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