Stockton and Malone went to two Finals during that transition period in the NBA where the super teams of the 80s had disappeared, the NBA expansion diluted talent, and before the huge increase in international player.
The fact that Utah repeatedly lost to “inferior combos” as you put it only shows that Stockton and Malone were not that dominant.
West-Baylor are by far the greatest duo of all time.
It’s not even close.
Even with recency bias, West is #9 and Baylor is #15 in the Simmons HOF pyramid. Malone is #18 and Stockton is #25.
The Lakers met the Celtics in the NBA Finals seven times, and were extremely unlucky not to win Game 7's in 1962 and 1969. The Celtics had six HOF players on their team, including Bill Russell, while the Lakers had only three HOF players without a dominant center who could compete with Russell until they finally got Wilt in 1968.
Elgin Baylor reinvented basketball, serving as the future model for Dr. J and MJ. West is arguably the second best guard EVER. He is the only player to ever win a Finals MVP for the losing team.
West is one of only to players to average over 27 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists for his career, while shooting over 47%.
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And the other player is not Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Oscar Robertson.