Some of the greatest duels in NBA history have left an indelible mark on the game. It was in these duels that players such as Dirk Nowitzki, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan proved their dominance in the game. There were also many more. In this article we’ll look at these duels, and some others that you may have heard of.
Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson
When it comes to the greatest duels in NBA history, there’s no denying the competition between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. The two players were known for their competitiveness, but they were also friends and teammates. They even filmed a sneaker commercial after the Lakers beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals.
Both athletes had their fair share of ups and downs, but they were always at each other’s throats. Their rivalry was one of the most high-profile in the ’80s.
During their tenures, the two had the opportunity to play on half-empty basketball arenas. But, they didn’t let that deter them. Aside from the fun and exciting aspects of a matchup, the rivalry had a bigger impact on the game of basketball.
This rivalry started as an NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in 1979. Although they didn’t meet in the Finals, the rivalry made a splash, thanks in part to the media.
As the two legends of the game battled to the finish line, they sparked interest and excitement among basketball fans. Even more importantly, the competition ignited a desire to be better.
The rivalry is considered a major turning point in the sport’s storied history. Despite the fact that both Bird and Johnson were considered a generation behind, they had a significant impact on the game. Ultimately, the two superstars elevated the standard of basketball and made it one of the most popular sports in the country.
LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant
LeBron James and Kevin Durant are two of the greatest players in the NBA. They’ve played against each other in three NBA Finals, two of which they won.
The storied rivalry between these two basketball stars was largely dormant for years, but they’ve recently re-established themselves as contenders for championships. In fact, they’ve been vying for the MVP title twice in the past three seasons.
Both James and Durant have been impressive in their recent stretch. While they haven’t had their best statistical games, they both have performed well in the playoffs. That said, there are differences between the duo.
James is a better athlete and defender. Durant is more accurate from the outside and from the free throw line. He is also a quicker player, averaging 4.1 assists per game. However, James has scored more efficiently and has better rebounding.
Ultimately, the biggest difference between the two is their skill. Kevin Durant is a great scorer, but he lacks defensive prowess. Moreover, he’s been criticized for chasing a championship ring.
The best duel between these two was the 2005-06 season, when they combined for 91 points. It was also the best of the three games they played that year.
This matchup was a prime example of how the best player in the NBA is more than just a great shooter. While Durant had eye-popping numbers, he was stymied by James’ defense.
Dirk vs Kobe
When it comes to the greatest duels in NBA history, there is one matchup that stands out among the rest. That’s the one between Dirk and Kobe. This is a matchup between two dominant offensive players.
Both players have played in the playoffs. The Lakers are coming off back-to-back titles, so they had home court advantage. But they were outmuscled in the paint.
Dirk and Kobe had great respect for each other. Their rivalry has been a motivator for many great plays. Some of them are highlighted below.
First, the stats. They are the two best scorers in NBA history. Dirk has a higher Game Score than Kobe. In fact, he has 4 of the top five games. So, the comparison is not as easy as it seems.
Dirk has also had the best playoffs. He’s won all four. And, in the 2006 and 2011 playoffs, he’s beaten both Kobe and Tim Duncan.
He’s had a few games against Tracy McGrady. These include one in 2002. He had 48 points in that game. He also had 23 rebounds.
Dirk also played against Pau Gasol. Although he did not share a meal with him, he did beat him in a few games.
He has also played against Dwyane Wade. He had a good game in 2006. Wade scored 34.7 points, he had 2.7 steals, and he had eight rebounds.
Pierce vs. James
LeBron James and Paul Pierce have engaged in some of the best duels in NBA history. This rivalry began when James joined the Miami Heat and a year later they met in a double overtime game in Boston.
James and Pierce are two of the best players to ever play the game and the corresponding duels are among the most memorable in league history. In one of the games, both players made several clutch baskets.
In the aforementioned game, James and Pierce went head to head point for point, as the Celtics hung on to win 97-92. During that game, Paul Pierce scored 41 points, and James scored 45.
The duels lasted into Game 7. In Game 7, Pierce and James went toe-to-toe, and both players showed off the most important statistics of their careers. They were the top scorers for their teams, as well as the most efficient in terms of free throws.
One of the most exciting moments of the game came with just 18.8 seconds left to go. Ray Allen hit two free throws, and the Celtics had won a Game 7 in the NBA finals.
Both players made big shots during their time with the Boston Celtics. They were teammates during the 2008 NBA championship, and they are both Hall of Famers. But they haven’t always been on the same page.
In a 2010 matchup, both players were on their way to the NBA Finals. They had a heated argument before the game, and Pierce was fined $15,000. After the fight, they called a truce.
Mitchell vs. Murray
The Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz are launching the 2020 NBA playoffs with a duel for the ages. It’s a battle that resembles the one that occurred between Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. Both players had epic games in the series.
During the regular season, Murray averaged 31.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He shot 54 percent from the floor and 55.4 percent from the 3-point line. Despite his gaudy scoring numbers, Murray only scored 40 points twice in the series.
In the playoffs, however, Murray has proven that he is one of the best clutch scorers in the game. He has hit multiple crucial baskets throughout the series.
The other player who has scored multiple 50 point games during the playoffs is Allen Iverson. Mitchell has also joined the record book. With his four 50 point games in the series, he joins Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan as the only two players to have multiple 50 point games in a single playoff series.
Not only did the Nuggets beat the Jazz in Game 7 to move on to the second round, but they also became the 12th team in the NBA to come back from a three-game deficit. This was the highest scoring series in NBA history, and both players shot over 50% from beyond the arc.
Iverson vs. Carter
The Iverson-Carter battle in the 2001 NBA playoffs was a series of great performances that defined two players. Both were rated among the best in their eras. This series helped cement their Hall of Fame status.
In the first game of the playoffs, Carter came out on fire and scored 35 points. It was the highest single-game point total in franchise history. Yet, it was surpassed by Iverson’s 35 in the fourth quarter.
After losing in Game 4, Carter had 25 points in Game 6. His 19-footer at the buzzer, though, was short of clinching the series. Instead, the Sixers had to go on to win seven games in order to advance to the NBA finals. That was the end of the Sixers’ playoffs, however, and they lost to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
Carter and Iverson went on to play against each other in a seven-game series, and their duel was one of the greatest in NBA history. Their duels were back-and-forth, with each player scoring at least 50 points in each game.
In Game 5, Iverson was back to his scoring best, and he went on a scoring spree, scoring 52 points on 21-for-32 shooting. He added six rebounds and four assists, as well as a pair of blocks.
In Game 3, Carter set a franchise record for threes with nine. It was the only time he would score 50+ points in a single playoff game.