It is a well-known fact that one player cannot carry a team to a championship (Dirk Nowitzki and Hakeem Olajuwon might say otherwise). Many have tried, almost all have failed and with the new trend of "superteams", it shows even more that superstars need other stars at the very least to take them to a title.
Looking back in history, almost every team had almost their entire roster stepping-up at some point during both the regular season as well as the Playoffs for their team to win a title. Having said that, there are always a few standouts.
Sometimes it's more than just two players. Some teams have more than just two stars on their team en route to a title which has become a bit of a modern trend. Till recently though, it was usually one-two punch combo that was the focal point of a championship winning team.
Here is a look at the twenty-six greatest duos in the history of the NBA.
#25 Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire (Phoenix Suns)
Steve Nash became a free-agent in 2004 and not many people were too keen on spending a lot of money on a player that was around thirty years old and never really earned the reputation of being able to lead a successful team.
The Suns though took a gamble on the Canadian as they thought he would be the perfect partner for their young big-man Amar'e Stoudemire, who they drafted out of high school in 2002.
It was an ingenious move as both Stoudemire and Nash came into their own as players. They played some of the most exciting basketball of the decade and their offensive efficiency was unparallel. Nash and Stoudemire fit perfectly into coach Mike D'Antoni's offensive regime. They introduced the seven seconds or less tactic to the league and their pick-and-roll method was often compared to John Stockton and Karl Malone.
Both the superstars along with the entire team flourished during this period and reached the Western Conference Finals twice, in 2005 and 2006.
Nash reached the illustrious 40-50-90 club four times while at Phoenix and won back-to-back MVP titles in 2005 and 2006 while Stoudamire became a five-time All-Star during his time with Nash and the Suns. In 2007, the duo also became the first teammates since Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant to be voted to the first-team All-NBA.
#24 Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson (Phoenix Suns)
Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson were quite possibly the most underrated duo in NBA history. When Barkley was traded to Phoenix, the league immediately took notice. Everyone knew that adding a player of Barkley's caliber to an already talented and exciting Phoenix unit that was led by Johnson and Dan Majerle could end up being quite lethal. They were right.
The combination of Barkley's ruthless and almost bullying mentality coupled with Johnson's athleticism, speed and flair was a match made in heaven.
They played a fast-paced brand of basketball, but what set them apart was the intensity with which they played with. Barkley, who was one the league's top five players at the time had the perfect pieces around him to make a deep playoff run. Barkley was almost impossible to defend and very often drew double-teams. This benefited Johnson as Barkley's playmaking skills were severely underrated.
They reached the NBA finals in Barkley's first year with the Suns but sadly lost to the Chicago Bulls in six games though Barkley averaged 27 points and 13 rebounds through the series. Barkley also took home his only regular season MVP in the same year.
The Suns, unfortunately, were never able to reach the heights of their 1993 playoff run and Barkley ended up never winning a ring. The Suns too, are still searching for their first title.
#23 LeBron James and Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
After a crushing defeat at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA finals, LeBron James was on the lookout for a new challenge having run out his contract in Miami. His former team had landed a wonderful prospect in the 2011 draft named Kyrie Irving and the stage was set for the "King" to return.
The impact of LeBron on the Cleveland Cavaliers was astronomical. They went from holding the first pick in the draft almost every year since he was gone to being immediate title contenders.
He and Irving along with the likes of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson led the Cavaliers to 53-29 record in 2015 and they reached the NBA Finals. Irving and Love were injured during these Finals, which resulted in the Cavs losing in six games to the Golden State Warriors.
The following season was quite possibly the greatest season of not only Irving's career but LeBron's too. They reached the finals once again and faced the record-setting 73-9 Warriors in a rematch. After going 3-1 down, Cleveland came back to win the title 4-3. This was the first time any team had done so in NBA history and also broke Cleveland's fifty-two year pro sports championship drought.
The pair led Cleveland to a third consecutive Finals in 2017, where they met the Warriors yet again. The Warriors this time though would have the revenge by beating the Cavs convincingly in five games.
