NBA’s best one-two punches within the last 30 years

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It can be argued that a team sport is not a one-man game. In fact, it’s very rare that one person can come along and change chemistry, talent and overall bring championships to an organization.

For every LeBron James there is a Dwyane Wade and for every Kobe Bryant there is a Shaquille O’Neal.

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Because a team of the NBA features only five players at any given time one player does not make the difference, but history has shown us that when two key players join forces special things can happen.

1. Magic Johnson & Kareem Abdul Jabbar

As great as the 7″2 Hall Of Fame center was, Kareem Abdul Jabbar never won a championship with the Lakers until Earvin “Magic” Johnson came via first overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft.

The story of Johnson’s rookie year is well…Magic.

Magic averaged 18 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game for the season. He was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Team and was named an NBA All-Star game starter.

The Lakers reached the NBA Finals where they faced Julius Erving “Dr. J” and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers went out to a 3-2 lead but Abdul-Jabbar who was averaging 33 points-per-game in the series sprained his ankle and was ruled out of game six.

Instead of lying down and concentrating on game seven, head coach Paul Westhead made a drastic decision to start Magic at center in game six where he recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. Magic became the only rookie to ever win the NBA Finals MVP award, but if it wasn’t for the MVP of the league “Kareem” they may not have been there to begin with.

It’s rare that two of the greatest players of all-time had the opportunity to play together and these two made the most of it.

The Lakers were one of the most dominant teams of the 1980′s appearing in the finals eight different times and winning five NBA championships.

2. Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O’Neal

It can be argued that these two future Hall of Fame players could have been the most dynamic duo of all time, but instead it becomes a “what could have been” situation.

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles but it was the feud between them that led to the separation of possibly the greatest one-two punch ever.

On the court it was the perfect harmony.

The center-guard combo was impossible to stop as O’Neal was named MVP of the NBA Finals three times and had the highest scoring average for a center in NBA Finals history.

He was also named the 1999-2000 NBA MVP while Kobe earned appearances in the league’s All-NBA, All-Star, and All-Defensive teams.

While opposing teams struggled to stop the size and power of Shaq it gave Kobe the opportunity to flourish and grow into the superstar that he has become today.

Kobe continues to be a dominant force in the NBA and remains one of the NBA’s top players ever.

Jordan Pippen sports illustrated 249x300 NBAs best one two punches within the last 30 years3. Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen

If there was one person that could turn a team around by himself it was his royal airness, Michael “Air” Jordan.

In a playoff game against the Boston Celtics in 1986, Jordan scored a playoff record 63 points. After the game Celtics star Larry Bird described him as “God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

Jordan led the league in scoring for 10 seasons but was more than a scoring threat, he was the face of the NBA.

Gatorade, Nike and the Jordan image dominated the basketball scene and set an example of how a sports athlete can take advantage of the market.

Despite the image Jordan needed the defensive minded Scottie Pippen who was named to the NBA All-Defensive team 10 consecutive years during his career.

Phil Jackson once described him as a “one man wrecking crew, capable of guarding anyone from the point guard to the five position.”

Pippen is one of three NBA players to record 200 steals and 100 blocks in a season, and he also has the record for career steals by a forward (2,307), as well as in the playoffs (395).

4. Karl Malone & John Stockton

When comparing athletes it’s impossible not to account for how many championships each of them have won over their career, but despite never winning one, Karl Malone and John Stockton were one of the best duos in NBA history.

Karl Malone “The Mailman” twice won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award and is considered one of the best power forwards to ever play the game while John Stockton holds NBA records for most assists and steals by a considerable margin.

Malone’s post game was flawless and became the staple of the Utah Jazz’s offense with point guard John Stockton as the general and distributor.

Stockton to Malone was heard during 1,412 regular season games and many of the record assists Stockton had were to his teammate.

By playing the tough style of 1980s basketball and perfecting the pick and roll the Jazz regularly made the playoffs and became one of the most consistent teams in NBA history.

5. LeBron James & Dwyane Wade

Dwayne Wade has one title under his belt and was named the NBA Finals MVP with the Miami Heat in 2006, but as a duo, the story has just started. There is no telling what these two NBA stars could accomplish over time.

King James finished second in the league in scoring in 2011 with 26.7 points per game and Dwyane Wade finished fourth (25.5 points per game). They combined to score 4,052 points last season, most by a duo in Miami Heat history.

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  • Intelcoreinside88

    All time lists should be based on championships. Shaq and Kobe have has as many as Jordan and Pip. and why would lebron and dwade even make the list? one finals appearance so far? this is a complete joke

    • PCN

      Dr. J and Malone?

    • http://www.facebook.com/ChiSavant Gregory Savant Daggett

      Shaq and Kobe actually don’t have as many titles as MJ & Pip and therefore shouldn’t be listed above them. For that matter, neither should Magic & Kareem.

  • Ragg

     Since everything is measured by Championships nowadays, there is no way that MJ and Pip are ranked 3rd. They have won more championships than any of the other duos, and they were also members of the greatest NBA team ever…72-10.

  • http://twitter.com/Da_Bear_Truth Aaron Moon

    Jordan and Pippen all the way!  Six rings (could have been eight) in eight years…

  • Stevenfrederick81

    wtf is this? Was this written buy a 3rd grader?

  • pablo

    Stockton and Malone never won a title. Parker and Duncan should be in there.

  • omikehawk

    OMG! The humanity!

  • 80s90sBaller

    You’re obviously nothing but a Laker Fan. No way that Jordan and Pippen are 3rd. Tell me something, did you applaud when Metal Weird Piece when all Psycho  and tried to knock out the 6th man of the year?

  • Kmack77

    oscar robertson and kareem.     

  • Kmack77

    obviously are number 1

  • Robfgiam

    Please please PLEASE tell me, you arent ranking them, you just pulled the names out of a hat and then wrote about them. I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you arent THAT big of a schmuck…. but Jordan/Pippen are NOT “three”!! The only “THREE” that you should be talking about is the one time when they WON THREE CONSECUTIVE NBA TITLES…. and then after Jordan came back, they ONCE AGAIN WON THREE CONSECUTIVE TITLES! Maybe thats why you put them at three! So I apologize, and you are not that big of an idiot after all!! 

  • Groz

    Wasn’t Worthy worthy with Kareem and Magic? so maybe they are a better Trio than LeBron and Dwayne and Bosh?  

  • Robfgiam

    Couple questions!! How old are you, because I think you have to have a slight idea of what you are talking about, at least here in the USA you do, I cant really speak for Italy!? In Italy you might be able to get away with posting TOTAL crap like this, but Really? Is this Amateur hour at yardbarker? Let me know how I can sign up because I wanna post about fencing or that enormous tomato throwing contest that you have over there that I know nothing about!
    This is horribly written and researched! I cant believe you wasted your breathe in doing this, just like I cant believe that Im wasting my breath in finishing reading this AND responding…TWICE!!??

  • Juda

     Get a life.   Is this all you can complain about?

  • Nahlij1

    Robinson and Duncan?

  • CLJenda

    Magic and Kareem may be (if you are a born and raised Lakers fan (something you may have mentioned in the article)) but Shaq and Bean no way. MJ and Pippen were the most dominant duo ever. Malone and Stockton yes but LBJ and Wade are nothing more than potential, I’d pick about 10-15 duos before mentioning them.

  • caloyster

    So I guess Duncan and Parkers 3 championships over the recent championship of James and Dwade means nothing… Common man…. seriously?

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