Original Publication: February 14, 2014
Throughout NBA history, most teams that have went on to win the NBA Finals generally had the most well assembled and most effective team in the league at the time. In some cases, these teams were lead by two key players that catapulted each other, and the team, to the next level. This list hopes to accomplish the task of putting these great duos of the past in order of their greatness. However, trying to distinguish the best two-man tandems amongst the entire 60-some year long history of the NBA is a bit too ambitious, so this list will focus on only groups that reigned in the 2000s and beyond. The only rule; no player can be on two different sets of players. That having been said, let’s being the countdown.
10. Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson (2006 to 2009)
Two of the most electric scorers of their time, and possibly of all time, joined together in 2006 to make a title run with the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, they fell short in all of their 3 seasons together, only making it as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2009. Granted, in reality, this duo won’t go down in the NBA record books as anything special. However, trying to stop both of these guys at the same time was a struggle for defenses. The success in the postseason was minor, but it posed a massive threat. In AI and Melo’s first two seasons together, they combined for an astounding average of 53.7 and 52.1 points per game, respectively. That alone makes it hard to say it was not a duo worth noting. As already stated, these guys aren’t going to be remembered wonderfully together, but it was a new-age duo that served a sufficient role in the league.
9. Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady (2004 to 2009)
The start of the guard-bigman combos on this list begins with the miraculously over-sized Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. T-Mac, a 6 feet 8 inch tall shooting guard, and Yao Ming, a 7 feet 6 inch tall center, teamed up for five seasons in Houston. Both players were dominant at their respective positions, but both were chronically injured, which made both of their careers suffer as a result. The Great Wall and The Big Sleep together couldn’t muster up much in the playoffs, only winning one series as a duo, but the dominance they showed while they were both on the court at the same time was incredible. Tracy McGrady was thought of to go on to be one of, if not THE best shooting guard of all time, (yes, you heard me correctly) but he was hindered with injuries too heavily. Ming was a dominant shot blocker and rim protector at his height, but he also had a good amount of offense between his tricky post moves and his mid range game. Both players showed they could play, but it never came together in Houston in the long run. However, seeing both of those guys step onto the court must have been as intimidating as anything in the mid-2000s.
8. Jason Kidd and Vince Carter (2004 t0 2008, 2011 to 2012)
What happens when you put the player with the second most assists in NBA history alongside the best dunker of his generation and, in my opinion, of all time? You get Jason Kidd and Vince Carter. Vince Carter is undoubtedly one of the most electric scorers in the history of the league, having the ability to shoot with a dead eye that only the most elite players could find. Unfortunately, his work ethic and erratic play let him down in the long run, and now he lays as only a possible Hall of Fame selection. Jason Kidd dished the rock better than anybody that crossed his path, with John Stockton being the only exception. This duo actually played together in New Jersey and Dallas, most notably for the Nets. Together, they made it no farther than the conference semifinals, but this tandem was another example of one that made defenses cringe. The lack of speed and quickness in Kidd was made up tenfold in Carter, and Carter’s lack of a shot filter was helped by Kidd’s disciplined play. Even though the Vinsanity never really led the team to a finals appearance, at least the fans of New Jersey got to see a good show between the two of them for a few good years…but it probably still doesn’t make up for the relocation of the franchise, sorry New Jersey.
7. Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire (2004 to 2010)
Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire, in my opinion, were second best pick and roll duo ever, with John Stockton and Karl Malone being the first (as Stockton makes his second appearance on a blog post he isn’t included in). They could have went to and most definitely won the Finals if the Spurs weren’t the best franchise in sports and Stoudemire’s knees didn’t explode. These two players, together, went on to the Western Conference Finals twice, falling to the Mavericks and Spurs, though Stoudemire never played against the Mavericks due to injury. Despite the lack of an NBA Finals appearance, these two guys took old school basketball and threw a whole new twist to it. The pick and roll is simple and effective, and defenses had a difficult time accounting for all of the possibilities that these guys offered offensively. Stoudemire, at one time, was one of the best dunkers in the league, and Nash was one of the best passers. If these two are put together, it allows for a deadly combination.
6. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (2008 to present)
Durant and Westbrook have a hell of a long time left together, but they have already made a mark on the league. They appeared in the NBA Finals together in 2011, but failed to defeat the Miami Heat. Everybody reading this article has probably experienced, or at least heard of Kevin Durant’s scoring excellence and finesse. Westbrook is one of the most athletic point guards in the league. The Durantula and Westbrook together are a lot for a defense to handle. Two of the biggest scoring threats on the same team give the Thunder the leg up on opponents almost instantly. While these two don’t have the most chemistry on this list, they don’t exactly have to. Before their careers’ are over, I expect the pair to throw at least one NBA Title under their belts’ and waltz into the Hall of Fame in style. However, until that happens, they only crack number six.
5. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry (2004 to 2012)
Nowitzki and Terry are probably less “dynamic” than most every other duo on this list, but they’re simply ageless. They had two NBA Finals appearances together, including one victory against the Miami Heat in 2011. Dirk is one of the greatest scorers at his position of all time, and Jason Terry supplied a supreme level of scoring at the two guard position. They worked together superbly, but they also got a lot of help from other main players of the teams, such as Jason Kidd (see above), a fantastic defender and former sixth man of the year winner, Shawn Marion, and Josh Howard. They didn’t run like all of the other guard-big man combos that are on this list, but, nonetheless, it was effective. Also, as hinted towards above, these guys toughed it out through thick and thin. The Mavericks title run came a couple years after many wrote them off as “unable to make it deep enough.” Well, they simply blocked out all of the naysayers and took the reins of the NBA, which lands them their spot on the countdown.
4. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (and Ray Allen, 2007 to 2012/present)
Before anybody says anything, yes, I am well aware that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are still currently playing together, but it felt very shortsighted to disclude Ray Allen in the discussion. Allen was no third wheel on the team, but it seemed like KG and The Truth were the true leaders on the team, leading them to be focal points on the list. The Big 3 together made one the most impressive NBA Title runs I have ever witnessed in 2008, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in six games in the Finals. Kevin Garnett is renowned for his fantastic work ethic and hustle on the court, and combining that with Paul Pierce’s loyalty and humbleness really provides a duo worth rooting for. They fed off each other so beautifully and supplied an amazing force that couldn’t be stopped in many scenarios. Unfortunately, they only converted that strength into one Finals victory, which lands them number four on the list.
3. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (2010 to present)
The fact that the second greatest player of all time falls to third on this list shows the strength of number’s two and one. In any case, King James and D-Wade may end up being number one on this list some day, but, as of February 13th, 2014, they are still at number three. Three finals appearances in three seasons together gives a pretty promising sign for the future, but they only have two victories so far. Not that those don’t mean anything, but until they surpass the number of rings the first two tandems on this list have, they are going to be stuck here. The lack of details about their actual basketball play and time together is intentional. I think ESPN and every other sports network already give a pretty good run down of that kind of stuff. In fact, it’s so good that it takes up about 40% of the entire show and programming. Anyway, these guys won’t be forgotten anytime soon, but until they succeed in bringing in more of the NBA Titles that they promised, Bron Bron and Wade will stick in the spot they are now.
2. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal (pre-2000 to 2004)
Before all of you insane “Fro”be fans comment telling me these guys should be nowhere but number one, try to remember that this is only counting play and titles post-1999. That having been said, The Big Aristotle and The Black Mamba share the same number of rings and appearances as the number one duo on this list in the 2000s and beyond. The decision maker was simply chemistry. Shaq is one of the best bigmen of all time in the NBA and Kobe is one of the best guards of all time, but it was no secret that towards the end of their tenure together, they weren’t exactly fond of each other. The domination was abusive, knocking out the number one duo on this list during their second Finals run together. Together, these two were almost impossible, and it is quite a shame that it came down to an intangible issue between them that ended their glorious reign…well, it could have been ended a bit earlier had it not been for some fishy officiating , but that’s not necessary to delve into now. Their dominance together should be left untainted, landing them runner up on this list.
1. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker (2001 to present)
How can one define “NBA excellence” without Tim Duncan and Tony Parker? If Dirk and Jason Terry are ageless, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are immortal because they have been doing their thing and doing a hell of a good job at it for the past decade or so. These two guys have some of the best chemistry in NBA history, and, on the court, it shows. Duncan and Parker have a total of three finals victories together in four appearances. Now, let’s not give all of the credit to these two; Gregg Popovich is also one of the three greatest coaches of all time and gave these two guys and their running mate, Manu Ginobili, quite a help in their efforts to obtain the Larry O’Brien trophy. However, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker might have the best ratio between humbleness and performance one can ever witness. Duncan is one of, if not, the best power forward of all time and Tony Parker continues to be a top three point guard every season. In the end, both of these guys will get into the Hall of Fame very quickly, but they could not have done it without each other. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are the best NBA duo of the new millennium.
Editor’s Note: Considering this is one of my first articles ever written, it holds up well. The writing is spotty, but the information I stand by. Believe it or not, this article was actually written possibly even a year earlier than this, but I decided to delay posting it until I saw more of Durant and Westbrook. In a weird side note, I am still surprised I was able to convince myself to put Nash and Stoudemire as far back as they are. The rankings hold true, though I would possibly push AI/Melo ahead of Yao/T-Mac and JKidd/Vince solely on playoff success, considering the latter two pairs had next to none. Regardless, the list is not too bad if you take into account my main level of persuasion probably came from NBA 2K14.
By: Oscar Rzodkiewicz (circa. 2014)