From Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, to Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and many other pairings, the Los Angeles Lakers have had more than their fair share of dominant duos throughout NBA history, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis serving as the latest title-winning combo.
But while James and Davis’ playoff success led some, including this blogger, to compare them to Bryant and O’Neal in a few ways — a comparison James and Davis welcomed — O’Neal recently told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN that his partnership with Bryant that resulted in three titles and four finals trips can never be replicated:
“There will never be the next [Shaq and Kobe],” O’Neal said.
But hold on, before you either a) get mad or b) celebrate him saying that James and Davis will never be as good as him and Kobe, neither conclusion are quite what Shaq is getting at:
The Hall of Fame center said James and Davis will forge their own legacy.
“We don’t need them to catch up to us,” O’Neal said. “Kobe and myself were not trying to catch Magic [Johnson] and Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. ... Kobe and I, [our] legacy will never be duplicated. Or imitated.
“We don’t want to get into the situation where they can be the next us because there will never be a next us. Magic and Kareem can never be us. We could never be Magic and Kareem. And we can never be LeBron and AD.”
Look, we don’t get to say this often given his track record of predictions on Inside the NBA, but Shaq isn’t wrong. As much fun as it is to compare duos across eras, he’s right that there will never be another pairing exactly like him and Kobe, just like there will never be a duo exactly like LeBron and AD. Just like player comparisons for individual players are often facile, doing so for duos is even more difficult. If players are like snowflakes, in that no two are really carbon copies of one another, then duos are like some sort of rare, conjoined snowflake that can truly never be replicated.
Now don’t get me wrong: None of that stuff will stop us from having barbershop-style debates about these things until the ends of time, but it will keep us from ever reaching a real, factual consensus. In the end, the only thing that really matters is that Lakers fans are lucky they have so many great duos to choose from in such discussions.