To win a championship, you need superstars, at least two to be exact. That has been proven over time. Jordan and Pippen, Shaq and Kobe, and LeBron, Wade, and Bosh if you are that lucky. A dynamic duo features at least two players that can score at a high rate, play defense, and lead all into one.
If there was a way to group the entire history of the league and allow modern and historic players to play together, we would. Maybe one day we can turn back the clock and allow all players to play in their prime. When that day comes, these would be the greatest superstar duos to take the court together.
10. Kawhi Leonard & David Robinson – San Antonio Spurs
Robinson spent his entire 14-year career in the NBA with the Spurs where he helped the team win an NBA championship in 1999 and 2003. The future Hall of Famer would be the defensive anchor and leader for this team. Before Robinson joined the NBA, he spent two years with the United States Navy. His military experience would be key from a leadership standpoint; his play could likely gain respect from everyone around.
Retiring in 2003, Robinson was a former Defensive Player of the Year in 1992 but later became the NBA scoring champion in 1994. He’s the perfect combination of a player you would want to build around.
With Leonard, you gain an NBA Finals MVP (2014), who can score at a high volume, shoot anywhere on the floor, and is a former multi-Defensive Player of the Year. With these two headlining the defense, the team’s pieces would buy into the motto of defense.
9. Dwyane Wade & Charles Barkley – Miami Heat
Wade won an NBA championship with Shaquille O’Neal in 2006. With Shaq a tad higher on our list, we need to find somebody that could bring similar numbers and that body has to be Barkley. Both Barkley and Shaq brought a similar style of play to the NBA, so the transition would be seamless for Wade.
Even if it wasn’t, Barkley was such a team player that he would make it work. The former MVP finished his career averaging 22.1 points and 11.7 rebounds. Those numbers are right around what Shaq averaged in his career, while they are better than what he averaged during that championship run.
With Wade running the show on offense, Barkley’s numbers might have been even better. Wade was somebody that could average 25 points, five rebounds, and four assists each night. When it comes to dynamic duos, this feels like a pairing that would have automatic chemistry.
8. Allen Iverson & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Philadelphia 76ers
Can you imagine this team’s offensive ranking with these two players leading the charge? Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time leading scorer in the NBA but also took care of the boards. He once averaged in a season 28.7 points and 18.2 rebounds. He would be the true foundational piece of the franchise.
Pair him up with the former MVP Iverson, and this would be a lethal inside-outside punch. Iverson could score on any part of the court. Iverson averaged 31.1 points per game during the 76ers’ run to the NBA Finals in 2001. He didn’t have true superstar players on that roster. He had a 34-year old Dikembe Mutombo, while Theo Ratliff was the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.4 points per game.
If Iverson had some help down low offensively, the 76ers not only would have won the NBA Finals in 2001 but likely many more. Instead, we can just gush at how Iverson carried that team, as well as many other 76ers teams.
7. Stephen Curry & Hakeem Olajuwon – Golden State Warriors
Speaking of potentially lethal inside-outside punches, this has to rank as one of the best too. The Warriors dynasty has been founded on playing small ball and shooting from outside. With Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant leading the way, the Warriors have won three NBA championships since 2015.
What if the “Splash Bros” never existed and the team had to play more of a traditional style of basketball. Curry has the deepest range on the planet. He is not safe anywhere on the floor and can go off for 40 points in a night at any given time. With Curry’s abilities to stretch the floor, Olajuwon would have more opportunities to take care of business in the post.
Olajuwon didn’t need help though. The two-time NBA Finals MVP wasn’t just a great scorer but also a nine-time All-Defensive player in the league. That includes two Defensive Player of the Year Wards. The Warriors were known for playing tight defense too. The “Warrior Way” would still have some components of their dynasty but with maybe a few extra three-point attempts.
6. Tim Duncan & Oscar Robertson – Milwaukee Bucks
If you put Tim Duncan on the Bucks instead of the Spurs, does Milwaukee win five NBA championships since 1999? There are way too many variables to answer that question but one thing is for sure: Duncan might have helped put the team in contention. Duncan, the former No. 1 overall pick in 1997, was Mr. Fundamental. He was a two-time MVP and made the All-Defensive team 15 times in his career.
As for Robertson, he would be able to provide the offense that the Bucks have lacked for years. Robertson is just one of two players ever to average a triple-double in a season. As a member of the Kings, Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists in a season. The other is Russell Westbrook, who accomplished this in 2017.
Westbrook has never had a defensive staple like Duncan in his lineup with him. Robertson teamed up with Abdul-Jabbar in 1971 to bring the Bucks an NBA title. Imagine if Robertson had Duncan earlier in his career. Those five titles might be hanging in the rafters before the year 1997.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo & Larry Bird – Boston Celtics
Bird is the only player in NBA history to win the MVP award three years in a row (1984-1986). Giannis is close on his tail, having won the award in back-to-back seasons. Maybe, this duo was a destiny date?