#22 Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler (Houston Rockets)
Hakeem Olajuwon had just given Houston its first ever NBA championship pretty much single-handedly. He dragged an otherwise mediocre side all the way to the promised land in 1994.
The next season was a very different story. With the rise of teams such as Orlando, San Antonio, Indiana and New York emerging, the Rockets were in dire straits and looked to be in a struggle for even a playoff spot.
Clyde Drexler at the time was having an equally bad time in Portland. So the Trail Blazers granted their talisman his wish of being traded to a contender by sending him to Houston. This was the turning point in the season for both Drexler and the Rockets.
They finished with a still mediocre record of 47-35 and secured the sixth spot in the Western Conference. They were heavily unfavoured to win the title but somehow managed to reach the finals after another colossal performance by their star center, who was now aided by a former MVP candidate.
They defied odds and won the NBA title in convincing fashion, beating the Orlando Magic 4-0.The pair took Houston to Conference Semi-Final in 1996 and the Conference Final in 1997 before losing in the first round in 1998 to the Utah Jazz.
That would be Drexler's last season in the NBA.
#21 Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp (Seattle SuperSonics)
The 1990's Supersonics weren't ahead of their time. They were from another planet! When they took a gamble on a controversial high school kid named Shawn Kemp in 1989 and drafting the sometimes unpredictable Gary Payton the following year, no one knew about the storm that was brewing in Seattle.
In an era of post-ups and isolation play, the Sonics were frantic. It was chaos every time they took the floor. The mid-90s Sonics were the definition of flawed, but when they got going, they were mesmerizing. Oh, and they let you know about it too.
The duo of Kemp and Payton won 357 regular season games in six years. They finished top of their conference in four of those years. The playoffs though were a different story.
In 1993 they reached the Conference Finals before losing to Phoenix. In 1994 they became the first number one seed to lose to a number eight seed in the playoffs. They followed it up with another first-round exit in 1995.
In 1996 though, they got it together for the first and only time when they reached the NBA finals. They went 3-0 down but rampantly fought back to 3-2. In game six they became the team that came closest to forcing a game seven against Michael Jordan but to no avail.
Kemp was traded to the Cavaliers in 1997.
#20 Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Following the mid-90's duo of Kemp and Payton, Seattle made two more back-to-back draft picks in 2007 and 2008 that changed their fortunes immensely. They first drafted Kevin Durant and then Russell Westbrook the following year. Seattle would relocate to Oklahoma six days after Westbrook was drafted.
Much like their predecessors, Durant and Westbrook were a storm that no one was prepared for. In 2010, the duo made their first playoff appearance but lost in the first round to eventual champions the Los Angeles Lakers. Durant also became the youngest scoring champion that year.
In 2011, they lost to eventual champions Dallas in the Conference Finals. The following year, they went a step further and reached the NBA Finals but lost to the Miami Heat in five games.
This was the closest the duo would get to the title. They would reach the Conference Finals on two more occasions. They lost to the Spurs in 2014 and blew a 3-1 lead in 2016 to the Golden State Warriors. Both teams would go on to be crowned champions.
The duo was incredible individually. Durant won four scoring titles and an MVP award. Westbrook won a scoring title for himself in 2015 when Durant only played twenty-five games. In the 2016 off-season, Durant made a shock announcement that he would be leaving the Thunder and joining the Golden State Warriors.
#19 Patrick Ewing and John Starks (New York Knicks)
The 90's New York Knicks were the toughest and most physical team in the NBA. They had some epic wars against numerous teams. Their two leaders were Patrick Ewing and John Starks and their personalities meshed together perfectly.
In 1992, the Knicks took the eventual champions Chicago Bulls to seven games in the Conference Semifinals. The following year they met again and this time it looked like New York would advance when they took a 2-0 lead. The Bulls came back and won the series 4-2.
In 1994, Michael Jordan had announced his retirement and this seemed like the perfect moment for Ewing and Starks to take their team to the promised land. They beat their rivals the Indiana Pacers and reached the NBA finals where they met the Houston Rockets. It was a showdown between two of the greatest centers of their generation. Ewing and Olajuwon went toe-to-toe for seven games. In game seven Starks shot a miserable 2-18 from the field and the Knicks lost.
