All-Star duos are the norm in the NBA right now. The best teams in the NBA have at least two NBA All-Stars that complement each other to impact the game at a high level. Teams such as the Lakers and Clippers have two All-Star forwards, while the Rockets and the Warriors have two All-Star guards.
But All-Star duos have always been prevalent throughout NBA history and many great duos have won NBA championships. The likes of the Chicago Bulls had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, some teams had a little-man big man combo including the Lakers with Shaq and Kobe. But there have been some other all-time great duos that never won NBA titles.
In order to revisit history and consider some other all-time great duos, we are going to rank the top 10 greatest duos that never managed to win an NBA title.
10. Yao Ming & Tracy McGrady
Yao Ming and T-Mac could have possibly been a reincarnation of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, if only they were able to remain healthy throughout their careers together.
The Rockets struck gold in the 2002 NBA draft by drafting Yao Ming with the 1st overall pick, and also by trading for the best scorer in the league in Tracy McGrady. The duo was expected to lead the Rockets to multiple playoff appearances and possibly win an NBA title.
They certainly brought the ton of popularity to Houston, especially Yao Ming, but each one of them suffered an unbelievable amount of injuries and they never made any sort of impact in the postseason. In terms of the greatest “what-if” duos, this is at the very top.
9. Carmelo Anthony & Allen Iverson
While Iverson was not the MVP version of himself when he joined Denver, he was still a dominant scorer and he teamed up with a prime and dominant Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo was at his very best when Allen Iverson joined him, and Denver’s offense with Melo and A.I. would be too much to handle for almost any team.
But they never managed to make an NBA Finals and the Nuggets got bounced in the First Round every time. Iverson was not a true point guard and it seemed like the duo didn’t really click together on the floor. While coaching and lack of depth can be blamed for Denver’s poor form in the postseason, Melo and A.I. should have done more together.
8. Alonzo Mourning & Tim Hardaway
Many remember Alonzo for being a shot-blocker and defensive monster, but he was a fantastic scorer in his prime. Mourning averaged a career-high 23.2 PPG in 1995, to go along with 10.4 RPG as the leader of the team.
A year later, the Heat acquired sensational point guard Tim Hardaway. Hardaway had his best year in 1996, averaging 20.3 PPG and 8.6 APG while Mourning provided 19.8 PPG and 9.9 RPG. The duo led the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals but fell short to the Chicago Bulls in 5 games. The 90’s Bulls would have a big impact for a few duos on this list, and Mourning and Hardaway are the first ones.
Mourning is a Hall of Famer, while Hardaway was a 5-time All-Star and one of the most exciting point guards ever. Both players are icons for the game, but they never managed to win an NBA title together.
7. Steve Nash & Amar’e Stoudemire
Phoenix Suns fans still relish the moments that Nash and Amar’e brought to the city. Nash was a two-time reigning MVP and Amar’e Stoudemire was one of the best power forwards in the league.
Nash to Amar’e in the pick-n-roll resulted in a bucket either via a slam dunk, a soft finish around the rim, or a mid-range jumper. This duo was completely unstoppable on offense and head coach Mike D’Antoni did an excellent job with perfecting the offense.
The Phoenix team was excellent, and they probably should have made at least one NBA Finals, but they ran into a San Antonio Spurs Dynasty and later the Lakers Dynasty led by Kobe Bryant. Nash and Amare were extremely exciting to watch but they never quite managed to win together.
6. Charles Barkley & Kevin Johnson
Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson made an NBA Finals in 1993, which is a great achievement for an All-Star duo. They weren’t good enough to get past Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, but they were excellent together and Barkley won an MVP playing alongside Kevin Johnson. This was a great little-man big-man tandem and Johnson was a great scorer and playmaker at this time.
But this duo went as far as Charles Barkley took them because he was simply unguardable in the post and had tremendous physicality and skill which allowed him to score and rebound very effectively. Barkley is now a top 50 player ever and one of the greatest to have ever played, so it is a shame the duo never won an NBA title.
5. Gary Payton & Shawn Kemp
Payton is arguably the best defensive point guard ever, who won a Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1996, and also the main force behind the SuperSonics 1996 NBA Finals appearance.
Kemp was a beast as an alley-oop partner, using a mix of raw force and athleticism to flush the ball down with authority. He also commanded the post and was a good scorer inside. Payton and Kemp, like Barkley and Johnson, were not able to get past the Chicago Bulls in the Finals and they missed out on winning a ring together.
Payton and Kemp were the twilight years for Seattle, who ultimately lost their franchise to Oklahoma City. Still, they will be known as a top-five duo to have never won an NBA title together.
4. Shaquille O’Neal & Penny Hardaway
A young Shaquille O’Neal and a prime Penny Hardaway would result in an NBA championship on most occasions, but they ran into a hell-bent Houston Rockets team led by Hakeem Olajuwon in the 1995 Finals. The Magic were swept, and they weren’t able to win an NBA championship together.
Still, Orlando’s greatest moments were led by a completely dominant Shaquille O’Neal and an ultra skilled Penny Hardaway. The Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic era was very good, but the one led by Shaq and Penny was the best. Orlando had an amazing little-man big-man duo but they were also unlucky to not win an NBA title together. It took Shaq joining Los Angeles and teaming up with Kobe Bryant to finally win an NBA title.
3. Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook
Only one can imagine how dominant Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would be at this very moment if they were still together. There were many rumors that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook clashed on the court, but it never seemed that way.
Kevin Durant was the ultra skilled scoring forward while Westbrook was the relentless energy machine that attacked the rim with pure aggression and passion. Together at their best, they were really unstoppable.
But Kevin Durant made the most shocking move in NBA history by bolting and joining the Golden State Warriors, leaving Russell Westbrook high and dry.
The only reason this duo didn’t win an NBA title was because of the LeBron James-led superteam in Miami and also because of the lack of depth and shooting on the Thunder squad. Many feel that Durant and Westbrook would have won an NBA title eventually, but we will never know.
What we do know is that Kevin Durant won two titles playing for the Golden State Warriors since splitting up.
2. Karl Malone & John Stockton
Malone and Stockton are without a doubt, a top-two duo that never won an NBA title. They made two Finals appearances, losing to the Chicago Bulls both times. While it certainly was no shame losing to Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Bulls; Malone and Stockton probably feel hard done and unlucky to not have at least one NBA title.
Malone retired as the third-highest scorer of all time while Stockton is leading assist man in NBA history.
The reason why each player has these accolades is because their combination was unstoppable on offense and they fed off each other perfectly. Both players are first-ballot Hall of Famers and some of the greatest players to ever play their respective positions.
Malone and Stockton would automatically be number one if not for another all-time great NBA duo that happens to include the NBA’s Logo.
1. Jerry West & Elgin Baylor
There isn’t a better duo to not have won an NBA title than Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. West is the NBA’s logo and arguably the third-best shooting guard to have ever played the game.
Baylor has the third-highest points per game average in NBA history with a career 27.4 PPG average and is recognized as one of the all-time great players that never won an MVP or an NBA title.
Together, they lost seven NBA Finals from 1961 to 1970.
Unfortunately for Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and the Lakers won an NBA championship the same season that the former retired 9 games into the season.
The Lakers acquired Wilt Chamberlain, and they managed to finally capture an NBA title in 1972. But Baylor and West never won one together, an unfortunate fact for an unbelievably great duo.