There are certain players that seem to share a telepathic communication anytime they step onto the hardwood. Many teams experiment with a “Big 3”, but often it is a dynamic duo that can be the most damaging. This will often be a small guard and center/forward that enable them to play a 2 man game inside and out as well as run the pick and role, but this is not always the case. Some of the best duos have been comprised of 2 big men creating a formidable front court, and you will often get prolific duos of perimeter players who are more than capable of running the show. Sometimes they will have a similar playing style and leave defenders shaking in their boots, however it is also common for duos to be like chalk and cheese with one excelling on the offensive end, whilst the other locks down on defence and does the dirty work.
There are few things more exciting than watching a dynamic duo work together and it serves as a reminder that it is a team game. You can bring 2 elite players onto the same team, but it does not mean that they will form a deadly duo if all they do is take it in turns to run iso plays. A duo will work well together and bring out the best in each others game.
There are currently a range of fantastic duos in the NBA, including the likes of Westbrook & Durant (although not so much this season), Lillard & Aldridge, Curry & Thompson, Paul & Griffin and Harden & Howard. It is exciting to see what these duos are capable with, and with the playoffs just around the corner it is a chance to for them to cement their legacy. Taking a look back through NBA history, there have been many dynamic duos that have dominated, dazzled and been a joy to watch.
Here are the top 10 NBA duos of all time.
10 Walt Frazier & Willis Reed
It is difficult to image the Knicks as a 50+ win team and one that could challenge for the title. This was once the case, and it was largely down to the duo of Walt Frazier and Willis Reed. They were two hard working players that understood the value of locking down on the defensive end and it is here they excelled, but they were also more than capable of shouldering the scoring. Frazier was an excellent playmaker whilst Reed had the strength and footwork to dominate down low, but he also had a soft shooting touch which made him difficult to guard.
9 Julius Erving & Moses Malone
8 Isiah Thomas & Joe Dumars
There has never been a backcourt in the NBA quite as tough as this, and these two were the heart of the “Bad Boys” Pistons team which stifled their opposition and roughed them up each night. Their aggressive brand of basketball helped them to 2 NBA titles in ’89 and ’90, but importantly they also famously became the thorn in Jordan and the Bulls for many years and helped to create one of the greatest rivalries in the game.
7 Tim Duncan & David Robinson
Before Parker and Ginobli developed and formed part of one of the greatest trios of all-time with Duncan, Timmy formed a deadly combination with “The Admiral”. Having a pair of intelligent, unselfish and hard working 7’0 players is one of the greatest weapons a coach can have, but these two also excelled alongside one another and provided incredible interior defence which made it near impossible for teams to outscore the Spurs.
6 Bob Cousy & Bill Russell
5 Larry Bird & Kevin McHale
4 Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O’Neal
It may now seem like an eternity ago that these two were dominating the NBA due to their very public feud, but there is no doubt that Kobe and Shaq formed one of the most formidable duos in NBA history. Shaq provided the size and muscle down low to beat up on defenders and bring across double-teams, which enabled Kobe to knock down shots and find easy lanes to the basket. Kobe’s outside threat could also open up easy buckets for Shaq in the post, creating perhaps the greatest inside-outside duo to play the game.
3 John Stockton & Karl Malone
Although Stockton & Malone never won a championship (largely due to another certain duo in Chicago), they remain one of the greatest 1-2 punches to have played the game. Anyone wanting to learn how to run the pick and roll should study footage of these 2 in Utah, as they dismantled defences with their flawless execution and understanding of one another.
2 Magic Johnson & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
1 Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen
Michael Jordan may get all the plaudits, but it is important to remember that Scottie Pippen played an enormous role in helping the Bulls to an impressive 6 NBA titles. Jordan of course excelled in every area of the game and he was the go to guy, but the hard work of Pippen was integral to their success. Pippen is one of the all-time great perimeter defenders, and alongside another elite perimeter defender in Jordan, the Bulls were difficult to score on. Pippen could also score the ball too, and this was crucial as it made double (or even triple) teams on Jordan futile as he could find his partner in crime for a bucket.
They formed a fantastic, hard nosed and hard working duo that enjoyed a tremendous amount of success together. Pippen may have had to settle in a supporting role, but he was hugely important in helping the Bulls to 6 NBA titles and also helping Jordan to become the best in the business.
Sources: nba.com, bleacherreport.com
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