This was, unfortunately, the last time that the pair would reach the NBA finals and although they were regulars in the playoffs, were never really title contenders once Jordan returned at the end of the 1995 season.
Starks was eventually traded to Golden State and Ewing to Seattle.
#18 Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway (Orlando Magic)
This duo was set to be the second coming of Magic and Kareem. In 1992, the Magic drafted Shaquille O'Neal with the number one pick. The following year they drafted Chris Webber but traded him immediately for Penny Hardaway.
The duo set the league on fire. O'Neal who was an All-Star in his rookie season just kept getting better, and with Hardaway's size and athleticism, it seemed like this was going to be one of the greatest dynasties ever seen in Basketball.
In their first season together, they reached the playoffs for the first time in franchise history but were swept in the first round.
The next season though was their peak together. Both O'Neal and Hardaway were named All-Stars and Shaq was named second in the MVP voting. In the Conference Semi-Finals, they played the Chicago Bulls who had just got Michael Jordan back from retirement. The Magic beat the Bulls and handed Jordan the last playoff series loss of his career. They reached the NBA finals but were swept by a more experienced Rockets team.
Unfortunately, this was the closest the duo would get. They were swept by a determined Chicago team the following season and due to contract issues, O'Neal left the Magic that summer. O'Neal has stated on numerous occasions about his regrets of leaving the Magic before winning a title with Penny.
#17 Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
Nicknamed "The Splash Brothers", Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson changed the way the game was played. They were the first ones to really implement the three is more than two theory. Neither of them was really known as a force in college but were still lottery picks. Curry was drafted seventh in 2009 and Thompson eleventh in 2011.
After a bit of a rough start to the NBA, they both started finding their feet in 2013 when they made the second round of the Playoffs before losing to the Spurs.
After an early Playoff exit in 2014, they two really came into their own the following season. Curry was named the MVP and the Warriors won their first title in forty years.
In the 2015-16, the Warriors broke the regular season record for most wins in a single season. They finished with 73 wins and Curry was named the first-ever unanimous MVP. They didn't find it as easy in the playoffs though. After fighting back from a 3-1 deficit in the conference final, Golden State was up 3-1 in the NBA final versus Cleveland and was looking set to defend their title. But, Cleveland shocked the world and won the final three games to make the greatest finals comeback in NBA history.
The Warriors had their redemption though as they beat the Cavaliers in 2017 after adding superstar small-forward Kevin Durant to their roster.
#16 Moses Malone and Julius Erving (Philadelphia 76ers)
Also read: Top 10 Regular season scorers in NBA History
Julius Erving had spent the better part of a decade in Philly where each and every year he faced heartbreak. He lost in Conference Finals three times and twice in the NBA finals. He was desperate at the time and in 1982 he and his team found their missing piece.
Moses Malone was just coming off an MVP season in Houston and was a free-agent. The 76ers wasted no time in getting the deal done. This proved to be the turning point in both Malone and Erving's career.
Their first season together saw them win the 1983 NBA championship in convincing fashion by sweeping the Lakers in the final. On the whole, they went 12-1 in the playoffs. Their dominant season prompted Malone to predict the famous "fo-fo-fo" indicating four games taken to complete every series in the playoffs.
They were upset in the first round of the playoffs by the Nets in the following season, but they did manage to reach the Eastern Conference Finals in 1985 before losing to a resurgent Boston Celtics led by Larry Bird.
In his time with the 76ers, Malone also became the first and so far the only player to win the MVP in consecutive seasons with two different teams. He also won his fifth consecutive rebounding title which was a record at the time. He was traded to Washington in 1986.
#15 Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics)
This trade made sense in many ways. Kevin Garnett had spent twelve years in Minnesota and won an MVP award whilst there. He never managed to reach the NBA Finals though. Paul Pierce was a part of a struggling Boston Celtics for about a decade and was looking for his first real championship chase.
