The NBA, at least over the last few four of five decades, has been a league of superstars. However, when it comes to team success and winning championships, two are usually better than one.
Here's a ranking of the NBA's top teammate duos throughout league history.
As of early May, James and Davis have not played a full season together. However, they have the Lakers in a good place with each averaging at least 25 points per contest. This pair makes the list for its potential going forward — however long they are playing together in Los Angeles, that is, which, at the moment, has Lakers fans excited and believing this could lead to plenty of success.
Dirk and Nash spent six seasons together in Dallas from the late 1990s and into the 2000s. Though they did not deliver an NBA championship to Mavericks fans, the pair led the club to four straight playoff appearances during that stretch. As perhaps the premier guard-forward combo at the time, Nowitzki and Nash were consistent scoring threats.
Chuck and KJ helped build the Suns into a Western Conference power during their four seasons (1992-93-1995-96) together in Phoenix. In their first of the four, Barkley and Johnson led the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls. While Barkley also spent time in Philadelphia and Houston, Johnson played all but a bit of his 12 NBA seasons with the Suns.
There were plenty of key contributors during the New York Knicks' two title teams in the early 1970s (1970 and '73), but these two were the focal points. The 6-foot-9 Reed was the star of the show, averaging at least 20 points in five of his 10 seasons with the Knicks. Frazier, meanwhile, was the showman. From the 1969-70 season to the '73-74 campaign, "Clyde" as he was known, averaged 21.5 points while New York reached the NBA Finals three times during that span.
Drexler and Porter made up one of the best backcourts in NBA history. Unfortunately, they were unable to bring a championship to Portland but did take the Trail Blazers to the Finals in 1990 and 1992. Perhaps one of the more underrated aspects of their game was the physical play they brought to the court. They were not afraid to mix it up — on both ends of the floor.
It's still kind of surprising (though not completely) that Durant and Westbrook were unable to bring a title to Oklahoma City during their time together. (they came close in 2012.) As we've learned, the two might not have had the best relationship as time went on. Again, not completely surprising when you have two prolific offensive players who also have decent-sized egos. Still, can't argue with the talent both brought to the table when together.
Shaq and Penny were all the rage while playing in Orlando during the mid-1990s. Still one of the best inside-outside combos in the league, O'Neal averaged 27.2 points and 12.5 rebounds during his four seasons with the Magic. Hardaway, meanwhile, poured in 19.5 points and 7.0 assists during his three seasons playing alongside Shaq. Their highlight together was taking the Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995.
The legendary Havlicek won eight titles with the Celtics. Two of those came with big-man Cowens in tow in 1974 and '76. During that '74 run, Havlicek averaged 22.6 points, while Cowens scored 19 per game. Cowens averaged the same number in 1976 for the Celtics, who had a bevy of stars during their run of dominance through late 1950s and into the '70s. But few were as — or more — consistent than these two.
Drexler and Olajuwon failed to win an NCAA title at Houston. However, the pair did bring the city one of the NBA variety during the 1994-95 season. During that campaign, Hakeem averaged a stellar 33 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Drexler, meanwhile, posted 20.5, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per contest en route to recording his only NBA championship.
While the current Milwaukee Bucks have the look of an NBA champion, we harken back to the early days of the franchise. No offense to talented scorer Bob Dandridge, who shined during the early days of the Bucks franchise, but Kareem and the "Big O" were the backbone of Milwaukee's run to the 1971 NBA championship. Jabbar averaged 31.7 points with 16.0 boards, while Robertson put up 19.4 for a club that won 66 regular-season games.
The Twin Towers — San Antonio version — won a pair of titles with the Spurs in 1999 and again in 2003, the first with Robinson still playing at a relatively high level. Duncan was in his second season when he won his first title for San Antonio and averaged 23.8 points with 11.5 rebounds. The Admiral, that same campaign, put up 15.6 points and grabbed 10.0 boards per contest during the postseason.
Though injuries have kept these two stars off the court of late, they are rightfully amid the best duos in the history of the game — at the moment and in the annals of the league. Curry, a career 23.5-points-per-game scorer, and Thompson, at 19.5, have keyed the Warriors three NBA titles and five total Finals appearances from 2014-15 to 2018-19. Once healthy, it will be interesting to see if they can find that championship form again.
