NBA

The 12 Best Backcourt Duos in NBA History: Where Does Luka-Kyrie Duo Rank All-Time?

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are causing quite a frenzy after their matching 36-point performances in an elimination game that punched a ticket to the 2024 NBA Finals.  Their individual scoring talents and playmaking skills have left fans and analysts in awe. When both players have it going, their offensive firepower may be unprecedented. Some were saying they are the most electrifying backcourts in recent NBA history – is that true?

The 12 Best Backcourts in NBA History

The conversation about the greatest backcourts is kicking off again because Luka and Kyrie entering the chat. That said, the Luka-Kyrie combination is a championship away and/or need a body of work spanning longer than 1.5 seasons from being named in the same breath as the following best backcourts in NBA history. In order to be considered one of the best backcourts in NBA history, you’re going to have to have at least one NBA championship and played together for multiple seasons, so you won’t be seeing the likes of Clyde Drexler-Terry Porter, John Wall-Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum.

1. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson: The Splash Brothers

No respectable discussion of the best backcourts is complete without mentioning the Splash Brothers in the top three. For us, Klay and Steph are the league’s best backcourt of all-time.

Former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson once said, “In my opinion, they’re the greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the game.” Not only that, they’re the NBA’s best backcourt of all-time (in our opinion).

Having played together for 13 seasons, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have revolutionized basketball with their unparalleled shooting ability. They’ve led the Warriors to four NBA championships, with Curry widely regarded as the greatest shooter of all time with Klay not far behind him. Thompson holds the record for the most points in a quarter (37) and the fewest minutes played in a 60-point game (29). Together, the Splash Brothers changed the way the game is played and are still writing their legacy.

2. Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars: Bad Boy Backcourt

Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars formed the backbone of the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” era. The team’s gritty and defensive style led the Pistons to back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. Thomas is considered one of the greatest point guards of all time and was the the clear leader of those title teams that had to go through the Larry Bird Celtics, the Magic Johnson Lakers and the Michael Jordan Bulls. Thomas’ backcourt mate Dumars’ defensive prowess earned him six All-Star selections and multiple All-Defensive team honors. Both are Hall of Famers and together spent nine seasons together in Detroit going to three consecutive NBA Finals.

3. Bob Cousy and Sam Jones: Boston Celtics

Bob Cousy and Sam Jones were the backcourt for five of the Boston Celtics’ eleven championships between 1957 and 1969. Cousy, who led the league in assists for eight consecutive seasons and Jones were instrumental in creating a winning culture for the Celtics. Cousy once remarked, “Sam and Bill Sharman are probably most responsible for me getting into the Hall of Fame because whenever I’d throw them the ball, they’d put it in the damn hole.”

While modern media have been disrespecting the likes of Cousy and Jones, we think that if these two teamed up today, Red Auerbach would be sucking on disposable vapes as they raised a couple banners at TD Garden. With Cousy and Jones in the backcourt for six years together, they went to six NBA Finals.

4. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili: San Antonio Spurs

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were crucial to the San Antonio Spurs’ dynasty, winning four championships together in sixteen years together in the Black and Silver. Parker’s speed and scoring ability, combined with Ginobili’s creativity and clutch performances, made them one of the best backcourts of their era. While Ginobili came off the bench and is known for his sixth-man role, Manu often closed games alongside Parker, teaming with Tim Duncan to win multiple NBA championships.

5. Jerry West and Gail Goodrich: Los Angeles Lakers

Playing seven seasons together, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich were a dynamic guard duo for the Lakers in the early 1970s. West made the NBA All-Star Team every season he played and Goodrich played in five All-Star Games when he was in the backcourt with West. With West’s scoring and playmaking perfectly complementing Goodrich’s sharpshooting,  the duo advanced to five NBA Finals and helped the Lakers win the backcourt’s only NBA championship in 1972.  Pat Riley, an NBA lifer, once said that Curry and Thompson were the “two most dynamic players in the backcourt” he had seen since West and Goodrich.

6. Magic Johnson and Byron Scott: Showtime Lakers

Magic Johnson and Byron Scott formed the Showtime Lakers backcourt in the 1980s. Johnson’s incredible playmaking and Scott’s outside shooting and bouncy athleticism helped secure three championships for the Lakers. Their chemistry on the court was undeniable for the eight seasons they spent together, making them one of the most iconic backcourts in NBA history.

7. Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe: New York Knicks

Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe found their way onto the NBA’s 75th anniversary team. Monroe was already a two-time All-Star when he joined the Knicks in 1971 and earned two more playing alongside Frazier. The duo played six total seasons together, went to ttwo NBA Finals that resulted in New York winning the NBA championship in 1973, with Frazier’s steady hand and Monroe’s flashy playmaking style creating a balanced and dynamic backcourt.

8. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher: Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher came into the league together in 1996; considered one of the best NBA Draft classes ever. Kobe and Fish played together for twelve total seasons in the Purple and Gold (across two different stints for Fisher); winning five NBA Championships in that span. Bryant’s 18-time All-Star career and Fisher’s was the ultimate role player made them a formidable backcourt. Fisher’s ability to hit big shots in crucial moments earned him a reputation as one of the best playoff performers, complementing Bryant’s explosive scoring.

9. Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton

Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton were an outstanding backcourt duo for the Detroit Pistons, playing together for seven seasons from 2002 to 2008. They led the Pistons to six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearances and two NBA Finals, winning the championship in 2004 by upsetting the Shaq-Kobe-Payton-Malone superteam in five games. Billups, known for his clutch shooting and leadership, earned five All-Star selections, while Hamilton’s relentless scoring ability and off-ball movement earned him three All-Star appearances. Their synergy on both ends of the court was crucial to Detroit’s dominance during that era.

10. Michael Jordan and Ron Harper: Chicago Bulls

Ron Harper joined the Chicago Bulls in 1994-95 as a defensive specialist. Like every player that plays with the GOAT, Harp complemented his backcourt mate’s extraordinary scoring prowess. In five seasons together, they went to three NBA Finals and secured three consecutive championships from 1996 to 1998. Harper’s ability to lock down perimeter players allowed Jordan to focus more on scoring, making them a formidable duo on both ends of the court.

11. Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo

Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo formed a dynamic backcourt duo for the Boston Celtics, playing together for five seasons from 2007 to 2012. Their partnership was instrumental in Boston’s success, including the 2008 NBA Championship. Allen’s sharpshooting and Rondo’s exceptional playmaking skills created a balanced offensive threat. During their time together, Allen made four All-Star appearances, while Rondo made two. Their complementary styles and basketball IQ, along with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, helped elevate the Celtics to perennial contenders during their tenure.

Chris Paul and James Harden: Houston Rockets

Chris Paul and James Harden had a short-lived but highly successful partnership with the Houston Rockets. Together, they pushed the Golden State Warriors to seven games in the 2018 Western Conference Finals, coming close to toppling a team built around four all-time talents. Their time together was marked by a combined record of 118-46 over two seasons, showcasing their effectiveness as a backcourt duo.

The best backcourts in NBA history not only dominated games but have also left a mark on the sport. From the Splash Brothers’ shooting revolution to the grit and blue collar excellence of Thomas and Dumars, each guard duo brought something unique to the game.

Whether Doncic and Irving can join this elite group remains to be seen, but the debate and excitement surrounding great NBA backcourts will continue throughout the 2024 NBA Finals. Luka and Kyrie have certainly earned the hype, but in our opinion they still have a lot to prove if they hope to one day join the ranks of the greatest backcourts ever.

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