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Bracket of the Week: Quarterfinals of the best duos in NBA history 2-on-2 tournament

Who moves on to the semifinals in the all-time 2-on-2 tourney?
Who moves on to the semifinals in the all-time 2-on-2 tourney? (Getty Images; DAZN illustration)

Every week on NBA.com, we'll unveil a new bracket with daily matchups to vote on. By the end of the week, we'll crown a champion and determine a winner based on fan voting. Up next for this week? The best duos in NBA history.

What is the best duo in NBA history?

To help settle the score, we picked 16 of the best duos ever and matched them up against each other in a mythical 2-on-2 tournament. Who wins is entirely up to you!

Have questions about how we determined the seeds? Skip down to see the entire field 1-16.

The first round included one major upset in the 5 vs 12 matchup with an iconic duo from the 1980s sent packing early. Here are the results from the opening round matchups:

  • 1 Jordan/Pippen def. 16 Nash/Stoudemire: 92% of vote
  • 2 O'Neal/Bryant def. 15 Leonard/Lowry: 87% of vote
  • 3 Johnson/Abdul-Jabbar def. 14 Payton/Kemp: 94% of vote
  • 4 James/Wade def. 13 Thomas/Dumars: 89% of vote
  • 12 Duncan/Robinson def. 5 Erving/Malone: 60% of vote
  • 6 Bird/McHale def. 11 Stockton/Malone: 53% of vote
  • 7 Russell/Cousy def. 10 West/Baylor: 73% of vote
  • 9 Durant/Westbrook def. 8 Curry/Thompson: 59% of vote

LAST WEEK: Kawhi voted winner for best shot ever

1 vs 9 - Bulls in trouble?

1 Jordan/Pippen vs 9 Durant/Westbrook

Oh boy.

Could the greatest duo in NBA history actually bow out in the second round of a 2-on-2 tournament?

After dispatching the Splash Brothers in the first round, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook get the opportunity for an even bigger splash as they could cannonball the entire tournament with an upset of Jordan and Pippen. Durant's size and length could give both of Chicago's all-time defenders some issues while Westbrook is an explosive and powerful athlete the likes of which these Bulls never truly saw.

The real question might ultimately be which version of Jordan you had in mind? Is it the off the bounce pull-up assassin from the first 3-peat or the post-up fallaway dagger dropper from the second 3-peat? Westbrook probably draws the assignment on the first version while Durant is probably the better option for the latter.

With apologies to Westbrook and Pippen, watching arguably the two best pure scorers in NBA history trade buckets would be potentially the single best game within the game of this entire tournament.

Which duo wins in 2-on-2?
1) Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
9) Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
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4 vs 12 - Size it up

4 James/Wade vs 12 Duncan/Robinson

Just like the NCAA tournament, this 2-on-2 tournament can sometimes be all about matchups.

Duncan and Robinson upset the duo of Moses Malone and Julus Erving in the opening round (FWIW, I found this to be both stunning yet predictable given it's just one more instance of the entire world sleeping on the greatness of the early 80s Sixers) and now find themselves in a potentially winnable second-round matchup against the 6'9" James and 6'4" Wade. While James can certainly hold his own on the block and Wade is the all-time leader in blocks among guards, there's no denying that San Antonio's twin towers would hold a massive advantage down low. Wouldn't Duncan or Robinson just back down Wade every single time? Wouldn't they clean up on the offensive glass?

On the flip side, the speed of James and Wade might be too tough to handle for the Spurs' bigs. Would they just sit 10 feet off and hand them jumpers? Is this a game decided squarely on LeBron's ability to hit 3s?

By the way... if this is Anthony Davis is Wade's spot, we're probably not having this conversation. But it's simply too soon to give Davis the nod as the all-time tag-team partner for LeBron.

Which duo wins in 2-on-2?
4) LeBron James and Dwyane Wade
12) Tim Duncan and David Robinson
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3 vs 6 - The best rivalry in NBA history

3 Johnson/Abdul-Jabbar vs 6 Bird/McHale

Did the selection committee purposely seed these iconic rival duos to manufacture a dream second-round matchup? No comment.

They faced off three separate times in the NBA Finals in the 1980s so of course, we had to bring back some version of Magic vs Bird. The ultimate wild card here is probably Bird's ability to catch fire from beyond the arc, something that neither Lakers' legend could do themselves. McHale is a six-time All-Defensive team selection so if he can force the NBA's all-time leading scorer into a few misses, a few treys from Larry Legend could be enough to pull the upset.

Which duo wins in 2-on-2?
3) Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
6) Larry Bird and Kevin McHale
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2 vs 7 - New school vs old school

2 O'Neal/Bryant vs 7 Russell/Cousy

Before bristling at the notion of O'Neal just having his way, know that Russell spent the better portion of his career getting the best of the equally dominant and physically imposing Wilt Chamberlain.

Of far more concern if I'm a Celtics fan is the guard matchup between Kobe Bryant and Bob Cousy. With all due respect to Cousy, he simply never faced anything remotely like Bryant. Would Shaq be cool with letting Kobe turn this into a one-on-one game against the 6'1" Hall of Fame point guard? If so, it's hard to imagine Cousy stopping Kobe enough to make this one interesting.

Which duo wins in 2-on-2?
2) Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant
7) Bill Russell and Bob Cousy
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The Field

Any discussion placing too much emphasis on rings when debating duos tends to ignore everything else that factored into winning: teammates, coaching, competition, health... you get the idea.

But what if we removed the accolades from the equation and focused strictly on basketball? Sure, Jordan and Pippen were unstoppable in the context of playing five-on-five, but would they be able to stop someone like O'Neal or Abdul-Jabbar? We'll let you decide!

Seed Duo
1. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen
2. Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant
3. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
4. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade
5. Moses Malone and Julius Erving
6. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale
7. Bill Russell and Bob Cousy
8. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson
9. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
10. Elgin Baylor and Jerry West
11. Karl Malone and John Stockton
12. Tim Duncan and David Robinson
13. Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars
14. Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp
15. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry
16. Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire

Some housekeeping:

  • In order for maximum variety, each player could only be represented in one duo. For example, you won't see Shaq and Penny Hardaway since he's already teamed up Bryant.
  • We tried to balance out not only which duos are more known for playing with each other which is why someone like Steve Nash is teamed up with Amar'e Stoudemire instead of Dirk Nowitzki.
  • This is about winning a game of 2-on-2, not necessarily which duo has won the most together in real life. That's why Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are seeded higher than Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars.
  • Games are to 11 by 1s and 2s. And it's not make-it, take-it. That's it!

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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