- 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.
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.
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.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
Jordan wasn’t in the original NBA Jam, but let’s not get cute.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dominique Wilkins and Pete Maravich
Dunks? Check. Handles? Check. Alley-oops? Check. Cool throwback uniforms? That too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.