I don’t think Shaquille O’Neal can go through a NBA on TNT segment without mentioning a “1-2 punch.” It’s his favorite cliche, probably in part because he’s the one who started it. No, no the idea, but the term.
During his prime years with the Los Angeles Lakers, O’Neal teamed with a blossoming Kobe Bryant to form one of the greatest duos the NBA has ever seen. They were perfect for each other…even as they weren’t. Bryant was a domineering, playmaking scorer who loved to handle the rock from the wing position. O’Neal was a physical force beneath the hoop with surprising skill. After Bryant earned a starting gig in time for the 1999 lockout-shortened season, the duo made the NBA their own over the next six years, advancing to four NBA Finals together, winning three of them.
Their partnership eventually fizzled out but Shaq’s constant claim that they were the best “1-2 punch” the NBA had ever seen didn’t fall on deaf ears. Nowadays, in this era of super teams, it’s more relevant than ever. Partnering up with other great players is an idea with deep roots in this league, but O’Neal was one of the first to consistently wax poetic about it.
It’s particularly relevant today because, tonight, the Lakers play host to the Chicago Bulls, who just so happen to have a reinvigorated Pau Gasol. Gasol was once Bryant’s running mate, the perfect second punch for a team that advanced to three straight NBA Finals.
Bryant and Gasol were good, but they weren’t that good. They won’t make this list. Shaq and Bryant, however? You’ll find them here, along with some of the best duos in league history.
In anticipation of tonight’s matchup — since we know L.A. is going to get waxed by Chicago — we’re Ranking the Best 1-2 Punches in NBA History.
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