Even the world’s most individualistic sports, like tennis, Formula One, or wrestling, require athletes to depend on small teams. From physical trainers to nutritionists to personal assistants, no successful athletes prepare and compete in a vacuum. In sports where the stakes are higher for the individual, fans enjoy the tension of losses and the singular glory of major wins. However, sports enthusiasts, particularly those who follow leagues with club teams, enjoy dynamic teams that seamlessly work together for a win.
Teams, highlight the potential for athletes to accomplish the impossible by working together. But even when teams aren’t dynastic in nature, a well-paired duo can spark fanatic support and intrigue. In some cases, sportsbooks will even create special prop bets that focus on popular pairs. Upon tallying the sporting world’s greatest duos, there’s one clear trend: basketball seems to be a perfect setting for winning partnerships to form. Let’s take a look at a few of the most unforgettable sporting duos of recent times.
1. Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen
Chicago Bulls, 1991-1998
Together, this duo took home six Championship titles for the Bulls, achieved in a ‘three-peat’ fashion that drew punters to the Chicago squad despite their lackluster history. And though Jordan took most of the spotlight during his and Pippen’s prolific run with the Chicago Bulls, Pippen has enjoyed plenty of attention and recognition in recent years.
From a technical perspective, high-performing duos can change a team’s odds throughout a season. But on a more personal level, punters enjoy backing teammates that show passion and love for the sport. Even so, in the 90s, MJ’s otherworldly status as a basketball icon earned him most of the attention from fans and pundits alike, while Pippen was often considered a supporting player.
2. Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O’Neal
LA Lakers, 1996-2002
Straight off the wings of Jordan and Pippen, the NBA’s next greatest duo took over immediately after Jordan’s retirement. From 2000-2002, the duo helped bring home three Championship titles to the west coast franchise. Unlike Jordan and Pippen, there was no definitive leader of the duo-though it seems that history is siding with Kobe, who will be remembered as a legend in the decades to come.
At the time, a rivalry between Kobe and Shaq turned out their unforgettable performances, in which Shaq was the unstoppable muscle and Kobe the ‘Black Mamba’ weaving through opponents. As some of the highest-paid and most-loved athletes at the time, the NBA rivalry-duo nature of Kobe and Shaq’s time with the Lakers saw major ego clashes.
3. Jerry Rice & Steve Young
San Francisco 49ers, 1990-1993
Though Jerry Rice originally stepped into the limelight while catching with the illustrious Joe Montana, it would be Montana’s backup QB, Steve Young, who propelled himself and Rice to greatness. Rice is remembered as the record-holder for all-time receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Young’s steady vision and powerful throw, coupled with Rice’s speed and technical skill, saw the pair connect 92 touchdowns and over 700 catches for a total of 10,000 receiving yards. In one Super Bowl win (XXIX), Young threw three touchdowns to Rice. Today, quarterbacks and wide receivers are some of the most dynamic and exciting sports acts to watch, and especially to wager on.
4. Larry Bird & Kevin McHale
Boston Celtics, 1980-1992
Considered by many to be one of the most effective forward duos in NBA history, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale took home three Championship titles in the early and mid-1980s. The duo was caught in a coastal rivalry that saw them face the west coast Lakers, home to another power-duo in Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
While Bird remains a household name for many given his explosive style, McHale (is also remembered by pundits as a top-five forward in the sport’s history) specialized in defense. Between the pair, there was ample offensive power, as McHale was dangerous inside just like Bird-but it’s McHale’s defensive versatility that likely helped the pair battle the west coast with such efficacy.
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