BASN’s All-Time Favorite Combos

By Eric Williams, BASN Contributor
Updated: May 24, 2008

PHILADELPHIA (BASN) — With the LeBron circus finally winding down this week, there is no better time than now to look back through the annals of NBA history to see which two players combined to form the greatest duos of all-time.

Some of these duos may have been one-hit wonders while others were perennial title contenders and winners. One thing each of these duos has in common, is the fact that they were among the best of all-time during their respective eras in the NBA.

Without further delay, here is a look at the top dozen duos in NBA history.

12. Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Milwaukee Bucks

I really don’t care that this pair combined for just one championship in Abdul-Jabbar’s second season with the Milwaukee Bucks, the fact of the matter is that, for one special season, Robertson and Abdul-Jabbar combined to form what may possibly be the greatest single-season duo of all-time. The ‘Big O’ and ‘Kareem’ can each lay a claim to the title of ‘Greatest Player of All-time’ if you ask me.

11. Moses Malone and Julius Erving – Philadelphia 76ers

Malone joined the Philadelphia 76ers for the 1982-83 season and the Sixers, who already had Julius “Dr. J. ” Erving on their roster and the Sixers promptly unfurled one of the greatest seasons – and postseasons – in NBA history, going on to win the NBA title that season, (the franchise’s last ironically). No, they weren’t paired together for very long, but for one magical season, two of the top ten players of all-time at their respective positions, gave the league and its fans something very special to remember.

10. Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon – Houston Rockets

I know these two guys teamed up to win their championship while Michael Jordan was retired and playing semi-pro baseball, but the fact of the matter is that “The Dream” capitalized on Jordan’s absence not once, but in consecutive seasons (the second coming with “The Glide”), while no one else did. Call me crazy, but that has to count for something.

9. Walt Frazier and Willis Reed – New York Knicks

Frazier and Reed were just two pieces of the New York Knicks championship-winning teams of the 1970s that were littered with talented, but unselfish players who only cared about winning, but none, more so than Reed and Frazier, who were each, two of the best defensive players ever at their respective positions. While these guys may not be remembered as much individually for their contributions to the game, (Frazier is, Reed isn’t) there is no doubting what these two players were able to accomplish together.

8. Tim Duncan and David Robinson – San Antonio Spurs

Duncan, the greatest power forward of all-time in my estimation, and Robinson, one of the top 10 centers to ever play the game, led the Spurs to two championship titles together with Duncan coming in towards the latter part of Robinson’s fantastic career. Still, these two players combined to give the Spurs the best defensive tandem in the league during their time together and will each be remembered as two of the classiest – and most fundamentally proficient – players in NBA history.

7. Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars – Detroit Pistons

While Thomas and Dumars certainly had some help in winning their two consecutive championships, (and nearly three) with the Detroit Pistons, in the form of former teammates ‘Bad Boys’ Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn, it was the terrific backcourt combination of Thomas and Dumars that got the job done at the offensive end of the floor whenever the Pistons needed a big basket. This pair may not get the ‘star recognition’ of some of the other duos on this list, but Dumars and Thomas were highly effective

6. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal – Los Angeles Lakers

Yes, both of these guys were, (still are?) egotistical, selfish little whiners most of the time, but the fact of the matter is that, the once, unstoppable O’Neal, and the still relentless Bryant, combined to win three consecutive championships throughout their bickering years together with the Los Angeles Lakers before finally foolishly calling it quits. No matter what you think of either player, each is top-10 all-time player at their respective position, and in the case of Bryant, a top-five resident at shooting guard.

5. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale – Boston Celtics

Bird is the greatest small forward to ever play the game in my mind, (though it’s a very close call) and McHale is one of the top five power forwards of all-time. While Bird and McHale never really got along off the court and were generally fairly distant with each other, on the basketball court, these two guys made sweet music, complimenting each other with a unique set of offensive skills that helped the Boston Celtics win three championship during their time together.

4. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Los Angeles Lakers

Let’s see … Johnson is recognized as the greatest point guard in NBA history, while Abdul-Jabbar was arguably the greatest center of all-time and is the greatest scorer in league history. This pair combined for five NBA titles during their time together with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, beginning in Johnson’s rookie season in 1980 – and is undeniably one of the greatest pair of teammates to ever play the game together.

3. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen – Chicago Bulls

Jordan and Pippen, each perennial all-stars – and two of the best defensive players of all-time at their respective positions – combined for six NBA championships together, though it was Jordan who was clearly the more aggressive and vocal leader of the two. Though I’m not much of a Pippen fan at all, particularly after he pulled his selfish ‘I-don’t wanna’ play and I’m not a team leader’ act after Jordan briefly retired, I have no choice but to rank these two players here, simply because of their immense accomplishments, together, (six NBA titles) most, of which were accomplished because of Jordan, a player many feel is the greatest of all-time.

2. Bill Russell and Sam Jones – Boston Celtics

I don’t care what anyone else says, I fully believe that Russell and Jones formed the NBA’s second-greatest duo of all-time, combining for a whopping 10 championships, (that’s right, ten!) during their time together in Boston and setting the all-time record for championships won by two teammates on the same team, though Jones contributed little during his first two seasons). Russell, the game’s ultimate winner, led the Celtics by controlling the game at the defensive end of the floor, while Jones was arguably the league’s best ‘clutch’ player, perennially increasing his scoring averages and field goal shooting percentage east postseason. Where Cousy left off, Jones more than picked up, combining with Russell to give the Celtics the league’s best duo for another six seasons – and five NBA championships – following Cousy’s retirement in 1963.

1. Bill Russell and Bob Cousy – Boston Celtics

Russell and Cousy played six seasons together with the Boston Celtics with Cousy already being an established veteran when Russell entered the league as a rookie in 1956-57 during his seventh NBA season. All the two Hall of Famers and perennial all-stars did, was lead the Celtics to their first six NBA championships in what would become the league’s greatest dynasty, with 11 championship titles in 13 seasons. Simply put, Russell and Cousy combined to form the greatest duo in NBA history.

Honorable Mention:

Jerry West and Elgin Baylor – Los Angeles Lakers

West, now remembered by young players and fans as the NBA’s ‘logo’ was one of the greatest guards – at either backcourt position – to ever play the game and Baylor is one of the top five small forwards in NBA history, (and some say the best). Unfortunately, these two players, for a multitude of reasons, only managed to bring the Lakers one championship during their time together in Los Angeles and that was with the help of center Wilt Chamberlain.

John Stockton and Karl Malone – Utah Jazz

It really hurt me to put these two Hall-of-Famers way down here, but the fact of the matter is that, two of the top five players of all-time at their respective positions never got their stated goal of winning an NBA title accomplished. Yes, I know that Michael Jordan stopped a lot of great players from ever winning an NBA title, including Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller, but the fact of the matter is that, of the matter is that neither of those two players ever had a Hall of Fame teammate to play with. While Malone filled up the stat sheet at the offensive end of the floor, defense was little more than a passing fancy for the ‘mailman’ which is why the Utah Jazz never won a title during their nearly two decades of playing together.