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Monday, June 5, 2017

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Eyes On NBA: Great NBA Duos

By @TrueGodImmortal 

Today, I wanted to take a break from NBA Finals coverage if you will, and discuss some of my favorite NBA duos. Right now, we're witnessing the growth of two players who could eventually end up as one of the greatest duos to ever do it in Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. We also see a possible legendary duo in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving becoming one of the best of this era without question as well. However, in NBA history, duos have shaped the landscape of the dominance. Let's take a look today at a few of the greatest.

*John Stockton and Karl Malone 

-Quite possibly the greatest duo to never win a championship together, these two played together for many seasons, and had great chemistry. Malone could dominate in the post and Stockton was solid from three and was the greatest passer in the NBA. They were always in the playoffs, they were always a focal point in the Western Conference, but aside from two NBA Finals trips in 1997 and 1998, the Utah Jazz duo never tasted the big stage. It's a shame that they never got a chance to win a NBA Title, but their greatness is solidified.

*LeBron James and Dwyane Wade 

-While I think this duo is a bit overrated, there's no LeBron James championships in Miami without Dwyane Wade stepping up when needed. They went to 4 straight Finals together and teamed up with Chris Bosh when all three were still basically in their prime, something we had never seen before. LeBron and Wade together was something magical on the NBA courts and with two titles together, they are an extremely successful duo.

*Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Magic Johnson 

-The Showtime Lakers were a true superteam if you think about it. There was no duo on that team more valuable than Magic and Kareem. The greatest point guard ever and arguably the greatest center ever playing together is almost unfair. With Kareem no longer in his athletic prime, he was still a tremendous post player and had the ability to stop you with blocks, pull down boards, and hit that illustrious skyhook. Magic was skilled in all aspects and young when they first teamed up, and together they would win 5 NBA Championships, and go to even more NBA Finals, making them one of the most dominant duos ever without question.

*Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant

-These two are included on this list for comparison. The truth be told, these two are extremely different players driven by different things, and while they should have had more success together, it's not a surprise that they only went to one Finals together. Injuries, lack of smart plays in clutch moments, and internal conflict makes this yet another Penny and Shaq style "what if" scenario, as Westbrook and Durant just couldn't win together like they needed to. Still, two of the greatest players to play the game today side by side with each other for as many seasons as they had together was always a joy to watch and the Thunder were a great Western Conference team because of it. Just not great enough to win championships.

*Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry 

-It's too early to really gauge their success, but what if this is the start of the next NBA Dynasty? In one season together, two of the best players in the game (no. 2 and 3 if you ask me) have gotten to the big stage and so far, both are performing well. They've went 67-15 to give the Warriors another record regular season, and in the NBA Playoffs at the moment, they have racked up 14 postseason wins, which is a NBA record as well. If both are playing together at a MVP level, this duo will be very tough to stop and the scariest thing about these two together is that they are both just entering their prime and getting better. Could Steph and KD end up with their names in the lights next to MJ and Pippen or Kobe and Shaq? Only time will tell.

*Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway 

-Aside from Stockton and Malone, and possibly Westbrook and Durant, this duo is the best to never win a title. They went to one Finals together, and perhaps if they added another piece to compete with the Bulls during the MJ return, they might have done more. However, their chemistry was just building as they ended up dividing, as Shaq and his ego, as we've seen, is too much to have a great duo together for too long. Shaq wanted to be the man and for Penny, he wanted to be the man. After a sweep by the Rockets in the 1995 Finals, and a loss in the 1996 playoffs, they were split, but this is yet another "what if" scenario.

*Tim Duncan and David Robinson 

-These two are honestly amazing and legends in their own right, and for the seasons they played together, they were able to make amazing things happen. In the era of the Lakers and another legendary duo of Kobe and Shaq, the Twin Towers managed to win two titles together and Duncan took over Robinson's role as the leader of the team. This is one duo that was essentially the passing of the torch, showing what could be accomplished when egos don't destroy greatness.

*Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen 

-Two amazing players. One playe that is the greatest NBA player in history. The other is a top 5 SF ever, probably top 3. Both in their primes. This is essentially something we've never seen before. This is why they were so successful. Jordan in his unstoppable zone, Pippen being a great scorer and a top defender, these two were just too much for the other teams.  Jordan and Pippen won 6 titles together, and had two three peats as they remain the most successful duo in the history of the modern NBA. Jordan and Pippen are the standard.

*Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal 

-The 2nd... maybe the greatest duo of all time. 4 NBA Finals in 5 seasons. Kobe and Shaq together dominated the Western Conference after a long road to perfect their formula. With Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones, the Lakers were a playoff team, but ego was getting in the way as both Kobe and Shaq were trying to get it together and win as well. However, once Van Exel and Jones were gone, Kobe and Shaq became the most dynamic duo in Lakers history (yes, even over Kareem and Magic IMO), winning three straight titles and elevating Shaq to an all time great center, maybe the greatest, and Kobe became one of the best players in the game during this time. It was as if while Kobe was finding his prime that Shaq was well into his and leaving out of it by the time their partnership ended. This is my favorite duo personally, as they showed just what dominance can be, but if they had put their personal differences aside, they might have ended up as 4 or 5 time champions.



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