Payton ended up winning a championship with Miami in 2006, but he and big-man Kemp enjoyed some solid success in Seattle during the 1990s. In 1992-93, they helped the Sonics reach the Western Conference finals. Three seasons later, with Kemp putting up 19.6 points and 11.4 boards per game and "The Glove" scoring 19.3 a game while dishing out 7.5 assists and playing his air-tight defense, Seattle reached the NBA Finals before losing to Chicago.
The Sixers most recent NBA championship came in 1983. And Philadelphia fans can thank Dr. J. and Moses for making that possible. With Erving and Malone leading the way during their first of four seasons together in Philly, they averaged nearly 50 points combined. The Sixers reached the Eastern Conference final two seasons later with the two again at the forefront.
While Curry and Klay Thompson have established themselves as Warriors legends, the addition of Durant added to the dominance. It also brought together two of the league's biggest superstars. In the three seasons (2016-17-2018-19) Curry and Durant led the Golden State charge, the club won two championships and reached the Finals in 2019. Also during that time, Curry averaged 26.3 points and Durant 25.8.
The Bad Boys weren't just rough. They could also play, and that began with one of the best backcourt duos in NBA history. While Thomas will go down as an elite playmaker and scoring point guard, Dumars grew as an offensive threat throughout his 14-year career. During Detroit's back-to-back titles in 1989 and '90, Thomas and Dumars were one-two in scoring, respectively.
Chamberlain played his final five NBA seasons (1968-69-1972-73) with the Lakers. Together, he and West helped Los Angeles reach the NBA Finals in four of those years. They were essentially the focal point of franchise at the time. Though Chamberlain's production waned toward the end of his career, he and West celebrated an NBA title in 1972. West averaged 26.6 points while playing alongside Wilt in L.A.
Yes, Chris Bosh played an integral part of Miami's dominance during the first half of the last decade. Obviously, James and Wade were the superstars and had the Heat playing at an elite level. From 2010-11 to 2013-14, LeBron averaged 26.9 points and Wade scored 22.2 per game as Miami won two titles and also lost in the Finals the two other times. We won't go into their 2017-18 reunion in Cleveland.
We touched on Duncan's success with David Robinson, but Parker was there for that 2003 title. Together with Duncan, Parker and the Spurs won three more NBA championships (2005, '07 and '04). Another great inside-outside pair, Parker and Duncan had the kind of chemistry needed to win titles. Parker also proved himself as a capable scorer and earned NBA Finals MVP honors in 2007.
A pair of Olympic Dream Teamers and Hall of Famers, Malone and Stockton were fun to watch. and it wasn't just because they were great players but also because they knew each other so well. Stockton knew when and where to feed to Malone, playing to his strengths while also utilizing their collective dynamic. Though the Jazz reached the NBA Finals in 1997 and '98, Malone and Stockton never won a title together.
These two were the heart of the Celtics run of three NBA titles and five Finals appearances from 1980-81 to 1986-87. While Bird was the superstar, McHale started out as a guy who would do the dirty work. But from 1984-85 to 1989-90, McHale averaged nearly 21 points in each of those seasons. Credit Bird, by the way, with making it a point to help elevate McHale's game, especially on the offensive end, without compromising his own.
There were plenty of stars during the Celtics dynasty from the 1950s and '60s. However, together, Russell and Cousy were stalwarts during Boston's run of six NBA championships and seven title-series appearances from 1956-57 to 1962-63. During that span, the dominant Russell averaged at least 16.6 points in six of those seasons, while the smooth-moving Cousy scored 20 or more per game in two campaigns.
As we know, Shaq and Kobe had their issues when together, but they still won three straight NBA titles from 2000-'02. They also reached the NBA Finals another time, yet many believe the Lakers could have been even more dominant with the two together. Over time, their relationship healed, and O'Neal delivered a touching tribute to his late former teammate earlier this year.
The true architects of "Showtime" in Los Angeles, this legendary duo helped the Lakers dominate the 1980s by winning five NBA titles and reaching the Finals another three times while together. There was also a mutual respect for the other, something that stars of today tend to have a hard time mustering with egos and paychecks clouding things. No teammates played off each other better than Magic and Kareem.
Those who have been taking in "The Last Dance" got a glimpse into the relationship between these two Hall of Famers who helped the Bulls to six NBA titles during the 1990s. Jordan is arguably the greatest player in NBA history but admits he owes a good deal of that success to Pippen. Hailing from a small town in Arkansas, Pippen is regarded as one of the game's all-time great defenders and averaged 20.3 points from 1990-91 to 1997-98.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.