Sports has had plenty of great teams and great players but none of the biggest things achieved in any team sport happened because of just one player. Always, it’s because of the entire team. But every great team didn’t just have a great player. Great teams always had a pair of stars who helped them go over the hump and turn them from good to great.
For every Batman, there is a Robin and for a Lone Ranger, a Tonto. In sports, we had these:
Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen
Michael Jordan is the best basketball player that has ever lived. But while MJ won scoring titles and dunk contests, he never was considered a threat to win an NBA title until Scottie Pippen came along. Pippen complimented Jordan with his versatility and playmaking skills. He was the prototype for the point-forward position. Together they won six NBA titles in two batches of three-peats. The Bulls never lost a championship series and they were never forced into a Game 7.
Jerry Rice & Joe Montana
Joe Montana is considered one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks ever. Jerry Rice is one of the greatest wide receivers of all-time. So it was really special when these two played together for the San Francisco 49ers From 1985-1992, the duo helped the 49ers win five division titles and two Super Bowl titles. For Rice, he had six 1,000 yard-seasons with Montana throwing him the ball. Had San Francisco not traded Montana in 1993, they could have made more history together.
Magic Johnson & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
When you talk about the ’80s in the NBA, you recall the Lakers vs Celtics rivalry. For the Lakers, that period was known as Showtime and it featured Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Magic was the dazzling playmakers who fueled Showtime’s fastbreak runs. Jabbar was the established star and omnipotent presence who provided the team with a steady presence in the middle. In their first season together, the Lakers won 60 games. Overall, they led Los Angeles to five NBA titles during the 80’s decade.
Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig
The New York Yankees became one of the most popular sports teams of all-time, thanks mainly to their exploits in the 1920s when they became America’s team. Much of the Yankees’ success during that period was due to their “Murderers Row” batting line-up. And for 11 seasons, Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig batted 3-4 in the New York order. Together, these two combined for 1,207 home runs, 4,208 runs batted in and 5,594 hits. Special mention goes to the 1927 season when Ruth hit a then-record 60 home runs and Gehrig winning the MVP with 47 homers drilled.
Bill Russell & Bob Cousy
The Boston Celtics had the most dominant run of any North American pro sports team. The 1906’s Celtics won a total of 11 championships including eight in a row. This duo played together for a total of seven years and won six NBA titles together, paving the way for the Dynasty. But unlike most duos, this one was rather unique. Russell was a dominant force on defense and he took care of business on that side of the hardcourt. Cousy was the Houdini of the Hardwood, a superb offensive performer and was one of the best guards in the history of the game.
Roger Maris & Mickey Mantle
Another era of the Yankees’ “Murderers Row” featured Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle in the ’60s. Better known to the New York fans as the “M&M Boys”, this dynamic duo played together for six seasons and helped the Yankees win three World Series titles. Their most notable season together was in 1961 when they combined for 115 home runs, 296 runs batted in and 322 hits on the way to winning the 1961 World Series with Mantle breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record of 60.
Wayne Gretzky & Mark Messier
Wayne Gretzky is known as the Great One and nobody will question his claim as the greatest to ever play the game of hockey. But like many all-time greats, they needed a partner to even become better. Gretzky’s vision and cerebral skills complimented with Messier’s fire and competitive nature and together, they played nine seasons together, winning four Stanley Cup titles during a five-year period. The 1983-84 Oilers team is considered the greatest team ever in the NHL and that’s because Gretzky and Messier were on that team.
Karl Malone & John Stockton
“Stockton to Malone” is a phrase that we’ve heard too often. Well, that is if you grew up in the ’90s or watched the NBA during that period. Karl Malone and John Stockton were one of the best dynamic duos basketball had ever seen. Stockton is the NBA’s all-time leader in assists while Malone is the 2nd all-time leading scorer in league history. They played together for nearly 1,400 games and won a total of 906 together, more than any other duo in the history of the league. The only knock about this pair is that they were never able to win the NBA title during their legendary career although they made the NBA Finals a couple of times.
Tom Glavine & Greg Maddux
The Atlanta Braves owned one of the most dominating pitching staff in the history of the MLB. This happened during the ’90s when Atlanta’s pitching staff was the barometer for the entire league. In ten seasons together, this lefty-righty duo combined for a record of 347-160 and a total of five Cy Young awards from 1993 to 2002. The Braves won two World Series titles during one of the MLB’s most competitive periods. Glavine and Maddux are perhaps one of the best 1-2 pitching combinations of all-time.
Mario Lemieux & Jaromir Jagr
Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were two of the NHL’s best goal scorers during the 1980s. What’s more interesting is the fact that both played together for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Lemieux is the 10th all-time leading scorer in the NHL while Jarg, who is still playing is in the Top 5 all-time. These two have combined to score more than 1,400 goals and issue more than 2,100 assists in their careers. They helped the Penguins win back to back Stanley Cup titles in 1991 and 1992.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal
What Magic and Kareem were during the 80’s Kobe and Shaq were at the turn of the century. O’Neal is the most dominant big man the NBA has ever seen, with due respect to Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. After Shaq’s failed title run with Orlando, he moved on with the Lakers and he teamed up with an 18-year old phenom in Kobe. Their first season ended up with Kobe shooting airballs in a first-round playoff loss but by the time they peaked, they won three straight NBA titles from 2000-2002 before O’Neal left Los Angeles. O’Neal would win another title with Miami but Kobe responded with back to back titles on his own in 2009 and 2010.
Peyton Manning & Marvin Harrison
No quarterback-receiver duo in the history of the NFL has accomplished more in 158 games than Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. This duo combined for 12,766 yards and 112 touchdowns while combining for 21 total Pro Bowl selections. Manning is considered as the best passing quarterback in NFL history but he couldn’t have achieved his resume without a complimentary receiver like Marvin Harrison. They played together for 10 seasons and Harrison set the record for receptions with 143 in 2002. Together, they led the Indianapolis Colts to the 2006 Super Bowl championship game.