The two got together in 2007 and they along with sharpshooter Ray Allen made an immediate impact. They led the biggest turn around in NBA history by winning sixty-six games. Garnett was named Defensive Player of the Year. They had a tough playoff run and faced their rival the Lakers in the Finals. They won their first and Boston's seventeenth title in six games. Pierce was named Finals MVP.
The following year they were knocked out in the second round by Orlando due to a season-ending injury to Garnett. In 2010, they reached the finals again and faced the defending champion Lakers in a rematch from 2008. They lost agonizingly in the deciding game by four points.
They did manage to reach the Conference Finals in 2012 and fought valiantly to go up 3-2 against the seemingly unplayable Miami Heat. They were overpowered in the last two games and lost 4-3. Pierce and Garnett were traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013.
#14 Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers)
After a couple of below-par seasons, Kobe Bryant was not a happy man and on multiple occasions stated that he wanted to be traded in 2007. The Lakers knew that something drastic had to be done soon and so made a move for All-Star power-forward Pau Gasol.
The duo gelled quickly and made an impact in their first season together. They finished first in their Conference and Bryant took home his first and only league MVP award. They had a fairly easy run to the Finals where they met their biggest rivals the Boston Celtics. It was an epic series and both teams who were in their prime went toe-to-toe for six games. Boston eventually emerged as champions.
The following year Bryant and Gasol led the Lakers back to the Finals, where they met a young Orlando Magic squad. The Lakers won convincingly in five games with Bryant taking home his first finals MVP.
In 2010, the stage was set for an epic rematch from 2008 with the Lakers reaching the Finals for a third consecutive time. The Lakers and Celtics went to war for seven games and in the deciding seventh game, the Lakers found themselves down by thirteen going into the fourth quarter but made a comeback to win the title by four points.
After a couple of inconsequential playoff runs, Gasol signed with the Chicago Bulls in 2014.
#13 Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee Bucks)
In 1969 the Milwaukee Bucks hit the jackpot by landing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor at the time) with the first pick. The Bucks though, knew that they needed more to actually push for a title in the coming years and in 1970 decided to make a move for Oscar Robertson, who was a ten-time All-Star and arguably the greatest point guard of all time.
Though Robertson was in the twilight of his career, the move had immediate results with the Bucks having one the most dominant seasons in NBA history. They won sixty-six games in the regular season and had an improbable run of 12-2 in the playoffs including a 4-0 sweep of the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA final resulting in a first championship for the Bucks, Robertson, and Alcindor.
The duo led the Bucks to two more division titles in the following seasons and in the final season that Robertson played, they amazingly reached the NBA finals in 1974. The Bucks though fell to the Boston Celtics who were led by an inspired Dave Cowens in the deciding seventh game.
Oscar's retirement heavily affected the Bucks with them slipping to 38-44 the next season despite Abdul-Jabbar's presence. Milwaukee is still searching for its second title.
#12 Karl Malone and John Stockton (Utah Jazz)
This was by far the greatest duo to never win a championship. The Utah Jazz drafted Stockton with the sixteenth pick in 1984 and Malone with the thirteenth pick in 1985. The two were made for each other.
The pair had an incredible record of making the Playoffs in every one of their eighteen seasons together. They were absolute masters of the pick and roll. Stockton was arguably the greatest passer of all-time and lockdown perimeter defender, while Malone was a beast in the post. The two terrorized defenses for almost two decades and managed to look so elegant while doing so.
After five consecutive Conference Finals appearances, the Jazz reached the NBA Finals in both 1997 and 1998. They were unfortunately matched with the unstoppable Chicago Bulls who were led by a seemingly undefeatable Michael Jordan. Most people say that the biggest travesty in basketball is that Malone and Stockton didn't manage to win a title.
They did manage to win numerous individual awards. Malone was named two MVP titles in 1997 and 1999 and ended his career being the second highest scorer in the history of the league.
Stockton became a ten-time All-Star and also ended with the highest career assist total surpassing Magic Johnson. The duo was also named Co-MVP in the 1993 All-Star Game.
