Well, another season is over. Golden State are Champions once again after beating LeBron and the Cavaliers 4-1 in this year’s Finals. Although many still believe that LeBron is the best player in the world after becoming the only person to average a triple double in the Finals the pairing of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry proved too much for even the King to handle.
What were we to expect when you add the greatest shooter to ever and the most versatile scorer ever? Combine that with the knowledge they both now have about playing as a team and with one another to achieve success and you have a duo that looks set to rival the very best in the years to come.
The NBA has seen some great duos in its history. From Bill Russell and John Havlicek to Magic and Kareem, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to Shaq and Kobe. They have helped shape the NBA into what we know and love today, but what about the duos that never happened? How effective would they have been? Here we can imagine the havoc certain pairs might have had working together. Below are my top ten NBA pairs would never get to see.
10. Chris Paul and Anthony Davis
This one has a bit of an asterisk to its name because it’s still a real possibility. CP3 could return to New Orleans and team up with arguably the best young talent in the NBA. I still maintain that Paul is the best pure point guard in the NBA, he is the complete all-round package of playmaking, scoring and defense.
Imagine Davis (and possibly Cousins) being fed by Paul next year. The lobs that could be thrown and the defense both at the rim and on the perimeter. Paul is a master at operating in the pick and roll and with Davis setting his screens the options would be endless for this duo.
Chris Paul is running out of time. He needs to cement his legacy as a Hall of Famer now. He needs that playoff run that Dirk Nowitzki had in 2011. Nobody in the league deserves a chance more to prove himself in the Finals more than CP3.
This duo still has a chance to satiate our hunger, let’s hope the basketball Gods allow this to happen.
9. Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard
Again this could happen, both players are still active but I'm not talking about the current D-Rose and Dwight Howard. I’m talking about the guys circa 2011, remember them? The guys who were becoming the youngest MVP in league history and the guy who had just won the defensive player of the year for the third time in a row.
Howard and Rose were just monsters 6 years ago.
They were easily the best players at their respective positions and are both some of the most athletic players to have ever played. The speed of Derrick Rose was terrifying and the strength and jumping ability of Dwight Howard gave him the nickname of “Superman”.
These two in tandem would have been a sight to see. Again Derrick Rose was a master of the pick and roll, and Howard is probably the most mobile center we have ever seen. He’s never averaged under a double-double for his entire career and just grabs every rebound.
It’s a sad tale to see these once incredible athletic specimens and how they’ve fallen, either through injury or through circumstance.
Hopefully, they will be remembered for what they achieved at their best, not the failings they had at their worst.
8. Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins
Do you really hate the rim in basketball? Ever just wanted to see it utterly obliterated because you couldn’t hit a shot? Well, boy, do I have the pair for you.
Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins have made it their life’s mission to inflict as much pain on the rim as possible. I don’t know what the rim has done to them in the past, but it can’t have been good.
Want proof? Well here and here it is.
These two seem to have so much built up anger and frustration that if they were on the same team I wouldn’t be surprised if they tore the whole building down. It also helps they these are two of the most dynamic players we’ve seen. Russ just averaged a triple double for the season joining Oscar Robertson as the only other player to do so and Cousins is the most skilled Big in the NBA today.
These two would be a wrecking ball smashing through NBA defenses and providing us highlight lovers with some jaw-dropping moments.
7. Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard
Damn you Zaza!
Damn you and your ‘closeout’ on Kawhi that sealed this year’s Western Conference Finals!
The Spurs were up 76 - 55 and were looking like real challengers to Golden-State this year to get to the Finals when Kawhi landed on Zaza’s foot, twisting his already damaged ankle and deciding the series before it had even begun.
The Spurs were destroying the Warriors, and it was all down to Kawhi.
There is no doubt that he is the best two-way player in the league and is only getting better with every year he plays. Steph Curry is the best shooter we have ever seen.
These two would work wonders.
Kawhi is the peskiest defender we’ve seen in a long time and can shut down the oppositions best ball-handler without question. Curry is just a magician through and through. The pair of them would cause utter nightmares for their opposition with their basketball IQs and overall skill level.
It looks very likely that we will see these two pitted against each other for the next few years in what will be some epic clashes, but imagine if these two combined forces... the rest of the league better hope they don’t get any ideas.
6. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain
Of all the pairings on the list, I believe this one would be the most unfair.
In a time where the NBA was just starting to become popular and the league was a lot shorter than it is today, these two literally stood head and shoulders above the rest. These two and numbers one and two on the NBA’s all-time rebounds list. They both average above 20 rebounds a game for their entire career!
