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Could Kobe Bryant and Shaq really have won twelve rings together if Shaq had stayed on the Lakers?

No. I’m going to say something that seems like blasphemy to some people particularly Lakers fans: the Shaq-Kobe duo is overrated. There I said it.

Now, before you come at me with pitchforks, hear me out: Shaq and Kobe were a great duo, but many people tend to put them at their #1 or #2 spots all time in terms of all time duos. I think this is slightly overrating them. Let’s look at their actual accomplishments together:

1998–1999: the Shaq-Kobe duo got bounced out of the playoffs by the Jazz and Spurs.

2000: Shaq-Kobe got taken to 7 games by the Portland Trail Blazers (with aging Pippen / Sabonis). They took 6 games to beat the 2000 Pacers in the Finals – the 2000 Pacers is not one of the all time great Finals teams people bring up.

2001: This is probably their only dominant playoff run together. They swept every team in the playoffs and defeated the 2001 76ers (also not one of the all time great Finals teams) in 5 games.

2002: Shaq-Kobe got taken to 7 games – again – by the Sacramento Kings this time. In the infamous Game 6, they needed several and I mean several ref calls to really go their way in order to win the game. Then they swept the 2002 Nets (again, not one of the all time great Finals teams).

2003: Shaq-Kobe duo got bounced out of the playoffs by Duncan’s Spurs.

2004: Shaq-Kobe acquired Payton/Malone and went all the way to the Finals, only to lose to the 2004 Pistons (with only one all star, Ben Wallace) – in 5 games.

So – consider this – people name the Shaq-Kobe duo as the greatest of all time. In reality – they almost lost to the Blazers in 2000, almost lost to the Kings in 2002, lost to the one all star Pistons in 2004, got bounced in 1998/1999/2003 and in their Finals wins won against inferior East teams. They had one great playoff run which was 2001. Are they really as good as people think they were?

Personally, I think the Malone-Stockton Jazz were a better duo – an unpopular opinion because they didn’t win any rings – but they were up against Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the Finals, a team that would wipe the floor with the 2000 Pacers or 2001 76ers or 2002 Nets. They also easily beat Shaq-Kobe en route to the Finals. So why do people think Shaq-Kobe is so much better than Malone-Stockton?

tldr; to answer the question, no I don’t think Shaq/Kobe would win 12 rings together if they stayed together. I’m doubtful they would have beat the 2005 Spurs the next season.

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Who are your top 5 NBA Duos?

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. Why is this duo #1 for me over Mike/Scottie? Because they won almost as many rings (5) while going to 3 more Finals (9), and because it’s probably the only time in NBA history you’ll ever see 2 guys who are both top 6 all time playing on one team, both in their primes. That’s just special.

2. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Hard to argue with this one, 6 Finals, 6 rings.

3. Shaq and Kobe. 3 rings, 4 Finals, with one team (2001) being absolutely dominant in the playoffs. Also, two top 12 guys of all time on one team both in their primes.

4. Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. 8 Finals appearances, sure they didn’t win any rings together, but they came close several times. Also, two top 15 guys on one team both in their primes.

5. Karl Malone and John Stockton. Only 2 Finals and 0 rings, but still… the all time leading assist maker of all time with the 2nd all time leading scorer of all time on one team! Two top 25 players of all time who played their whole careers with each other.