NBA's Greatest Duos of All Time: How Do They Stack Up?

Marcel SmithSenior Analyst IOctober 21, 2008

Here are the greatest duos in NBA history who played a minimum of five seasons together:


10. John Stockton & Karl Malone (Utah Jazz)

Together, Stockton and Malone formed one of the best duos ever as they fit perfect together. Stockton was perfect for Malone as he was superb at giving him the ball at the right place at the right place, while Malone was perfect for Stockton as he was perfect in finishing all of the passes he received.

They would've been higher on this list, but despite their great statistics they could never win a title together in Utah, falling short twice in the NBA Finals to the Chicago Bulls. They played with each other for 18 consecutive seasons from the mid '80s until the early 2000s.


9. Wilt Chamberlain & Jerry West (Los Angeles Lakers)

Together, Wilt and West won one championship ad made it to the NBA finals three times in their brief five years together from the late '60s to the early mid '70s. They won the championship in the 1971-1972 season as they led the Lakers to a then record 69 games in the regular season and a record that still stands today as they won 33 consecutive games.

Together, they advanced to the Finals two other times in the 1968-1969 season when they lost to the Celtics in seven games and when they lost to the New York Knicks the following season in another well fought seven game series. The duo ended as West and Chamberlain each retired in the early '70s.


8. Isiah Thomas & Joe Dumars (Detroit Pistons)

Isiah and Dumars played with each other for nine seasons as members of the "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons of the late '80s and early '90s. They won back to back championships together in the 1988-1989 and 1989-1990 seasons. Each of them won a Finals MVP award as Dumars won the 1989 Finals MVP and Isiah won the 1990 Finals MVP.

Isiah and Dumars formed one of the greatest backcourts in the history of the league as Isiah is one of the 3-4 greatest point guards of all time, while Dumars was one of the best offensive and defensive guards of all time. The duo ended after the 1993-1994 season after Isiah retired.


7. Walt Frazier & Willis Reed (New York Knicks)

Frazier and Reed played with each other for seven consecutive seasons from the mid 60's until the early '70s as members of the Knicks. Together, they won two championships together (the only two championships in Knicks history) in the 1969-1970 and 1972-1973 seasons, with both victories coming over the Lakers in the Finals.

Frazier and Reed were one of the greatest point guard - center duos as Frazier was excellent at both ends of the floor as well as Reed, who was a great offensive player and a good defensive player. Reed won both of the Finals MVP awards each time the Knicks won the championship as he played great against Chamberlain and the Lakers each time.


6. Tim Duncan & David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs)

Duncan and Robinson played with each other for seven consecutive seasons from the mid 90's until the mid 2000's. Together, they won two championships. They won their first championship in the short 1998-1999 season due to the lockout and they won their other in the 2002-2003 season as they ended the Lakers' bid for four straight championships. In both Finals, Duncan won the Finals MVP award.

Duncan and Robinson formed arguably the greatest big man duo which created a dominant twin tower. Duncan is considered by many, including myself, to be the greatest power forward of all time, while Robinson is one of the 6-7 greatest centers in the league's history.

5. Larry Bird & Kevin McHale (Boston Celtics)

Bird and McHale played with each other for twelve consecutive seasons throughout the 80's and into the early '90s. Bird and McHale were two of the members of the greatest frontcourt of all time as the Celtics had Bird at small forward, McHale at power forward and Parrish at center. Together, they won three championships.

They won the championship in 1981, 1984 and 1986, with Bird winning the Finals MVP award in the 1984 and 1986 Finals. They were great compliments to each other as Bird fit well with McHale as Bird was a fantastic passer along with all of the other skills he had. Bird is one of the greatest players ever, while McHale is one of the greatest power forwards ever.


4. Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O'Neal (Los Angeles Lakers)

Kobe and Shaq played with each other for eight consecutive seasons from the mid 90' until the early 2000s. Together, they won three consecutive championships from the 1999-2000 season through the 2001-2002 season. Shaq won each of the Finals MVP awards as the Lakers first beat the Pacers in six games, then the 76ers in five games and finally the Nets in a sweep to cap their three peat.

Shaq and Kobe at the time were arguably the two best players in the league and they dominated the league during the period when they got along with each other. They also advanced to the Finals another time in the 2003-2004 season, but they lost in the Finals in five games to the huge underdog Pistons even though the Lakers also had Gary Payton and Karl Malone, whom they added the past offseason.


3. Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls)

Jordan and Pippen played with each other for nine seasons from the late 80's until the late '90s. Together, they led the Bulls to 6 championships, in two different sets of three peats. They won their first championship together in the 1990-1991 season and they won their last championship in the 1997-1998 as they defeated the Jazz in six games.

Jordan won all of the Finals MVP awards. Jordan and Pippen were great because both of them were excellent at both ends of the floor. Jordan is one of the greatest offensive players and Pippen was also a fantastic all around offensive player. Defensively, they were both selected to double digit All NBA defensive teams.


2. Bill Russell & Bob Cousy (Boston Celtics)

Russell and Cousy were the first dominant duo in the league as they led the Celtics to an amazing eight championships in the '50s and '60s. Russell is one of the greatest big man to have ever played, especially defensively, while Cousy was the game's first great point guard as he was a good scorer and a fantastic passer.

Even though the Celtics had several other great players on those teams, the main two players were always Russell and Cousy. Russell was the anchor of the defense and a solid offensive player, while Cousy got everyone into the offense and got everyone involved as he made his teammates better.


1. Magic Johnson & Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Los Angeles Lakers)

In my opinion, Magic and Kareem are the two greatest players of all time. They played with each other for ten seasons in the '80s, advancing to the NBA Finals an astounding eight times while winning five championships. Magic won three of the Finals MVP awards, while Kareem won one Finals MVP. (Worthy won the other one.)

Magic and Kareem were as dominant as any duo as they fit perfectly together. Magic was the great passer who pushed up the tempo and got everyone involved, while Kareem was the low post option who was heavily depended on when the Lakers were in their halfcourt offense. They were both great, but most importantly they were both extremely clutch as they each had several legendary performances in the postseason.


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