
1. Scottie Pippen
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Was there ever any doubt?
I wouldn't argue with you if you said McHale, Parish or Worthy were better basketball players, though Pippen is one of the 50 greatest to ever play.
But Pippen simply stands as sports' most consummate sidekick. He was the perfect complement to Jordan during their run of six titles in eight seasons during the '90s.
When Jordan needed to dominate a game, Pippen got out of the way. He stands as one of the best defenders ever. He was versatile enough as a scorer to compliment Jordan, but could also take over a game if needed to.
To me, Pippen is the greatest sidekick that ever lived, given his talent and the full measure to which he complemented Jordan.
But now I suspect it is time for the arguments to begin. Be sure to share your views in the comments!