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Complex Magazine calls Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars the 11th best duo of all-time

Angel Diaz of Complex:

Seasons Played Together: 9 (1985-1994)
NBA Titles: 2
Along with Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman, Zeke and Joe D’s intense style of defense gave the Pistons their “Bad Boy” identity. Isiah was the little man with a big game, while Dumars was the undersized silent assassin. They made it to three straight Finals while coming away with two and they absolutely owned the Bulls during the late ’80s. So much so that people were saying MJ would never win a ring—sound familiar?

I have to admit … I was pretty shocked to see Isiah and Dumars finish higher on that list than Tim Duncan and David Robinson. I loved Thomas/Dumars as much as anyone, but not sure I can even defend that one. Lists like this are all about stirring up debate though, I guess.


  • Mar 30, 201210:10 am
    by brgulker


    I saw this list yesterday. I wouldn’t have even put Zeke/Dumars on this list in the first place. The Bad Boys weren’t really about any particular duo; they were a complete team, assembled with lots of really good players who strengths complemented each other.

    And James/Wade? Gimme a break. They haven’t even had two full season yet.  

    Lists like this are all about stirring up debate though, I guess.

    Quality be damned. It’s all about the page views.

    • Mar 30, 201210:32 am
      by Patrick Hayes


      Edit: page view$

    • Mar 30, 20125:29 pm
      by tarsier


      virtually every great team ever was that way. but that doesn’t mean they can’t be headlined by a great duo. you think jordan, pippen, and a bunch of scrubs would have went bonkers on the league?

  • Mar 30, 20121:49 pm
    by rick77


    San Antonio won one and half titles(50game shortened season post MJII against Knicks 1/2 title) with that combo and had to go through Jersey after that. Detroit had to go through Larry, McHale, Parrish, Ewing, Jordan, Wilkins, Price, Daughtery and so on. I would consider the level of competition may have factored into why that duo is ahead of Robinson/Duncan. I could be wrong (only because Im a Piston fan), but thats my opinion.

    • Mar 30, 20125:15 pm
      by tarsier


      every year you could make a bunch of qualifiers and asterisks if you want. the 1999 title was an nba championship. completely. it counts as one. not as half of one. to say otherwise is really quite dickish.

  • Mar 30, 20125:19 pm
    by tarsier


    I would definitely put Thomas/Dumars above Robinson/Duncan. The total absolute talent is lower but they were just a highly effective duo for much longer. And their peak is also comparable because Robinson basically only had one more fantastic season (and only 3 very good years) after Duncan joined.

  • Mar 30, 20126:25 pm
    by frankie d


    horrible list.
    lots of those “duos” weren’t really duos, as i’d define them.
    duncan/robinson, payton/kemp, magic/kareem,  jordan/pippen, stockton/malone…yea, those guys were duos.  they worked together in a cooperative fashion.  they actually helped each other and made the other player better by their presence.
    some of the guys on the list, actually worked at cross purposes.
    like erving and malone.  they actually had trouble playing together because they both played in the same space,  in the paint and at the rim.  they just happened to be on the same team and they had success, almost in spite of the problems they had playing together.   a guy like andrew toney for the sixers was a much better partner in a “duo”  for malone cause he actually benefited from malone taking up so much space so close to the basket.   mo cheeks had better rapport with malone than dr. j did, as he was instrumental in getting malone the ball down low.  and cheeks threw up so many bricks that malone always had plenty of rebounds to chase. (that’s a joke!)
    and sorry, but oscar and alcindor had a couple of good years and that was it.  oscar was a shell of himself, a borderline all-star by the time he got to milwaukee.  do they qualify? not on my list.
    not sure if i’d put zeke and dumars ahead of duncan/robinson, but both duos definitely deserve to be moved up on such a list instead of  say, erving/malone and alcindor/robertson and maybe even west/chamberlain.
    imho, duos of that sort should actually compliment each other.  and they should be together for more than a few years.  
    in the case of certain of some of those “duos”  the teams won in spite of the basic incompatibility of the two players.
    for instance, both wade and james seem to play their best when one of the two is on the bench.  a perfect example of two great players who are not a “duo” in my book.
    not that any of this means a darn thing…

    • Apr 1, 20122:08 pm
      by tarsier


      You clearly haven’t watched much Heat ball this year. Yes, James and Wade definitely put up much gaudier stats playing without the other (as is to be expected). But they play a brilliant game together in spite of their almost identical style. They work the fact that they are usually the two most athletic players on the floor. Their ability to connect on crazy alley-oops is a thing of beauty, and their compliment each other and the rest of the team phenomenally as two of the best help defenders in the game.

