Every week on NBA.com, we'll unveil a new bracket with daily matchups to vote on. By the end of the week, we'll crown a champion and determine a winner based on fan voting. Up next for this week? The best duos in NBA history.
LAST WEEK: Kawhi voted winner for best shot ever
What is the best duo in NBA history?
To help settle the score, we picked 16 of the best duos ever and pitted them against each other in a mythical 2-on-2 tournament. Winners were determined entirely by you, the fans!
The championship round featured the top two seeds in our tournament and two of the most iconic tag-team partners of all-time.
In the end, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant eeked by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen with 53% of the vote.
Let's get one thing straight... this was all about winning a game of 2-on-2, not necessarily who accomplished the most as a duo in the NBA.
Here's how the entire tournament unfolded.
Any discussion placing too much emphasis on rings when debating duos tends to ignore everything else that factored into winning: teammates, coaching, competition, health... you get the idea.
MORE: Which duos got snubbed?
But what if we removed the accolades from the equation and focused strictly on basketball? Sure, Jordan and Pippen were unstoppable in the context of playing five-on-five (that 6-0 record in the NBA Finals speaks for itself!), but would they be able to stop someone like O'Neal or Abdul-Jabbar?
|1.||Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen|
|2.||Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant|
|3.||Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar|
|4.||LeBron James and Dwyane Wade|
|5.||Moses Malone and Julius Erving|
|6.||Larry Bird and Kevin McHale|
|7.||Bill Russell and Bob Cousy|
|8.||Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson|
|9.||Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook|
|10.||Elgin Baylor and Jerry West|
|11.||Karl Malone and John Stockton|
|12.||Tim Duncan and David Robinson|
|13.||Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars|
|14.||Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp|
|15.||Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry|
|16.||Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire|
- In order for maximum variety, each player could only be represented in one duo. For example, you won't see Shaq and Penny Hardaway since he's already teamed up with Bryant.
- We tried to balance out not only which duos are more known for playing with each other which is why someone like Steve Nash is teamed up with Amar'e Stoudemire instead of Dirk Nowitzki.
- This is about winning a game of 2-on-2, not necessarily which duo has won the most together in real life. That's why Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are seeded higher than Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars.
- Games are to 11 by 1s and 2s. And it's not make-it, take-it. That's it!
MORE: Playing 'what if' with Shaq and Penny | What made Stockton and Malone unstoppable | Vinsanity and T-Mac in Toronto
The first round included one major upset in the 5 vs 12 matchup with an iconic duo from the 1980s sent packing early. Here are the results from the opening round matchups:
- 1 Jordan/Pippen def. 16 Nash/Stoudemire: 92% of vote
- 2 O'Neal/Bryant def. 15 Leonard/Lowry: 87% of vote
- 3 Johnson/Abdul-Jabbar def. 14 Payton/Kemp: 94% of vote
- 4 James/Wade def. 13 Thomas/Dumars: 89% of vote
- 12 Duncan/Robinson def. 5 Erving/Malone: 60% of vote
- 6 Bird/McHale def. 11 Stockton/Malone: 53% of vote
- 7 Russell/Cousy def. 10 West/Baylor: 73% of vote
- 9 Durant/Westbrook def. 8 Curry/Thompson: 59% of vote
The only dramatic matchup involved San Antonio's twin towers duo of Tim Duncan and David Robinson coming relatively close to pulling out an upset over LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. While their size would no doubt have given the Heatles some fits, in the end it wasn't enough to prevent an all chalk final four.
- 1 Jordan/Pippen def. 9 Durant/Westbrook: 87% of vote
- 2 O'Neal/Bryant def. 7 Russell/Cousy: 91% of vote
- 3 Johnson/Abdul-Jabbar def. 6 Bird/McHale: 81% of vote
- 4 James/Wade def. 12 Duncan/Robinson: 57% of vote
- 1 Jordan/Pippen def. 4 James/Wade: 74% of vote
- 2 O'Neal/Bryant def. 3 Johnson/Abdul-Jabbar: 66% of vote
With that in mind, let's get down to business with a dream championship series...
Was there ever REALLY any doubt that these would be the final two duos meeting for all of the marbles? The Chicago Bulls duo easily dispatched LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the semifinals while Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant got the upper hand in a showtime showdown with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
In real life these duos only faced off twice with each winning once. However, Bryant was still coming off the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers so we never truly got to see them go at it at peak powers.
How would it go down in real life?
Would Jordan or Pippen even stand a chance at slowing down Shaq?
Would Shaq be quick enough to guard either Jordan or Pippen?
Would Bryant take matters into his own hands and try turning it into a one-on-one game against Jordan?
Would we need to clone Phil Jackson in order to have him coach against himself?
With the potential to watch Jordan try to guard Shaq, it's worth remembering that ahead of the 1984 NBA Draft, Hall of Fame college coach Bobby Knight implored the Portland Trail Blazers to take Jordan even though they needed a centre. When Portland shared its positional concern, Knight simply responded: "Play him [Jordan] at center, and he will be the best center in the league." So there's that.
In the end, the fans decided that Shaq and Kobe would ultimately take down Michael and Scottie in a nailbiter. Playing the percentages, receiving 53% of the vote is the same as winning 15-13 in a game to 11 in which you have to win by two.
There would be no more fitting way to end the greatest 2-on-2 tournament ever than the two most iconic duos needing extra time to settle the score.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.