If this ever happened, it would be a scary pair to guard. Bird had this ability to score on any part of the floor. He could drive, shoot, and was a great free-throw shooter. Bird leads the franchise with 59 career triple-doubles. Not to mention in the playoffs, he was closer on route to winning two NBA Finals MVP awards.
Giannis could go down as one of the best post players we have ever seen. Along with his MVP in 2020, Giannis won Defensive Player of the Year. He makes over 70% of his field goals under the basket and can rebound and block shots as well. Bird played with the great Kevin McHale in the 80s but even McHale would tell you that Giannis is on a whole new level.
4. Kevin Durant & Magic Johnson – Brooklyn Nets
In Year 1 of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, we are seeing the benefits of the two superstars playing together. Throw in James Harden and the Nets own one of the best “Big Threes” in the game. Let’s take out Harden, and replace Irving with Magic Johnson. Do the Nets get better?
The easy answer is yes because the Nets would have money to build around the team. When it comes to the individual, Johnson is the upgraded version of Irving. Johnson finished his career leading the league in assists four times and steals twice. While Irving, not to be confused with Magic’s real name Earvin, is a top-3 point guard in the league, Johnson did one thing that Irving never did. Johnson led his Lakers to an NBA championship five times and won the MVP award three times. Irving tried to be a true No.1 on his own but fizzled out with the Celtics.
Durant is trying to rewrite his legacy after winning two NBA Finals MVP awards with the Warriors. However, Durant teamed up with a group that won 73 games before his arrival. Even so, Durant is proving he is one of the best in the league this season by averaging 29.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. This all comes after Durant missed last season with an Achilles injury. Before that, Durant was a former scoring champion. Four almost seems like it is low for this pairing but take a look at the next three duos.
3. LeBron James & Bill Russell – Cleveland Cavaliers
When LeBron joined the Miami Heat in 2010, he promised fans seven NBA championships. He did qualify for the NBA Finals all four years he was there; the franchise only won twice. If LeBron had teamed up with Bill Russell in Cleveland, a couple of things might have happened. For starters, he would have never needed to leave Cleveland. Next, he might have actually won seven titles.
Russell won 11 rings as a member of the Boston Celtics, including winning each year from 1959-1966. The five-time MVP was ahead of the game when he played. Russell never averaged 20 points in his career but did average 22.5 rebounds per game in his career.
With Russell holding down the fort inside, LeBron could play more of a guard or be a true small forward. In the past, LeBron would need to get down low and help on the boards. With Rusell patrolling the area, LeBron could release on the outlet and score in transition more efficiently. Not to mention, this would give him the chance to maybe play point-forward. LeBron led the league in assists last season, so we know he can make the tough pass. Either way, these two greats would be nearly impossible to stop.
2. Kobe Bryant & Wilt Chamberlain – Los Angeles Lakers
Imagine choosing defensive assignments. You would have to find somebody to guard the man who owns the NBA record for most points in a game with 100 in Wilt. Then, you have to find somebody to guard Kobe Bryant, who owns the runner-up award in that category by once scoring 81 points. The NBA record for most points in-game by two teams was set in 1983 when the Detroit Pistons defeated the Denver Nuggets 186-184 in three overtimes. In standard regulation, that could be 181 points from just two players.
We all know about the “Black Mamba,” who led the Lakers to five NBA titles. He was the closest player in personality to Michael Jordan after Jordan retired. While Kobe was also known for taking the last shot, he was also a 12-time All-Defensive Team member, including nine times on the First-Team.
Chamberlain was the complete package. He was a seven-time scoring champion and an 11-time rebounding champion. While Kobe paired with Shaq for three rings during the early 2000s, this is the closest player to that on this list. Chamberlain once averages 27.2 rebounds per game during the 1960-1961 season, which is still an NBA record. How do you stop these two?
1. Michael Jordan & Shaquille O’Neal – Chicago Bulls
The better question is how do you stop these two? Jordan won six NBA championships without a player like Shaq on the roster, so how many more titles would the Bulls win if these two paired up? Ever since Shaq left the league, he has detailed that he did not always put in the work and was sometimes lazy. Even with that, he was a three-time NBA Finals MVP (2000-2002). Jordan didn’t tolerate that kind of mentality, so who knows how much better Shaq could have been if he put in the grueling offseason work as Jordan did.
There isn’t much more to say about Jordan that hasn’t already been said in the past. Jordan is the all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. He is 200 blocks away from owning the block record too. He is the greatest player of all-time, owns six NBA Finals MVP trophies, as well as a perfect 6-0 record in the NBA Finals.
The 1996-1998 Bulls team had a great center in Dennis Rodman, who led the league in rebounding each of those seasons. But, Rodman didn’t possess the athleticism that Shaq was naturally given, nor the offense. Shaq averaged 27.2 points and 12.5 rebounds in four seasons with the Orlando Magic. Then, he averaged 27.0 points and 11.8 rebounds in eight seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. There’s not a single better inside-outside pairing than Jordan and Shaq.