Freeman Cebu Sports

A pairing destined for greatness?

NBA BUZZ - Bobby Motus - The Freeman

Before the popularity of the Big Three in the NBA, there were pairings that did as well if not better. It may not necessarily be a backcourt/frontcourt combo but a combination of guards or a center and a power forward.   Many dynamic duos of basketball past come to mind but we’ll talk on the more top ranked pairs.

Perhaps having spent the longest season together ever as a pair, John Stockton and Karl Malone, with their almost unstoppable pick-and-rolls, gave the Utah Jazz and their fans thrills and excitement for 18 years. The pair led Utah to the Finals twice but was blocked each time by another great pair.

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen spent 9 full seasons together and as we all know, won six league championships, winning their first 3-peat between 1991 and 1993 thus becoming the first team to win three consecutive NBA titles since the Boston Celtics won 8 straight from 1959 to 1966.  The second 3-peat was from 1996 to 1998, with the Jazz on the receiving end twice. Jordan was the Finals MVP in all those title runs.

My era was witness to two traditional rivalries with equally great tandems. The Boston Celtics – LA Lakers rivalry, sometimes called the greatest rivalry in the NBA, was made more intense by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the 1980s.  Both had equally impressive partners in Kevin McHale and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. They met in the Finals 3 times (1984, 1985 and 1987, with the Lakers winning the last two).

Magic and Jabbar played together in eight NBA Finals, winning 5. In their time together, Magic won 3 Finals MVP, Jabbar one. Bird and McHale played 12 seasons together, winning 3 league championships in 1980, 1984 and 1986.  Bird won 3 straight MVP awards from 1984 to 1986 while McHale, within that period won two Sixth Man of the Year awards.

Another memorable pair came together to the LA Lakers in 1996 and four years later, domination started.  Kobe Bryant and Shaquile O’Neal, under the guidance of Phil Jackson, won the NBA title from 2000 to 2002. They played 8 seasons together, appearing in four NBA Finals, winning 3. Shaq was league MVP in 2000 and was Finals MVP in all their 3 championships.

The Lakers could have ruled the 80s, but one team owned them for one season. It was the 1982-1983 Philadelphia 76ers starring the HOF duo of Julius Erving and Moses Malone. They swept the Lakers in four games (whom they lost to the season before) with Malone named as the league and Finals MVP. It was the only NBA title not won by either the Lakers or the Celtics from 1980 to 1988. The Erving-Malone duo lasted only four seasons as Erving was nearing the end of his career.

Now, Philly had formed another superstar pair in Joel Embiid and James Harden. It’s too early to jump into conclusions but so far, so good. Both seem to have found chemistry and this is a positive sign for their post season run. 

Only time can tell if the Harden-Embiid tandem is destined to greatness.


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