#11 Willis Reed and Walt Frazier (New York Knicks)
Willis Reed who was drafted in 1964 and Walt Frazier in 1967, which gave New York its greatest run in NBA history. They took some time to come into the elite stage but showed that they had an extremely well-rounded game from the time they entered the league.
Although there were signs of brilliance, the Knicks had a tough time during the 60s. Reed though was a constant at the All-Star game.
Both Reed and Frazier were known for their defense and eventually, it paid off.
In 1970, Reed won the regular season MVP, All-Star MVP, and Finals MVP becoming the first man to do so. He along with fellow All-Star Frazier led New York to its first-ever NBA championship by defeating the Lakers. In Game 5, Reed went down with an injury and things looked bleak. He amazingly came back for just two minutes in Game 7 and scoring the first two baskets of the game.
In 1972, Reed only played eleven games but the Knicks still managed to make the Finals. They lost to the Lakers on this attempt.
The following season, Reed due to constant injuries was less of a threat. The team relied more on Frazier. They beat the Lakers in five games to complete the bounce back and clinching the franchise's second title in three years. Frazier's defense on Jerry West during this series was said to be the most integral factor in their second run to the title.
The following season was Reed's final year in the league and Frazier was also eventually traded to the Cavaliers. The duo ended up giving New York it's first and only two titles in Basketball.
#10 John Havlicek and Dave Cowens (Boston Celtics)
When Bill Russell retired in 1969, the Celtics were looking to reload. They still had star shooting guard John Havlicek, but that wasn't nearly enough for them to contend for a title. In 1970 they drafted an undersized center, Dave Cowens. Cowens was known for his technical ability, but no one knew about the aggression that he brought to the Celtics.
The duo of Cowens and Havlicek quickly became an exciting combo but weren't at the level of the Knicks and Lakers to contend immediately. After a few steady seasons, Cowens came into his own in 1973 and took home the MVP award.
The following year was when the team really stepped up. They made the 1974 NBA finals and met the Milwaukee Bucks led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, who was playing his final year of basketball. The series was an instant classic. it came down to the seventh and deciding game. In the decider, Cowens had a stellar game with twenty-eight points and fourteen rebounds which resulted in a blowout. Havlicek took home the finals MVP award.
They returned to the Finals again in 1976, this time facing the Phoenix Suns and winning 4-2. Havlicek retired in 1978 after winning eight titles. While Cowens retired in 1983 with two championships.
#9 LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat)
In 2010, LeBron made a decision to leave the Cavaliers and join forces with former Finals MVP Dwyane Wade in Miami. The duo played some of the most entertaining basketball ever seen.
The pair had a rough start to their first season together but quickly turned things around. They made the Finals quite comfortably and were heavily favored against an aging Dallas Mavericks. The Heat stormed to a 2-1 lead but fell apart and lost the next three games in the series. James received a lot of criticism for his performance in this series.
The next year was redemption for the Heat. They made the Finals again and this time they didn't falter. They beat the young Oklahoma City Thunder in five games to give LeBron his first and Wade his second title.
In 2013, the Heat made the final once again this time against the San Antonio Spurs. Down 3-2 and trailing in the final moments of game six, Ray Allen hit a three-pointer to tie the game. The Heat won the game and the series to give them their second title.
The following season was a rematch between the two. This was Miami's fourth consecutive trip to the finals. This time, they were beaten convincingly in five games. Following the loss, James announced that he would return to the Cavaliers.
James and Wade were reunited in 2017. This time in Cleveland.
#8 Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars (Detroit Pistons)
When Isiah Thomas entered the league, no one had seen someone with the ball handling skills that he possessed. He made the Pistons a very interesting team to watch but not a real contender. Enter Joe Dumars. The pair formed one of the greatest back-courts ever seen in the NBA.
After Dumars was drafted in 1985, Detroit became contenders for the rest of the decade. Nicknamed the "Bad Boys" for their physical and ruthless style of basketball, the Pistons became one of the most feared teams in the NBA.
