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

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.

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-illustrated3. 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.

Top 5 Bulls of all-time: Pippen surpassed by Rose?

Jordan and Pippen

Jordan and Pippen

The Chicago Bulls have been an NBA franchise since the 1966-67 season.  Until the mid 80’s the Bulls had been little more than a mediocre franchise at best.  That all changed with the drafting of a 6’6 Guard from the University of North Carolina in 1984.  The Bulls would win six NBA titles in the 90’s and with Derrick Rose leading the way, again appear to be on the verge of dominance.  Here are the Top 5 Chicago Bulls of all time.

1.       Michael Jordan:  From North Carolina, a 6-6 Guard, Michael Jordan.  Jordan is arguably the greatest player that has ever stepped on a professional basketball court and without a doubt he is the No. 1 Bull of all time.  Jordan had it all: explosiveness, athleticism, creativity, length, defense, offense.  You name it, he had it.  He is the all time scoring leader for the Chicago Bulls with 32393 points.  Jordan averaged just over 30 points throughout his 15 year career and was the focal point during the Bulls six championships in eight seasons.  Jordan was also named league MVP five times during his 13 seasons with the Bulls.  By far the best closer in the history of the NBA.

2.       Scottie Pippen:  Every Batman needs a Robin and that’s what Scottie Pippen was to Michael Jordan.  Pippen played 12 of his 17 NBA seasons with the Bulls and as he and MJ formed one of the greatest tandems in NBA history.  Pippen averaged 18 points per game during the height of his Bulls career.  Capable of taking over a game offensively, Pippen was also known for his shutdown defense.  He was a first team NBA defensive player three times.  Pippen was a hybrid.  He had exceptional ball handling skills for a small forward and was often used as a point forward.  It’s debatable as to whether or not Scottie Pippen would have had the success he did without Jordan but the fact remains that he was an intricate part of those six Chicago championship teams.

3.       Derrick Rose:  This is no disrespect to Chicago Bulls’ players of the past but basketball royalty doesn’t come around often and Rose has that lineage.  In only his 4th season in the NBA, Rose has already won Rookie of the Year honors and a league MVP.  Only one other player on this list accomplished both of those and he sits at No. 1.  At a generous 6-3, Rose possesses explosive leaping ability and is fearless when he attacks the rim.  Rose is averaging just over 20 points and 6.8 assists per game in his young career.  In the 2010-11 season Rose led the Bulls to the NBA’s best record.  Despite being outplayed by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, if Rose can stay healthy he will lead the Bulls to multiple Championships.  Again, the only other player on this list to do so sits at No. 1.

4.       Jerry Sloan:  A 6-5 Guard/Forward, Sloan was the cornerstone of the inaugural Chicago Bulls team.  During his 11 NBA seasons, Sloan played 10 with the Bulls.  He averaged 14 points per game over his career, appeared in two All Star games, and was named to the NBA All-Defensive team six times.  Sloan led the Chicago Bulls to numerous playoff appearances and in 1975 to their only divisional title before the Jordan.  Sloan would later coach the Bulls for three seasons in the early 80’s taking them to the playoffs in his second season.

 5.       Bob Love:  An ambidextrous 6-8 Forward, Love played with the Bulls from 1968-76. Love averaged almost 19 points a game, to include six consecutive seasons of more than 21 ppg, in his nine seasons with the Bulls.  Despite no championships, Love was a three-time all-star player with the Bulls and had his No. 10 jersey retired.  He is only one of four Bulls with retired jerseys.  The other three are on this list.

Aaron Moon is the CEO and a Featured Journalist for The Sports Blitz. You can contact Aaron on facebook or follow him on Twitter @DA_Bear_Truth. Contact Aaron directly by emailing him at amoon@thepenaltyflagblog.com.