Sports have been littered with great teams and great players, but to win a championship in almost any professional sport it takes more than one superstar. In team sports especially, you must have at least two dominating athletes to be a championship contender. Throughout sports history there have been many great 1-2 punches, but today we will examine the 20 most dynamic duos in sports history.
Having two great players on a team sounds like it would be easy, however, sometimes the problem with having a dynamic duo is that the two superstars have a hard time working together. Often times a star athlete becomes accustomed to having the ball in their hands all of the time, or they are not used to sharing the load with others, and in turn they have trouble sharing the spotlight with another superstar.
It is hard and sometimes unfair to compare athletes of differing genders, differing sports, and differing eras, but that is the nature of a list such as this. So when starting a task such as listing the most dynamic sports duos of all-time, you must come up with some sort of baseline to judge each duo on. Some of the criteria for this list includes, but is not limited to, dominance within the duo’s sport, longevity of the duo, the mark left on the sport by the duo and social awareness they brought to the sport.
A bulk of the inclusions on this list are all-time great teammates, but you will also find one set of competitors who have been linked together in sports history, for very good reason. You will also find some teammates who only spent a short time together but had careers that can not be matched, so the fact that they spent some time on the same team makes them worth of inclusion to this list. Now without any further ado, let us get into the countdown of greatest sports duos!
20. Omar Vizquel and Roberto Alomar Jr.
This middle infield duo was one of the most electrifying defensive middle infield combinations baseball has ever seen. They have a combined 21 Gold Glove awards, and together they helped the Cleveland Indians conquer the American League for years. The sad part about these two superstars is that they were partnered later in their respective careers, otherwise this dynamic duo would have been much higher on our list.
19. Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston
Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston are probably the two greatest baseball players that most people have never heard of. They are also arguably the two greatest negro league players of all time. Josh Gibson is credited with nearly 800 career home runs in the Negro League, while Charleston is regarded by many baseball historians as one of baseball’s top 10 players of all time. The two played for the Homestead Greys for one season in 1931, which was only a tease of what could have been if they would have played for longer.
18. John Stockton and Karl Malone
“Stockton to Malone” is a phrase that any 1990s basketball fan has heard many times over. The all-time assist leader, John Stockton, played with the 2nd all-time points scorer, Karl Malone for nearly 1,400 games. Stockton and Malone won a total of 906 of those games, more than any other two teammates in NBA history.
The only reason that these two Hall of Famers are not higher on this list, is because they were never able to capture the ultimate prize of an NBA championship, in large part thanks to another all-time great duo featured a little later.
17. Tom Brady and Randy Moss
Brady and Moss only spent three seasons together in New England, but in 2007 the two had a very special year. Brady threw for, a then record, 50 touchdown passes, Moss caught 23 of them; a record for touchdowns by a receiver. The duo led the Patriots to an undefeated regular season and swept through the playoffs, until they met the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots’ undefeated streak ended in a shocking loss to enormous underdogs the New York Giants, but the records and accomplishments of Brady and Moss will forever be remembered.
16. Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver
Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver are the greatest women’s doubles tennis team the game has ever seen. The two women combined for 21 Grand Slams, with each winning the Grand Slam at least four times; the duo even swept every major doubles event in 1984 winning the Wimbledon, French Open, Australian Open, and U.S. Open respectively. During their 1984 run they won 109 straight matches, and this run of dominance may never be matched in women’s tennis again.
15. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson
Schilling and Johnson were paired together to bring a World Series title to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and that is what they did. Combined, the two pitchers have appeared in 16 All-Star games, won five Cy Young awards, four World Series titles and in 2001 they shared the World Series MVP award. The two All-Stars only played together for parts of three seasons but when they were both healthy and contributing, there has never been a combination quite like them.
14. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux
Maddux and Glavine were the aces on one of the most dominant pitching staffs of all time. Combined they have 18 All-Star game appearance, six Cy Young awards, 18 Gold Gloves and two World Series championships. Glavine and Maddux are both first ballot Hall of Famers and while playing through most of the steroid era, they will be remembered as possibly the most consistent one and tow of any pitching staff in the history of the game of baseball.
13. Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison
Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison shared a football field for 10 seasons, and together they rewrote the record books. The two connected for 953 completions, over 12,000 yards and together they carried the Indianapolis Colts to the 2006 Super Bowl Championship game.
Harrison retired as the all-time leading receiver (in catches) with 143 catches in a season as well as yards; finishing with 1,722. Peyton Manning just finished his 2015-16 season by adding another Super Bowl title to his resume, sadly without his teammate from his first title season.
12. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle
“The M&M Boys,” as they are affectionately called by Yankee fans, spent six seasons together forming the New York Yankee line-up often referred to as “Murderers Row”. The duo collected three World Series rings during their shared time in New York, including the 1961 season, when they both challenged Babe Ruth’s single season home run record; Maris of course broke the record that season when he hit 61 home runs.
The 1961 season, it can be argued, was the single greatest season for a duo in baseball history. The two sluggers combined for 115 home runs, 269 runs batted in, and 322 hits on their way to the 1961 World Series title.
11. Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale
Koufax and Drysdale were the most dominating starting pitcher combination in Dodger history, a franchise that has a very illustrious history, to say the least. The two combined in putting together what was arguably the greatest five year run for any pitching combination in history. The duo won a total of 209 games, including 53 shutouts, and they also combined to win four Cy Young awards. Together the duo won three World Series titles in five years and will be remembered as the greatest pair of pitching aces baseball has ever seen in the same uniform, at the same time.
10. Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr
The Pittsburgh Penguins arguably had the two best players in the NHL at the same time when they acquired both Lemieux and Jagr, Lemieux in 1984 and Jagr in 1990. The Penguins won back to back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992 thanks to the two superstars. The two have combined to score over 1,400 career goals and dish out over 2,100 career assists. Jagr is still adding to the combined totals as he winds down his career, which has spanned over three decades.
Many hockey historians regard this duo as one of the greatest to ever play together and some would argue they are the greatest duo the NHL has ever seen.
9. Bill Russell and Bob Cousy
The Boston Celtics dynasty coached by Red Auerbach is regarded as one of the greatest dynasties of all time, regardless of sport. With Bill Russell being the anchor on the defensive end of the court, and Bob Cousy leading the way on offense, these two were the perfect combination for coach Auerbach. They enjoyed great success during their seven seasons together, winning six titles along the way beginning what would be a storied history for the Boston Celtics.
8. Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali
Ali and Frazier will forever be linked together in sports history. The two fighters shared the ring three times, for what many consider, the greatest rivalry in boxing history. Ali won two of the three fights, but he has said on many occasions that nobody won those fights. The two men combined to score 88 wins with 64 coming via knock-out. They were both multiple time Heavyweight Champions, and both are regarded as top 10 all-time fighters by peers and media.
During the height of their careers the two not only fought with their fists, but they also fought with their words. Despite the war of words, Ali and Frazier were reported to have become friends later in their lives, and long time friend of Frazier, George Foreman, was quoted as saying, “there was a lot of love between those two, don’t let anyone fool you”.
7. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant
Shaq and Kobe were the NBA’s 2000s version of Russell and Cousy, except Shaq was as dominant on the offensive end as he was on defense. These two titans of the sport spent seven years together in Los Angeles, but they will be most remembered for the three straight NBA Championships they were able to win. They have combined for an eye popping 33 All-Star games, nine NBA championships and 19 All-NBA First-Team selections.
If they were able to co-exist for a longer period of time, these two could have found themselves on top of this list. Unfortunately the personalities and egos were just too much, and Shaq left the Lakers in 2004. O’Neal joined the Miami Heat and went on to win one more championship before retiring. Kobe stayed in L.A. and was able to win two more championships there, and is now enjoying his last season in the NBA .
6. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade
LeBron and Wade were a match made in heaven. The two were both drafted in the famous 2003 NBA draft and have been friends since they were 17. In the summer of 2009 LeBron famously took his “talents to South Beach” and became a member of the Miami Heat with his best friend Dwayne Wade, and the rest is history.
The duo went on to appear in four straight NBA Finals appearances, winning two of them. The level of cohesiveness displayed from the moment the two paired up was instinctual, it was almost as if they were brothers who had played together their entire lives.
Eventually it was clear, however, that LeBron had other goals for his career. So in 2014 James opted to go back to his home state of Ohio and rejoin his original team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. If they had stayed together, there is no telling how many championships they could have won in Miami, especially considering the extra help they had from Chris Bosh.
5. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice
When the greatest NFL wide receiver of all time was paired with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, what do you think happened? These two icons of football spent eight seasons together and compiled some of the greatest numbers ever seen in football history.
The San Francisco duo connected on 67 touchdowns, and Rice was also able to amass over 1,000 receiving yards in six separate seasons. During their run with the 49ers, Montana and Rice led the team to three Super Bowl championships.
Most football historians put this QB/WR combo as the greatest to ever play the game, and had it not been for the 49ers trading of Montana in 1993, this duo could have ranked even higher on our list.
4. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The “Showtime” era Lakers are some of the greatest teams to ever compete in the NBA between 1979 and 1991. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the heart and soul of most of the great Lakers teams during this period. Combined these two legends have accumulated nine MVP Awards, 21 All-Star selections, five Finals MVPs and 56,094 points. They were also able to capture five championships during their 10 seasons together.
3. Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier
Messier and Gretzky were the perfect pairing, one had the brilliant cerebral skills and vision (Gretzky) and the other possessed a competitive fire and win at all costs mentality (Messier.) They two were able to bring the Edmonton Oilers four Stanley Cup trophies in a five year span, and spent a total of nine seasons together.
Gretzky is regarded by most hockey historians as the greatest player to ever play the game, and his list of all-time records back up the claim unequivocally. The 1983-84 Oilers team is also regarded by many as the greatest hockey team to ever play, and there is no debate that they were the greatest offensive team to lace up a pair of skates. The 80s Oilers team was led by the greatest duo hockey has ever seen, Gretzky and Messier.
2. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the single greatest basketball player to ever live. Scottie Pippen, often overlooked, was voted as one of the 50 greatest players along with Jordan in 1997. These two Chicago Bulls alumni led the way for some of the greatest basketball teams in history.
The 1995-96 Bulls staked their claim to the greatest regular season record of all-time (72-10). With Jordan and Pippen, the Bulls went to six NBA Finals, winning all six, without ever being forced into a game seven of a series. The two combined for six NBA Finals MVP awards, 13 NBA First-team selections, 17 time NBA All-Defensive First team selections, and 10 NBA scoring titles.
1. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig
These two, Mt. Rushmore of baseball icons, spent 11 seasons together as the 3-4 hitters in the “Murderers Row” Yankee line-up. Ruth and Gehrig were the two greatest baseball players in baseball during the 1920’s, and during the 1927 season Babe Ruth hit, a then record, 60 home runs; more than any other team in baseball but one. That same season, Gehrig hit 47 home runs and won the league MVP award.
The two players combined for 13 World Series titles, 1,207 home runs, 4,208 runs batted in and 5,594 hits. There has never been and likely never will be a duo quite like these two again.
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