In 1986 and 1987 the Pistons were defeated by the Boston Celtics. First in the second round and then in the Conference Finals. The next season saw them make the NBA for the first time but sadly lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
By this time, the Pistons had become the villains of the league due to their physicality. But they embraced their roles and excelled on the court. It was only a matter of time before they did capture that elusive ring. They finally won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 against the Lakers and the Portland Trailblazers.
Dumars was named finals MVP in 1989 and Thomas in 1990.The duo spent their entire career in Detroit. Thomas retired in 1994 while Dumars retired in 1999.
#7 Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain (Los Angeles Lakers)
Jerry West who was drafted in 1960 spent his first decade in the NBA filled with heartbreak in the playoffs. By 1968, he made the finals five times and lost on each attempt to the Celtics. The seemingly immortal Celtics led by Bil Russell were just too much for West and the Lakers.
Wilt Chamberlain had managed to win a title in 1967 but was looking for a new home the following season. The combination of West and Chamberlain was a match made in heaven.
They both excelled individually. Although neither won the regular season MVP, they were both almost guaranteed All-Stars.
In spite of West and Chamberlain's stellar performances, the Lakers still found it very hard in the playoffs. They reached the finals in 1969 and 1970 but lost on both occasions. This resulted in West losing in the finals seven times in one decade. West was named Finals MVP in 1969 making him the only player to win the award on a losing team.
Things didn't get any better in 1971 when they lost in the conference final to Milwaukee led by Lew Alcindor, but as the story goes, persistence pays off. West and Chamberlain made the finals yet again in 1972 and this time they got themselves that elusive title. They beat the New York Knicks in five games.
The duo played five seasons together and made the finals on four occasions.
#6 Larry Bird and Kevin McHale (Boston Celtics)
After their incredible run in the 60s, the Celtics had hit a bit of a slump by their standards in the following decade. They had only managed to reach the finals twice in the 70s and with Havlicek being retired and Cowens in his last breaths as a player, the Celtics were looking for a new spark. They found it when the drafted Larry Bird in 1978 and Kevin McHale in 1980. The duo reignited Boston and formed the greatest Celtics duo since Russell and Cousy.
Bird was an all-around superstar and did whatever was required of him in every game he played. McHale was master in the post. Nobody at the time had the kind of moves that he possessed in the paint. The pair along with Robert Parrish were almost impossible to handle when in full flight.
They led the Celtics to five finals appearances including four consecutive trips from 1984 to 1987. They won three NBA titles in the 80s. Bird won the MVP award three years in a row and also won three finals MVP's while McHale won the Sixth Man of the Year twice.
McHale was a seven-time All-Star and is still recognized as one of the greatest power forwards to ever grace the floor. The duo was also named to the 50th Anniversary All-Time team. The spent their entire career in Boston and retired in 1992 and 1993 respectively.
#5 Tim Duncan and Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)
Tim Duncan, who was drafted by the Spurs in 1997, had just led San Antonio along with David Robinson to its first title in 1999. Having done so, they were keen on maintaining themselves as title contenders. With Robinson in the twilight of his career, the Spurs looked for a partner for Duncan. This time they went with a 6'2" French guard named Tony Parker. The duo made the Spurs by far the most consistent team of the twenty-first century.
The duo reached the Playoffs every season that they played together. They reached the Finals on five occasions and won four titles in the process. On the one attempt that they did lose, they were narrowly beaten by Miami when they came within seconds of clinching the series after six games. Added to this, the pair were pretty much a certainty to make the All-Star game with Duncan making fifteen appearances and Parker with six during a period when the point guard position really flourished.
Duncan was named regular season MVP twice and finals MVP thrice. Parker won the Finals MVP in 2007. Duncan was also named to the All-NBA First Team on ten occasions including an eight-year span between 1998-2005 where he made the team each time. Parker was named to the All-NBA Second Team thrice and the Third Team once.
#4 Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)
The turn of the millennium saw quite possibly the scariest duo in the league's history come into full flight. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal teamed up first in 1996, but Bryant, a teenager at the time was just finding his feet in the league. Although they made a trip to the Conference Finals in 1998, they were comfortably swept by Utah and they both knew that work had to be done to reach the pinnacle.