Seriously, if these two had played together the league would have shut down. No teams would even bother suiting up to play against them.
Russell won 11 rings because he always had the better team than Wilt during the 60s even though Wilt was the best individual player.
Wilt averaged over 50 points a game in his third season… 50 every night! He scored 100 once! It was mythic what Wilt could actually do and the only person who could stop him making the opponent coach cry was Russell.
5. Allen Iverson and Shaquille O’Neal
In terms of size, these guys were polar opposites. Allen Iverson was barely 6 foot and weighed 165 lbs. Shaq was 7 foot 1 and was the second heaviest player ever at 360 lbs. Although these was a huge difference in their size, there was no difference in their star power.
Iverson was multiple scoring champions who would light up any arena for 50+ on any given night and Shaq was the most overpowering force we’ve ever seen on an NBA court. These two met in the 2001 NBA Finals were Shaq’s Lakers won 4-1 but Iverson was so good that he managed to carry his team to a game 1 win scoring 48.
Iverson was always known as a bit of a shot first, ask questions later player and with a career field-goal percentage of 42.5%, it’s understandable why.
But what if he had Shaq to grab all those offensive rebounds and then slam it in the faces of the opponents, most likely with a foul as well?
These two were the stars of the early 00s and their combination would have been spectacular.
4. Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan
A big question of debate amongst NBA fans is who had the better career; Kobe or Duncan? Both won five titles, both won MVP awards, both stayed their whole career with their franchise and both were a great offensive and defensive players.
You can say that Duncan never didn’t make the playoffs but that Kobe had worse teammates and coaching. Both were extremely dominant and both are easily in my top ten of all time players.
What if these two, instead of facing each other had somehow made it onto the same team the entirety of the 00s?
10 titles in a row anyone?
3. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James
It pains me so much to see that LeBron is now 3-5 in the Finals. The most talented player in NBA history deserves better than that but hey, that’s the NBA for you.
Before LeBron had won his first title back in 2012, him and his Miami Heat were down 3-2 against the Boston Celtics with many believing that again LeBron would come up short. Commentators and analysts then began pondering the possible trade of sending Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to the Lakers in return for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Kobe Bryant was, without a doubt, the hardest working and most fundamentally sound basketball player ever. The drive he had to win is almost unparalleled in sports history and was a pure closer.
He wasn't known as the Black Mamba for anything.
People were saying that they would want LeBron for the first 46 minutes of a close game and then Kobe Bryant for the last 2.
These two would have put on the most spectacular show we’ve ever seen. Just look at the 2008 Olympics as an example. LeBron and Kobe took no prisoners and wiped other nations off the floor.
The King and the Mamba on the same franchise together…?
Lord, have mercy.
2. Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon
Of course, this list had to include these two.
MJ is, without a doubt, the greatest to ever play. There is no need to rattle off all his achievements, that could fill an entire book but people often forget how good Hakeem was.
Quite simply he was the best post-scorer ever.
His footwork, moves and countermoves were poetry in motion. It’s no wonder that many NBA players including LeBron, Kobe and Dwight Howard have all gone to him just to get a shred of his knowledge. Oh and also he’s the all-time leader in blocked shots, 13th all time in rebounds and 11th in points.
These two together just wouldn’t have been fair.
1. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird
Did you have any doubt?
If you did then this might have been the first time you’ve encountered basketball and if so shame on you!
I can think of no two-sport stars in history in any sport who we could want more. This is Magic and Larry! Without these two guys in the 80s, the NBA might’ve gone bankrupt. Attendance was terrible, everyone was playing as individuals, not as a team. Then these two came along and completely changed everything. They both prioritized passing and getting their teammates involved first and their own personal records second.
Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers dominated the 80’s completely. One of them appeared in every NBA Finals for an entire decade. They met 3 times with the Lakers winning 2 and the Celtics 1. The main story though was always Magic vs. Larry, Magic vs. Larry. It’s all everybody cared about.
Although at first, they hated each other, they soon developed a fierce love and respect for one another. Larry was one of the first guys to call Magic when he announced he had HIV and the two have remained very close friends ever since.
It’s the greatest rivalry the NBA has ever seen thanks to a number of factors. You had the initial racial divide given that Larry was an introverted white guy and Magic was an extroverted black guy. You had LA with all its glitz and glamor vs Boston and it’s blue collar reputation and you had the histories’ of two most decorated franchises going head to head.
All I can say is thank God that they teamed up on the 92 dream team in the Olympics. Even though it was only for a few games we got to see a glimpse of what it would’ve been like to see these two legends play hand in hand.