Terms like “the modern era” and “a generation” are very gray by definition. Charcoal level gray.
The NBA as we know it today pretty much began in 1984. It was the year of that transcendent draft class, and the time when David Stern really first asserted his dictatorial power.
It’s also when the game started to go mainstream and the league transformed itself into the marketing/branding juggernaut it is today. Therefore, it’s the perfect year to start when compiling my list of the top inside-outside combinations in NBA history.
Well this generation’s NBA, the “Modern NBA.”
Perhaps someday we’ll do this list again and add the Los Angeles Clippers Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to it?
Honorable Mention. Houston Rockets: Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon
Sure this was Clyde the Glide past his prime, but he never won a title with Portland. In H-town he did, and what an alpha dog he had in Hakeem Olajuwon. The Dream Shake did things from his height that we never saw before and likely never will again.
4. Phoenix Suns: Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley
When I was 15, I loved my “attitude vs. altitude” poster featuring Barkley vs. Michael Jordan in the 1993 NBA Finals. Of the Chicago Bulls first three-peat, Chuckles’ Suns gave Chicago by far the best fight. And what made the Suns go was the Barkley-Johnson duo, as good as anyone at their respective positions in their day. Both went on to prominent positions after basketball. KJ became mayor of Sacramento, and Barkley became a noted NBA analyst on TNT/Weight Watchers spokesman.
4. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale/Robert Parish
Ok, it’s so it’s not your traditional one or two paired with a four or five. And McHale had a decent outside game himself. Not to mention Larry Legend had an excellent all around game, not just on the perimeter. But ask anyone who witnessed the Boston Celtics in their dynasty days what they first think of with Larry Bird and it’s usually- outside sharpshooting. And a big reason the Celtics won as much as they did was because they consistently produced points in the paint to match their perimeter production.
3. Utah Jazz: John Stockton and Karl Malone
Only the fact that they never won it all keeps them from being ranked higher. We’re not likely to see a true deadly inside-outside combination like this again for quite some time. (not named CP3-Griffin that is)
First off, Dwight Howard is one of the few great true centers left. And all the best players today seems to play the three. Inside game is being found more by attacking the basket. Look at the current Miami Heat, it’s why they’re starting much more successful this season than last year. They’ve been getting to the tin instead of settling for jumpers.
Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer came close to duplicating the Stockton-Mailman magic in Utah, but fell quite short. Boozer was hurt too much, nowhere near the talent or athlete Malone was, and those Jazz teams never went near as far in the post season as the ’90s predecessor teams did.
2. L.A. Lakers: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal
The fact that they allegedly hated each other while playing together (“Kobe, tell me how my a** tastes”) almost makes them deserving of the #1 spot in itself, but once you see who has it, there’s no way you can justify anyone but that specific duo. Kobe can take it to the hole, he’s a slasher, but he’s dangerous from the outside too. Bryant is more of a three than a two, which also provides problems fitting into what we’re doing here with this list, but we’ll deal.
He’s definitely not Michael Jordan, but he’s the closest thing that we’ve seen in our time. And MJ never had anything even remotely close to Shaq to work with inside during any of his 6 title runs. Shaq redefined basketball card trading when he entered the league in 1992. He would also redefine the center position and being a superstar before his nearly two decades in the league were done.
1. L.A. Lakers: Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar
Showtime at the Forum was in it’s primetime when these two played together. How many teams can boast two of the top four players in NBA history playing together? And in their prime no less? This one’s a no-brainer.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.
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