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  • What if you had to pick an NBA Jam duo for every franchise: Who would you pick? The Crossover examines the best historical two-man teams for every team in the league.
By Jeremy Woo
July 06, 2017

If NBA Jam had all-time, two-man teams, what would they look like? While you may have entertained this debate with friends over the last couple decades, we took a crack at settling it once and for all.

The parameters were simple: players can only appear on one franchise, and active teams only (apologies to the Sonics). We aimed to be representative of the league's history and get as many greats in as possible. In the spirit of Jam, we tried to pair backcourt and frontcourt players as often as possible, but the biggest career contributions (or irresistibly fun pairings) occasionally won out. 

• SI Longform: The fun and absurd oral history of NBA Jam

Philadelphia 76ers

Allen Iverson and Moses Malone

Safe to say, Iverson’s a no-brainer. Toss in Moses, a double-double machine who can handle the interior, and you’ve got a potent power/speed combo.

Chicago Bulls 

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

Jordan wasn’t in the original NBA Jam, but let’s not get cute.

Milwaukee Bucks

Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

These guys won the 1971 title together, and the old-school flair demands some respect here. Even with our buddy Giannis knocking on the door.

Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving

Despite the temptation to break the rules and list 2007 LeBron and 2017 LeBron together, we’ll give Kyrie some credit and acknowledge how unguardable a duo this is in the first place. They’re already fun in 2K.

Boston Celtics 

Larry Bird and Bill Russell

Boston has plenty of history to choose from, but Bird’s well-rounded game and Russell’s blocks and dunks are a pretty potent combination. The two-on-two format was made for this.

Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin

Chris Paul is gone in real life, but synonymous with the post-Sterling era of the franchise. Apologies to Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson, of course.

Memphis Grizzlies 

Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol

It’s rare to find a big man duo skilled enough to function within Jam parameters. But pairing Pau and Marc checks that box, and was way too fun to pass up.

Atlanta Hawks 

Dominique Wilkins and Pete Maravich

Dunks? Check. Handles? Check. Alley-oops? Check. Cool throwback uniforms? That too.

Miami Heat 

Dwyane Wade and Alonzo Mourning

LeBron is a Cavalier for the purposes of this exercise. Mourning’s powerful interior game is a nice complement to Wade’s slashing ability.

Charlotte Hornets 

Larry Johnson and Baron Davis

Neither of these guys had as much NBA success as they truly deserved, but this is one of the highest-flying duos on the board. Basically 90% of basketball video games is about cool dunks.

Utah Jazz 

Karl Malone and John Stockton

As with the Bulls, some things are best left untouched. Stockton and Malone remain one of the original game’s top tandems.

Sacramento Kings 

Chris Webber and Mitch Richmond

Of course, Webber was a no-brainer. Richmond’s seven years of consistent scoring in Sacramento give him the nod over Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic.

New York Knicks 

Patrick Ewing and Clyde Frazier

Ewing’s dominance on the inside and Frazier’s smooth perimeter game are a nice blend. Plus, you can’t run the triangle with two people anyway.

Los Angeles Lakers 

Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant

The Lakers proved the most difficult franchise to peg. With Shaq and Kareem appearing elsewhere, we went with two icons who spent their entire careers in purple and gold—and who aren’t bad at basketball (or video game basketball) either.

Orlando Magic 

Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal

We did our best to honor incredible pairings that ended far too soon. Penny and Shaq are ideal complements.

Dallas Mavericks 

Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley

Dirk is Dirk. Finley was equally synonymous for a while. Kidd and Nash had more success in their peaks elsewhere. Just shoot fadeaways.

Brooklyn Nets 

Jason Kidd and Julius Erving

These are New Jersey Nets stars; nobody is complaining. Kidd’s smooth all-around game and Dr. J’s high-flying dunks make this an entertaining team.

Denver Nuggets 

Carmelo Anthony and Dikembe Mutombo

Nuggets history is not always the most illustrious, but prime Melo getting buckets and Mutombo protecting the basket makes for a solid, if predictable team.

New Orleans Pelicans 

Anthony Davis and David West

Chris Paul appears elsewhere, Boogie Cousins might be a rental, and so we’re pairing the Brow with the unspectacular but impeccably solid West, the team’s career leader in points and rebounds. Retrofitted Pelicans history is weird, ok?

Toronto Raptors 

Vince Carter and Chris Bosh

There was temptation to pair Carter with Tracy McGrady, but let’s not forget how individually dominant Bosh was in Toronto. This is one of the more versatile combinations available.

Houston Rockets 

Hakeem Olajuwon and James Harden

Yeah, we snubbed T-Mac twice in a row, we know. Olajuwon is a shoo-in and Harden’s all-around offensive game is a nice fit.

Indiana Pacers 

Reggie Miller and Jermaine O’Neal

Miller remains one of the deadliest shooters ever, and O’Neal will clean up the mess inside. Hold the phone, Rik Smits.

Detroit Pistons 

Isiah​ Thomas and Grant Hill

The original IT was an obvious choice. If you remember anything about pre-injury Grant Hill, you’ll know how easy he was, too.

San Antonio Spurs 

Tim Duncan and David Robinson

Some debate between George Gervin, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili eventually led us back to the twin towers. Duncan’s the best power forward ever, and Robinson’s too good on the interior not to double down on size.

Phoenix Suns

Steve Nash and Charles Barkley

What Nash lacks in dunks, he’ll give you back in passing, shooting and speed. Barkley will be there to catch all the oops.

Oklahoma City Thunder 

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant

Couldn’t resist. This still might be the best tandem in the game.

Minnesota Timberwolves 

Kevin Garnett and Karl-Anthony Towns

Past and future collide to give you about as well-rounded a pair of big men as you’ll find. Trash talk not included.

Portland Trail Blazers

Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton

Rasheed Wallace appealed to our hearts, but Drexler and Walton led franchise renaissances and match each other’s skills nicely.

Golden State Warriors 

Stephen Curry and Wilt Chamberlain

If Steph misses any threes, Wilt can just dunk them back. Simple recipe.

Washington Wizards 

Gilbert Arenas and John Wall

Remember how fun Arenas was? Pair him with Wall and you’ve got a pair of guards good enough to break the game open.

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