      Where they belong on such a list after less than 2 seasons, I certainly won’t claim to know. But the idea that they play much better without each other is complete lunacy and an outdated notion based on their first 50 or so games getting used to each other.

      • Apr 1, 20127:17 pm
        by frankie d


        they connect on alley oops together.
        if that was the criteria, then chris paul and tyson chandler would be at the top of the list of duos.
        or chris paul and whatever big guy he’s feeding alley oopss to on a regular basis.
        after 150 games or so…one of the top duos of all time?  
        talk about overhyped!
        i’m always amazed that supposedly knowledgable fans are so enamored of dunks.  easiest shot to make.  flashy, yes… indicative of any real skill?  hardly.
        espn highlights and nothing more.
        there are lots of other considerations when considering how two players mesh.
        i watch plenty of heat basketball.  for better or worse.
        i live in a western conference city and whenever the heat comes to town, they are always the biggest game around, so not only do i get the benefit of watching them play detroit and portland, but all of the other western conference teams, as all of the networks – nbatv, tnt, espn – prioritize their games.
        they are essentially the same player.  athletic wing players with ordinary outside shots.  and they both like to have the ball in their hands.  each one is best when they have the ball and are able to make their move off the dribble.  about the only time they work well is when one is tossing an alley oop to the other.  otherwise, they stand around and watch the other guy work.   the reason that teams have good success against them with zone defenses is exactly because they do not compliment each other very well.
        defensively, they do work well together, but nothing phenomenal.  they work well as part of a good nba defensive team.  plenty of combinations of that sort.  in fact, i’d take westbrook and sephalosha as a defensive combo above those two guys.  while wade is good as a team defender, he is often destroyed by quicker guards if they get him out in space.
        i love wade.  he’s a great player with lots of heart and game.  obviously lebron is a great player.  but together, they don’t compliment each other the way the best wing duos.  is it better than it was last year?  sure, as they are much more familiar with each other this year and don’t end up bumping into each other the way they did last year.  but when teams get them out of that transition game – where they are dominant – and get them into a typical nba half court game, the same issues that were so debilitating last year are still there.
        today’s loss to boston was a perfect example.  all you had to do was watch that game to see exactly why it’s a joke to credit them in this fashion.
        and only a lunatic would be unable to see that and be so awed by flashy, childish espn highlights that they’d rank them as some sort of all time duo..

        • Apr 2, 20127:08 am
          by tarsier


          It’s hardly like they make incredible alley-oops was my whole argument. it was one piece. because that is one of the things they do well to compliment each other. Obviously that is far from enough to make them great at plying together, but it is one contributing factor. You take being flashy as a negative thing. I never stated it as some sort of incredible accomplishment that should be the ultimate goal of every team. But at the absolute worst, it is a neutral thing, So if you don’t care about the flash of their games, ignore it and move on. It is obvious to even the most casual observer that their play together has more than just flash. If you somehow missed that, though, look at their numbers. Stats are not everything either, but they are indicative of a lot of things.

        • Apr 2, 20127:12 am
          by tarsier


          Also, the impressive thing about dunks isn’t that players are able to complete them. As you said, it is the easiest shot in the game. The impressive thing is being able to get them. because if you can regularly get the easiest shot in the game, that is a huge asset to your team. Why I say James’ and Wade’s oops are things of beauty is because they create easy shots where almost any other player int he league would have been forced to take a more difficult shot.

          Not to undersell Paul or Chandler (I love CP3′s game and Chandler’s is pretty strong too) but their oops were more of the sort of ones could be done by lesser players.

  • Mar 30, 20127:12 pm
    by Mark


    That whole list was garbage, including the way you have to reload the page 15 times to see every duo.

    HTF does Durant/Westbrook make the top 15 over Wallace x2, arguably the greatest defensive frontcourt of all-time? Durant and Westbrook don’t belong on any all-time lists right now until they accomplish something.

    And I’m with rick77 on Duncan/Robinson. They won a half championship against an 8th seed as a duo. The years after they lost in the 1st round, then got dominated by Shaq/Kobe 2 yrs straight. The championship in ’03, they won because of Duncan, not as some great duo. Robinson was 37 and practically played bench minutes at that time.

    Isiah/Joe should’ve been way higher on that list too, above the stat-padders Stockton/Malone who never won anything.

    • Apr 5, 20121:19 am
      by brian


      John Stockton is the all-time assist leader and Karl Malone is the all-time scoring leader. Top 10 Duos EVER.

      • Apr 5, 20121:20 am
        by brian


        *I meant second all-time in scoring*

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