"We were the best, Richard. No matter what anyone thinks," -Damian Wayne
"Hey. We can't help being great." -Dick Grayson
-Robin to Robin reminiscing about being Batman and Robin, Batman Incorporated #8
When I wrote part 1 of my search for the best number twos in the history of the NBA, I emphasized the improtance of the sidekick and how in the NBA that second chair is just as important as the first. I feel that using the Robin terminology may have thrown people off the intent and drive of my analogy. As much as Robin and other comic book sidekicks were (in their origins) a glorified vehicle for self projecting wish fullfillment, or glorified damsels in distress (holy plot devices Batman!), the narrative has evolved.
Sidekicks are co-stars. They get equal billing, and sometimes their own book. Sometimes they even become the lead.
So a list of the best ever NBA Robins is a a list of stars and hall of famers in their own right.
It's that Bat-time again folks.
Same drill as in part 1 only this time we use Win Shares and go thru the entire history of the NBA and ABA. Like all great sequels it's bigger and badder but the source material is perhaps a bit weaker.
It's meant to be a bit of summer fun after all. We're going to need a bigger court.
#31:Artis Gilmore for 1973-74 KCO with 12.7 Win Shares (behind Dan Issel's 13.8)
We start with the right note in the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA and the dynamic duo of Dan Issel at first chair and Artis Gilmore as the backup. This was the year before their championship season in 74-75, when Artis went to another level and put up a 16+ Win Share season.
Cue the star spangled ball highlights.
#30:David Robinson for 1999-00 SAS with 12.7 Win Shares (behind Tim Duncan's 13)
The Admiral is all over these lists. This was the season following their first banner, after Batman Duncan got to town. We will come back to this particular pairing. This version actually lost in the first round to a Jason Kidd, Penny Hardaway and rookie Shawn Marion team that was really good, and which I'd totally blanked from my mind.
#29:Kobe Bryant for 2008-09 LAL with 12.7 Win Shares (behind Pau Gasol's 13.9)
This is Kobe's first stint as Robin on the list. This was the season where the basketball gods conspired to give the Lakers a cheap banner. I will always be bitter about both Garnett and Powe going down for the C's that year. Do you remember that it took LA seven games to beat a Rockets team without Tracy McGrady, and that also lost Yao in the series? Damn.
#28:Walt Frazier for 1968-69 NYK with 12.7 Win Shares (behind Willis Reed's 14.7)
Frazier and Reed and the eventual championship Knicks show up here for the first time. This is actually the year before they ran into Bill Russell's last Celtics championship team in the Eastern Conference Finals.
#27:Kobe Bryant for 2001-02 LAL with 12.7 Win Shares (behind Shaquille O'Neal's 13.2)
Kobe does his first Robin tour with Shaq as Batman on route to a threepeat, and it was a near-equal partnership. But there was a tiny bit of controversy about the officiating in the Western Conference finals.
Kings fans are sad.
#26: Dwyane Wade for 2010-11 MIA with 12.8 Win Shares (behind LeBron's 15.6)
We covered this at Number 20 on the Wins Produced List:
Remember the first season of the Heatles? When who the alpha dog was in Miami was a legitimate question? Dwyane Wade played Robin in the regular season to Lebron but really sneakily took over in the playoffs. 58 Wins and a legendary Finals in which they ran into a team of all time robins (Kidd, Marion) and of course Dirk.
Win Shares sees this exactly the same. Lebron ruled the regular season but this Heat team still featured the Finals killer version of Dwade.
#25:Tim Duncan for 1997-98 SAS with 12.8 Win Shares (behind David Robinson's 13.8)
This one was number #30 on the Wins Produced list with David playing robin to Tim's batman:
We start with the Admiral, David Robinson, playing Robin to the rookie season of perhaps the greatest power forward of all time in Tim Duncan and the rookie season of Hall of Fame Coach Gregg Popovich. They lost in the second round but have not missed the playoffs in the 16 seasons since. Oh and they hung a few banners along the way. We will see David again.
Win Shares reverses the plot with David taking the captain's chair and Tim playing first officer in a smoldering Spock-like fashion (right down to the Vulcan emoting).
#24:John Stockton for 1995-96 UTA with 13 Win Shares (behind Karl Malone's 15.1)
Stockon and Malone in one of their great almost-runs. This one ended with a loss to a 64-win Sonics team in the Conference Finals. The Sonics when on to lose to the famous 72-win Bulls team that might be the best team of all time.
#23:Jerry Lucas for 1963-64 SAC with 13 Win Shares (behind Oscar Robertson's 21.1)
Jerry Lucas' rookie season led to the best Oscar Robertson Cincinati Royals team. The 64 team went 55-25, a feat the Kings did not beat until two stops and 38 years later.
#22:Scottie Pippen for 1996-97 CHI with 13.1 Win Shares (behind Michael Jordan's 18.3)
This was the second season of the Rodman/Pippen/Jordan team and a beast in its own right. Win Shares sees Pippen as the Robin to MJ on this one but really this team was 69-13 worth of destruction.
I'll leave this here:
#21:Sam Jones for 1964-65 BOS with 13.1 Win Shares (behind Bill Russell's 17.3)
Sam Jones is a bit of a forgotten man. 12 seasons. 11 Finals. 10 Rings. And look who his 28th best all time per 48 Win Shares numbers line up with.
Here's a bit of a taste.
#20:John Stockton for 1993-94 UTA with 13.2 Win Shares (behind Karl Malone's 13.4)
Stockton to Malone has got to be the most common combo in the NBA's play-by-play database and it's also a common refrain on this list.
#19:Shaquille O'Neal for 2002-03 LAL with 13.2 Win Shares (behind Kobe Bryant's 14.9)
Kobe gets first chair for this version of the Shaqkobe team. Not coincidentally, this was the beggining of the end for this combo.They got bounced by the Spurs on the way to the first banner of the Duncan/Parker/Manu era and the final one of the Duncan/Robinson era.
#18:Jerry West for 1971-72 LAL with 13.3 Win Shares (behind Wilt Chamberlain's 15.8)
69 wins, 33 Straight and finally a banner in Los Angeles for the Lakers on their eight finals try. As great as this Wilt/West/Goodrich team was, they only got the job done once. Great team, though maybe not the greatest team (ducks!).
#17:Cliff Hagan for 1958-59 ATL with 13.3 Win Shares (behind Bob Pettit's 16.8)
Hall of Famer's Hagan and Pettit, the year after they won the title. This version had the best record in the West but lost to rookie Elgin Baylor's Lakers (who then lost to Russell's Celtics). It was the Celtics' first of eight straight titles.
#16:John Stockton for 1991-92 UTA with 13.4 Win Shares (behind Karl Malone's 15.1)
Yep, Stockton and Malone again. 55 wins and their first conference finals loss.
#15:Dan Issel for 1971-72 KCO with 13.5 Win Shares (behind Artis Gilmore's 19.8)
At 68-16, this iteration of the Issel/Gilmore led Colonels put up the best regular season record in ABA history. They also got upset by Rick Barry and the Nets. C'est la Vie.
You'll notice that this one got a bit long. This is where I kill or severely injure/inconvience one of our main characters, while stretching for time and call you back for the sequel!
This bodes poorly for Kobe Bryant.
This might be our darkest hour.
Scenes you might see in Part 3?
- John Stockton, the Man who Passed... come to lose. Do you believe I can fly?
- I'm not interested in what happened between you and coach Popovich. I don't care that you've given up. I trusted the man I knew. We need to get into the castle tonight
- It is the quality of one's rebounds that determines success, not the number of shot attempts.