While we are living in a big-three era, the best NBA teams have always had the best NBA duos.
Who needs a third wheel when your two star players can score, defend, and lead your team to championships?
Throughout the game’s history, winning teams have always built their rosters around one superstar and his trusty sidekick. It’s a recipe for success that has given birth to some of the greatest NBA duos ever.
Best NBA duos
The best NBA duos of all-time are usually a pair of versatile all-around players who pack a one-two punch that most teams don’t have an answer to. Their games complement each other’s and unlock new levels to their impact on court.
So, who are the top 10 greatest NBA duos ever?
10. John Stockton and Karl Malone
They spent 18 years playing together for the Utah Jazz, so they had the benefit of growing up together and developing their games to fit each other.
The Jazz became a powerhouse behind Malone’s scoring and Stockton’s court vision. Stockton led the league in assists for nine consecutive seasons by perfecting the pick-and-roll game with Malone who could both shoot from mid-range and score at the rim.
These two are one of the best NBA duos and they would have ranked even higher had they won a championship together.
9. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol
The relationship between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol was a special one. The pair forged a strong friendship off the court and shed blood, sweat, and tears together on the court. They made it to three NBA Finals, winning two trophies.
Pau was just what the doctor ordered for Kobe; he provided him with a dominant big man who could rebound and spread the floor.
The chemistry these two developed on court makes them one of the best NBA duos of all time.
8. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant
When Durant joined the Warriors in 2016, the entire NBA knew they stood no chance. And they were right.
The Warriors destroyed everyone in their path with KD on board, going 16-1 in the playoffs to win the title.
During their three years together, Curry and Durant averaged a combined 52.1 points, 11.4 assists, and almost seven 3-pointers a game. The Warriors could have easily cruised to a three-peat in 2019 had KD not ruptured his Achilles.
All told, Curry and Durant are arguably the most talented duo on this list.
7. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker
Building a dynasty in the NBA is no easy feat, but somehow the San Antonio Spurs make it seem effortless.
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker have four championships and three Finals MVP awards between them. Their chemistry on court speaks volumes about the discipline and the culture in San Antonio, while the numbers tell the story of this duo’s greatness.
Together they won more than 50 games and made the playoffs in every single season they played with each other.
If it wasn’t for Ray Allen’s three-pointer in the 2013 NBA Finals, Duncan and Parker would have won five titles together, moving them higher up the list.
6. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale
The Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1980s was built around one of the greatest NBA duos ever.
Larry Bird and Kevin McHale were prolific scorers who were physical and clinical in their deliveries. McHale had exceptional footwork in the post allowing him to easily get to the rim, and Bird shot the lights out and orchestrated the game from outside.
The two played 12 seasons together and won three championships with Boston. Bird in considered one of the top 10 greatest players in NBA history, and McHale one of the best power forwards in NBA history.
5. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson
It shouldn’t be a surprise that another Warriors entry makes the list. The dynasty that the Warriors built was centered around the “Splash Brothers”, who changed the game of basketball with their prolific shooting from deep.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson went to six NBA Finals together and share four championships with the recent one coming against the Celtics in 2022. The resurgence of the Warriors, and the Splash Brothers, is a testament to the team’s winning culture and the duo’s amazing chemistry.
Who knows, maybe when their careers are over they will be considered the greatest NBA duo ever.
4. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade
Even though LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have only won two championships together, they were one of the most unstoppable duos we’ve ever seen. They worked flawlessly off each other and at their peak were averaging 27 points, and 22 points respectively.
Their loss to the Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals is the only reason they’re not higher on the list.
3. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal
While their relationship was somewhat rocky during their time together, there is no doubt that Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal formed one of the best NBA duos ever. They won three consecutive titles together and could have won more if their egos didn’t come into play.
However, regardless of their relationship off the court, they fitted together perfectly on the court. Shaq is the most dominant big man the league has ever seen, and with him taking so much attention in the post, Kobe started picking defenses apart and developing into the Black Mamba.
Their most impressive run was undoubtedly in 2001, when they finished 15-1 on their way to the title.
2. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Magic’s court awareness and Abdul-Jabbar’s interior presence made the Lakers one of the league’s most efficient offenses, winning multiple titles in the 80s.
Together, Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar played 10 seasons, won five championships, three MVPs, and made 19 all-star appearances.
1. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
Unsurprisingly, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are top of the best NBA duos of all-time. The Chicago Bulls dynasty won six championships together during the 90s, and even though Jordan was undeniably the best player, he couldn’t have done it without Pippen.
Once Pippen came to the team and developed the chemistry with Jordan, the Bulls were unbeatable.
During their time together, Jordan and Pippen ranked first and second in playoff win shares and had the NBA’s best winning percentage during that time.