5. LARRY BIRD and KEVIN McHALE (1980-1992)
It only took Larry Legend one year before he hit the floor running and won his first championship with a rookie Kevin McHale. And this was only the start of what was to be a very special pairing of players. Thirteen years together and three championships later, some may argue Bird and McHale were the best Celtics duo of all time.
Bird’s all-around play was perfect for Kevin McHale and created a perfect bond. McHale was able to flourish from Bird’s uncanny passing skill and made a name for himself on the glass. What gets overlooked is Kevin’s defense presence, averaging almost two blocks per game on his career. He and Bird were a constant threat out of the Eastern Conference every year, making the playoffs all 13 seasons together and reaching the Finals five times.
4. MAGIC JOHNSON and KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR (1979-1989)
Magic Johnson spent 13 years in the NBA, and managed to have one of the most illustrious careers of any player. Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the greatest thing to happen to Los Angeles since Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West. The Lakers became a facet in the NBA Finals, making a trip there eight out of 10 years together. Those eight trips included five world championships for the duo. Johnson came away with three Finals MVP awards while Abdul-Jabbar claimed one for himself.
The duo consisted of the flashiest player in the league and the most dominant scorer to ever play the game. This was the perfect recipe for a dynasty, and that was the outcome after 10 years as two incredible defensive players put their team first in a superstar era.
3. KOBE BRYANT and SHAQUILLE O’NEAL (1996-2004)
The turn of the millennium brought in a new wave of players of all skill-sets. But one who was already deemed the next best thing since MJ was Kobe Bryant. A super athletic offensive machine who based his game off of Michael Jordan was paired up with a center named Shaquille O’Neal, who was just entering his prime. There was no chance of stopping the two on offense. Both players were born to score and score well.
Eight seasons together brought eight seasons of 50-plus wins and three championships back-to-back-to-back… the first three-peat since Michael Jordan completed his second in 1998, and the most recent to-date. O’Neal was a three-time Finals MVP while Kobe was the engine that kept the winning going. At one point, the two were combining to average over 50 points per game for the Lakers, topping out at 57.5 combined points per game in 2002-03. However, Bryant and Shaq began to have their share of quarrels and became unhappy with each other. They eventually went in separate directions, each winning another championship. If Kobe and Shaq had not feuded, there was a possibility they could have won five or six titles together and built an even bigger legacy than the one already created.
2. BILL RUSSELL and BOB COUSY (1956-1963)
The pound-for-pound greatest champion to ever play the game, and the original crafty point guard, Bill Russell and Bob Cousy undoubtedly helped each other reach new heights of legendary with each other. The duo won six championships in seven years, including five in a row.
During their time together, Cousy won the NBA MVP his first season, with Russell winning the award five times after Cousy. The two played a brand of basketball that dominated an era, and played on both ends of the floor. Their sportsmanship and teamwork was really the original installment of Celtic pride. Bill Russell still holds the record for most championships won by a wide margin.
1. MICHAEL JORDAN and SCOTTIE PIPPEN (1987-1993, 1995-1998)
The greatest of all time, his Airness, Michael Jordan influenced more than a generation of basketball players and had one of the greatest passions for the game of basketball. Right by his side was Scottie Pippen, whose defense and slashing ability fit right in with the style MJ preferred to play. Jordan was a defender’s nightmare, as was Pippen, making them virtually unstoppable.
Jordan and Pippen still hold the record for most regular season wins at 72, and never lost in the NBA Finals, nor did they even reach a Game 7 of a Finals matchup. The two were able to pull off two three-peats. Six championships in less than 10 years is extremely impressive, especially when Jordan took two of those years off to play baseball, which leaves the door open to the argument that MJ could have finished with maybe even eight championships and set an even higher standard for what he already had, which makes Pippen and Jordan the greatest duo in the history of the NBA.
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