When you look back at the careers of many of the greatest superstars in sports history you can find several things in common. They obviously had great talent, an incredible drive to win, and they all had the ability to outthink their opponents. But as important as all of these attributes are, perhaps the most vital key to their individual success was the teammates that helped them achieve this success. Often these superstars operated in pairs, providing their team with a one-two punch that made these legendary duos all but impossible for opposing teams to shut down. Sports history is filled with teams who went on to great success on the backs of these dynamic duos, and fans were treated to incredible highlights as they watched these pairs perform. Here are, in my opinion, the greatest ever pairings, the top 10 sports duos of all time:
10 – Serena Williams and Venus Williams
Although tennis is thought of more as an individual sport, many of its greatest athletes also excelled at playing with a partner in doubles tournaments. The Williams sisters have been playing with and against each other since they were children, and it shows. Each of them has enjoyed great individual success on the court, their power and speed overwhelming opponents, but when they are paired together in doubles tourneys, watch out! They seem to share a common mind, allowing them to anticipate what the other is going to do, giving them a tremendous advantage over their already overmatched opponents. Yes, Venus is now past her prime, but when they were both a little younger they were all but unstoppable. Truly a dynamic duo.
9 – Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison
Peyton Manning might be the greatest passing quarterback in NFL history, but without a stellar receiver at the other end, even the best arm isn’t much good. Manning and Harrison decimated defenses for years, putting up staggering numbers along the way. Harrison set a record for receptions with 143 in 2002, and he was a touchdown machine in the years after Manning arrived on the scene in 1998. Exciting to watch, and a deserving pair to make the list of the top 10 sports duos of all time.
8 – Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant
Sure these two egomaniacal stars detest one another, but during their time together it is hard to argue they were one of the most dominant duos of all time. Kobe’s electrifying play, vision on the court and shooting ability perfectly complemented Shaq’s dominant play under the basket. This lethal combo left coaches and defenders alike at a loss on who and how to cover these two superstars. Shaq left and is now retired, but not before they combined to lead the Lakers to three NBA championships before Shaq decided to move on.
7 – Bill Russell and Bob Cousy
This list of the top 10 sports duos of all time will be liberally sprinkled with basketball players, simply because the sport has produced so many legendary pairs. The Boston Celtics went on the most dominant run in North American sports history winning 11 championships, including 8 in a row in the 1950s and 1960s. Unlike Kobe and Shaq though, who were both offensive superstars, they did it a little differently. Bob Cousy was the scorer, lighting up defenses around the league with his dynamic play, while Bill Russell provided the D, guarding the basket with ferocity, swatting away shots and pulling down obscene numbers of rebounds.
6 – Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig
Forget McGwire and Canseco. Way back in the day the Yankees boasted two of the greatest hitters to ever step up to the plate. Anyone who has ever picked up a baseball knows the names of these two legends. Ruth is 3rd all time in career home runs with 714, and would certainly be the all time leader by a wide margin if he had played as many games as those ahead of him. Gherig was no slouch himself, hammering out 23 career grand slams (the most in MLB history) and finishing his Hall of Fame career with a .340 batting average.
5 – John Stockton and Karl Malone
Another basketball duo makes the list of the top 10 sports duos of all time. This deadly Utah Jazz combo were absolutely unstoppable on many nights. Stockton, the NBA’s all time leading assist man by a landslide found the perfect match in Karl “The Mailman” Malone, who delivered whenever Stockton got the ball into his hands. Malone finished his legendary career 2nd on the all time points list, and though this dynamic duo never won a championship for Utah, no one can argue they are one of the best one-two punches of all time.
4 – Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri
Hockey would have more representation on this list, except for the fact that hockey players tend to operate in threes, as in the 3 members of each forward line, who play together on a regular basis. However, in the case of Gretzky and Kurri, that 3rd forward was usually irrelevant, often there only as a hired thug to protect the Edmonton Oilers’ meal ticket. Most agree that Gretzky is the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of skates, and his career numbers certainly bear that assertion out, but without Kurri pulling the trigger on the end of Gretzky’s passes, The Great One’s numbers may have been a little more human. Kurri was a pure sniper, with tremendous hockey sense, and the uncanny ability to find open seams. Truly one of the most underrated superstars in NHL history.
3 – Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
When making this list of the top 10 sports duos of all time I honestly hadn’t thought it would be so basketball-centric. Yet each of the dynamic duos I’ve listed so far deserve the spot I’ve given them. Magic and Kareem are considered by many to be two of the top 10 NBA players of all time, at any position, and the Lakers had both of them, at the same time! With Magic’s legendary creative passing ability, and Kareem’s nearly impossible to defend signature skyhook, opposing teams could only watch these two with poorly concealed awe. These two Laker legends went on to lead their team to 5 NBA championships, and Kareem is the all time leading scorer in NBA history.
2 – Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
The third basketball duo in the top 5, these two were nudged out of my number 1 spot by just a whisker. The Bulls, like the Lakers and Celtics before them, were the most dominant team in basketball during Jordan’s and Pippen’s time with the club. This dynamic duo led the Bulls to 6 NBA championships, with Jordan, arguably the game’s greatest player ever, leading the way, and Pippen laboring dutifully in the giant shadow of “His Airness”, a superstar in his own right, with incredible skills at either end of the court. No one could stop this pair when they were at the top of their game, and there weren’t many nights that they weren’t
1 – Joe Montana and Jerry Rice
Jerry Rice’s career was so great, and he excelled for so long that he could have arguably appeared twice on this list of the top 10 sports duos of all time. But before he enjoyed fantastic success with Steve Young he was thrilling Superbowl viewers catching passes from 49er legend, Joe Montana. Montana and Rice went together so well that Montana’s nickname should have been Beans. Always a dominant pair, they saved their best for the biggest games, leaving spectators and opposing players in awe of their poise under pressure as they delivered time and again in the Superbowl, winning the big game twice together in their legendary careers.