No basketball team can win by completely relying on one or two players alone, even in the NBA. The squad with the best lineups on the floor complementing each other always has the upper hand. With that being said, it’s not a bad idea to build a team around two or three excellent players, and NBA history is rife with such deadly basketball combinations. Without further ado, here are the NBA’s most dominant duos and trios.
10 Best NBA Duos in History
The NBA is a superstar-driven league, which means you can’t win without at least two superstar-caliber players. Of course, that’s not always the case, as the 2004 Detroit Pistons have shown, but more often than not, history indicates teams with a couple of stars get the job done. So, who are the best 1-2 punches the NBA has ever seen? Here they are:
Best Current NBA Duos
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)
The sweet music Jokic and Murray played together resulted in a 2023 championship. The duo did not just make waves; they brought a tidal wave and then some. They were the first pair in the NBA to average at least 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the entire playoffs. On top of that, Jokic and Murray were the only set of NBA teammates to achieve a triple-double in the same NBA Finals game. They did it in Game 3 of the 2023 NBA Finals, where Jokic had 32-21-10 and Murray 34-10-10. For these reasons, these two could be the best duo in the NBA right now.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
The LeBron-AD connection delivered the Lakers a championship in 2020, but the past seasons were mired by injuries. Nevertheless, James and Davis led a Laker turnaround last year, hovering at 12th place for most of the season, but recovered just in time to make the playoffs as the seventh seed.
From there, they beat the second-seed Memphis Grizzlies and the defending champions Golden State Warriors before getting swept by the Denver Nuggets. The duo has a chance to lead an encore with practically the same team in 2023-24, and it remains to be seen if they could anchor the Purple and Gold from both sides of the ball.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)
Tatum and Brown have fallen short in their championship aspirations over the past years, but make no mistake about it, these young guys were the biggest reason why the Celtics are always in the mix.
Tatum made the All-NBA First team the past season, while Brown was good enough to be in the Second Team. Haters doubt if they could deliver Banner 18 for Boston, but as long as this duo delivers over 25+ PPG, among other things, the Celtics and its future are in good hands. After all, Tatum is just 25 years old and Brown 26 and could just be reaching their peaks. Even so, the Jay connection is one of the NBA duos that would be unstoppable on paper but has yet to result in a championship.
Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
On paper, this duo is a nightmare matchup, but the results beg otherwise. The Mavericks tumbled their way to the finish line and never made the play-in last year, even though they were hovering around the fifth to seventh spots most of the season. Still, the finger can be pointed at Dallas’ roster construction and the fact that they gutted their depth to acquire Irving midseason. If they can build solid wing and frontcourt depth around Kyrie and Luka, they are easily going to the playoffs. They may even become one of the best guard duos in NBA history !
Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Speaking of an explosive backcourt, how about Spida and D-Garland? The Cavs’ backcourt averaged nearly 50 points, seven rebounds, and over 12 dimes a game with excellent efficiency in 2022-23. They still need to get it together, especially in the playoffs, but the potential is there. More repetitions should solve the problem moving forward, along with the continuity and chemistry with the rest of the team.
Best Old NBA Duos
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls)
How about six championships, 21 All-Star games, 18 All-NBA teams, and 19 All-Defense teams between these two? MJ and Scottie had incredible chemistry, and both are absolute dogs on the defensive end. Of course, Scottie knew Mike was the main draw on offense, but he was no slouch himself. Pippen was a consistent near-20 PPG in those Bulls championship teams while also averaging around seven rebounds and five assists a game. Everybody knows how Jordan was, but having a sidekick by his side like Pippen was almost unfair to the opposition.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)
Shaq always claims he and Kobe is the best big man-wing duo ever, and he could be right. Their partnership produced three championships in a row until some beef and power play messed it up. Nevertheless, they were a match made in heaven. Kobe was always the X-Factor in the Lakers’ matchups between Western Conference powerhouses, while Shaq was just a cheat code against anyone coming out of the East. It’s a shame they couldn’t co-exist for long, but it was a treat to see while it lasted. At least they had the distinction as one of the highest scoring NBA duos ever!
John Stockton and Karl Malone (Utah Jazz)
If the list had different criteria, Stockton and Malone would have been No. 1. The Jazz duo played 18 seasons together, put up numbers, and made All-Star, All-NBA, and Olympic teams next to each other. No one would be surprised if it’s somehow revealed the two played with telekinesis or an invisible wire. The only thing missing in their partnership is a ring, but if the basketball they played was THAT beautiful, really, who needs a championship?
Bill Russell and Bob Cousy (Boston Celtics)
Russell and Cousy won six championships together in the 50s and 60s. Cousy was the offensive maestro, functioning like the old-era version of John Stockton, while Russell was content doing the dirty work. Of course, Bill won five more titles without his long-time point guard, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a duo with no overlapping skills like them.
5 Best NBA Trios of All Time
What’s always better than two heads? Of course, it’s three! Teams built around three All-Star players often go on and build dynasties, so don’t be surprised if these were the nucleus of some of the best NBA teams in history.
Current NBA Trios
Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
When talking about the best trio in NBA right now, the conversation goes through these guys. The reason why this trio has so much success is the fact that they know their roles and played them to a tee. Steph was the designated scorer and gravity guy who drew entire defenses to him. Draymond is a perennial All-NBA defender and an underrated playmaker. Klay is an underrated defender whose main job is to shoot in a pinch. No one can argue with the results: Four NBA championships and the honor of being the best regular-season record of all time (73-9 in 2015-16).
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Again, if we’re talking non-overlapping skills, this trio right here is the best complement to each other. Their off-the-charts chemistry brought the second championship to Milwaukee in 2021. An injury to Middleton in the 2022-23 season was a big blow and part of the reason why they couldn’t get it going in the playoffs. Give this group a whole season playing next to each other, and the league is in trouble again.
Old NBA Trios
Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy (Los Angeles Lakers)
Worthy was the late arrival in this core, but he was also one of the key reasons the Lakers consciously wanted to do “Showtime.” The best part about this trio is that they all won Finals MVP at different title runs together. Kareem won in 1985, Magic in 1987, and Worthy in 1988. Now, that’s a three-headed monster!
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish (Boston Celtics)
The Los Angeles Lakers won’t be complete without talking about their familiar foes, the Boston Celtics. The Celtics also had an incredible trio to matchup against the Lakers, led by Larry Legend. Of course, Parish was not as accomplished as Kareem, but he was named an All-Star nine times. That should account for something! McHale made the All-NBA First team in 1987, a seven-time All-Star and a six-time All-Defensive team member. No wonder Boston got three championships out of this group!
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs)
If the trios of Johnson-Abdul-Jabbar-Worthy and Bird-McHale-Parish won three championships, then Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili won four! These guys played 15 seasons together and won a total of 541 games as a trio, the most in NBA history. If anyone’s Big 3 NBA players list does not include Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili, you shouldn’t read it!
Wrapping Things Up: 15 of the NBA’s Most Dominant Duos and Trios
Basketball is a team game, but the reality is, you build the squad around two or three All-Stars to give yourself a chance to win. That’s basically the blueprint of every NBA championship team, and that plan is almost foolproof, with sporadic exceptions here and there.
Some of the NBA’s most dominant duos and trios of the olden days are the Jordan-Pippen tag teams, Shaq and Kobe 1-2 punch, the Magic-Kareem-Worthy “Showtime” Lakers, and the Bird-McHale-Parish Celtics, in no particular order. Perhaps the best trio in the NBA right now is still Golden State’s Curry, Thompson, and Green, while the Nuggets pair of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray is the best duo in the NBA because of their recent championship success.
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