There was a time when NBA champions were constructed around two great players.
The Los Angeles Lakers, with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, won five championships in the 1980s. The Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, won three. Then came the Chicago Bulls teams in the 1990s with six championships behind Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Even with all their bickering and personal dislike for each other, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal put aside their differences to open the millennium with three NBA championships for the Lakers.
The past decade has been more about terrific all-around teams (Boston, the San Antonio Spurs) or led by a single star player (the Dallas Mavericks). Now, though, duos again are in the ascendancy.
Some of the current best:
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Miami the Heat are champions, and their dynamic twosome are marvellous athletes at the top of their game.
The best duos typically feature the balance of a big man and a guard. James is not exactly a big man, but no one in basketball plays bigger, and Wade, at the age of 31, still averages more than 20 points per game.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City the league's highest-scoring pair. Not only are they dominant at the moment, each is only 24.
Durant is the heir apparent to James as the game's greatest player; he again leads the league in scoring (29.6 points per game), but also rebounds as well.
Westbrook averages 22.6 points and is fifth in the league in assists at 8.3 per game. Sometimes his competitive nature gets the better of him, but he is remarkably athletic.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers Paul may be the finest all-around point guard in the game. He certainly is the smoothest. He is second in the league in assists (9.7) and is deadly in crunch time.
Griffin is a force of nature. His dunks deflate opponents and take people's breath away. He still needs to work on his outside game, but is averaging 18.5 points and 8.6 rebounds.
The combination of Griffin's power and Paul's silky style make them perhaps the most complementary duo in the game. There are other pairs, but not quite in that class. Dwight Howard and Bryant should be but are struggling to mesh. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were for Boston, but are now well past their prime. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are supposed to be for the New York Knicks, but it is yet to really happen.
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