In the 1999-00 season, the Lakers hired Phill Jackson and saw an immediate change. The Lakers led by the dynamic duo of O'Neal and Bryant won three consecutive titles between 2000 and 2002. They seemed unstoppable and went 15-1 in the playoffs during their second championship victory in 2001.
After their three-peat, things went downhill for the duo. O'Neal had surgery the following year and the Lakers didn't make the Finals and although they did make the Finals in 2004, they were convincingly beaten by the Detroit Pistons and O'Neal was traded to Miami after contract issues and not to mention his deteriorating relationship with Bryant.
O'Neal and Bryant had huge individual success too. O'Neal won MVP in 2000 and won three consecutive Finals MVP awards as well. Bryant is an 18-time All-Star and was given leadership of the Lakers after O'Neal's departure.
#3 Bill Russell and Bob Cousy (Boston Celtics)
In the 1950s, the Celtics led by Bob Cousy played a unique style of basketball at the time. Their fastbreak attacking style was never seen before. Though they were exciting to watch, they just didn't have enough of a defensive force, especially in the paint. In 1956, the St. Louis Hawks drafted Russell, but couldn't pay his wages and hence Boston swooped in and traded for the big man. This resulted in the most dominant dynasty in NBA history.
In Russell's second season in the league, the Celtics won their first title in franchise history against St.Louis. The following season saw a rematch between the two and this time the Hawks won and gave the pair their only loss in the NBA finals. The duo led the Celtics to five consecutive finals and won each time. It was almost a given at one point that they would eventually win the title.
The duo also won a host of personal accolades. Cousy was named the league's MVP in 1957 and the leader in assists eight times. Russell followed up by winning the award four times in the next six years. When Cousy retired in 1963, Russell and the Celtics didn't stop their winning ways. They won another five titles in six years before Russell retired in 1969.
#2 Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Los Angeles Lakers)
When the Lakers decided to pair Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was the greatest scorer the game has ever seen, with Magic Johnson, who is considered by many as the greatest point guard ever, they knew it was the perfect recipe for a dynasty. They couldn't have been more right.
Johnson was drafted in 1979 and immediately made an impact. The Lakers made the Finals in his first season and faced the Philadelphia 76ers. Up 3-2, Abdul-Jabbar was ruled out of game six and Johnson ended up as starting center. He finished with 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists. He is till date the only rookie to be named Finals MVP.
On the whole, the duo played ten seasons together and made the finals eight times. They won titles in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988. This period was well known for their rivalry with the Boston Celtics led by Larry Bird and Kevin McHale.
Kareem won one of his six MVP awards with Johnson in 1980. He was also the Finals MVP in 1985. Johnson won two of his three MVP awards with Abdul-Jabbar in 1987 and 1989. He was named finals MVP in 1980, 1982 and 1987.
Kareem finished as the all-time leader in points and Magic finished with the highest assist per game average in NBA history.
#1 Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls)
Well, you knew it was coming. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen formed the greatest duo in basketball history. Jordan was drafted in 1984 and took the league by storm. After a couple of seasons, the Bulls were looking for a partner for Jordan and found Pippen in 1987 when they made a trade with the Seattle SuperSonics. The duo was unstoppable for almost a decade.
They made their first Conference Finals appearance in 1989 when they lost in six games to eventual champions Detroit Pistons. The next season, they lost again in the Conference Finals, this time in seven games.This was just the beginning.
The duo finally took the monkey off their back the following season when they beat the Lakers 4-1 to win their and Chicago's first NBA title. The followed it up with two more in as many years giving them their first three-peat. Jordan took a two-year break from the game in 1994 and 1995. Hence the Bulls didn't make the Finals during that time.
When he came back, they won three in a row once again thereby making it six out of eight seasons. Jordan was named finals MVP each time and retired again in 1998. Many people believe that if Jordan had stayed on in those two seasons, they would have made in eight titles in as many years.
Jordan won the season MVP on five occasions and Defensive Player of the Year once while Pippen was a seven-time All-star.