Best Of’s – NBA Big 3’s

Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman

  As you look around the NBA these days, you see every team vying for a Championship has a “Big 3”.  The term has only been widely used for about a decade, but the concept has been around forever.  Even before the players dictated their movement like they do now, teams had their own Big 3s, but they were built in a more traditional fashion; draft & free agency.  Times have changed.  Regardless of how they were built, we will take a look at the best Big 3’s in NBA history.

Honorable Mention – Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, & John Havlicek – It’s very hard not to include this trio, but they only played together 1 season.  Cousy retired after the 1963 season, the year in which Havlicek was a rookie.  They were in a stretch of 8 consecutive Championships, 11 out of 13.  However, since they only played together 1 season, they lack the longevity to be included.

10.  2019 Pick Your Team – This past off-season has produced about a half-dozen Big 3’s (some legit, some not).  Only time will tell which ones will pan out, but it’s likely at least 1 of them will.  Let’s revisit this in about 5 years.

9.  Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, & James Harden – I am going to mention these 3, not necessarily because of the success they had together, but the success they had after their run together.  In their 3 years together, they did manage to have a couple nice runs, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2012.  But what they did after their time together was even more remarkable.  Harden left after their Finals appearance, and went on to be a (still counting) 7x All-Star, 2x scoring champ, 1x assist champ, and 2018 NBA MVP.  After Durant left Oklahoma City, he became a 2x NBA Champion and Finals MVP.  And in the 3 seasons since Durant left, Westbrook has averaged a triple-double each year (only been done ONCE previous to that), and was the 2017 NBA MVP.  He was traded away from the Thunder in summer 2019, officially ending any pieces of the Big 3.  One of the more “what could have been” trios in NBA history.

8.  Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, & Ray Allen – Although this Big 3 only won 1 NBA Title, many say they were responsible for the modern-day Big 3’s.  1 existing star, joined by 2 new stars via trades.  Their first season together, they won the 2008 NBA Finals, defeating their rival Lakers 4 games to 2.  Their run together only lasted 5 seasons, but it included 3 Eastern Conference Finals and 2 NBA Finals appearances, with the 1 Title in 2008.

7.  LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, & Kevin Love – This is a Big 3 that, despite only winning 1 Championship, I felt was worthy mostly because of the team that it did beat.  These Cavaliers teams met the Golden State all 4 years they were together (caveat – Irving was not there the 4th year).  All 4 years, the Warriors were heavy favorites.  But in 2016, the Warriors had a record-breaking 73-9 regular season, and were up 3-1 in the Finals against Cleveland.  LeBron absolutely took over the last 3 games averaging 36 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists, including “The Block”.  The Cavs won Game 7 by a score of 93-89, winning the 1st professional sports Championship in Cleveland since 1964.

6.  LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, & Chris Bosh – This Big 3 is a tricky one.  Very few will say that their 4 year run together wasn’t a successful one.  But was it enough?  They made the Finals in all 4 years together, winning Championships in 2012 & 2013.  However, they did lose to the Mavericks in 2011 as heavy favorites, and were 1 Ray Allen 3-pointer away from losing in 2013 as well.  That said, they did win the Eastern Conference 4 years in a row, along with 2 Titles.  Take nothing away from them.  You have to wonder though, how much does “The Decision” affect people’s opinion of this team and their run.  Have to think it does.  “Not 1, not 2…”.  It was indeed 2.

5.  Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, & Kevin Durant – The Warriors won the NBA Finals in 2015, then followed that up with a record-breaking 73-9 regular season (only to lose in Finals to LeBron’s Cavs).  The following off-season, they added Kevin Durant via free agency, to create the best shooting Big 3 in history.  Their 1st two seasons together they rolled through the Playoffs and defeated the Cavs in the NBA Finals, and their last season also included a trip to the Finals, but their injury-depleted team (Durant & Thompson both missed last games in Finals) fell to the Raptors in 6 games.  3 years, 3 Finals appearances, 2 Championships.

4.  Larry Bird, Robert Parish, & Kevin McHale – This Big 3 featured arguably the best collection of big men in history.  Parish was the enforcing, defensive-minded rebounder, McHale had one of the smoothest post games in the league, and Larry Bird was Larry Bird.  They won 3 Championships between 1981 and 1986, including a league record 40-1 home record in 1986.  Injuries in their later careers possibly prevented more than those 3 Championships, but in the early-to-mid 80’s, they were a powerhouse.

3.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, & James Worthy – The Showtime Lakers of the 80’s were the most exciting team ever assembled.  And not only were they exciting, they won.  A lot.  In the 80’s, the Lakers won 5 Championships, 3 of which included this trio together.  This Big 3 was together from 1983 to 1989, and their resume in those 6 years – Lost in Finals, Champions, Lost in West Finals, Champions, Champions, Lost in Finals.  That’s right, 6 years, 3 Championships and 2 more Finals appearances.  Note – I considered replacing Worthy with Michael Cooper for this Big 3, as those 3 won 5 Titles (as opposed to 3 with Worthy) in the 80’s, but I went with Big Game James as he is a Hall of Famer, and a superior player of the 2.

2.  Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, & Manu Ginobili – This Big 3 was remarkable not only because of their Titles, but because of it’s longevity.  These 3 were teammates from 2002 to 2016, racking up 4 Championships (2003, 2005, 2007, & 2014).  Hell, there is even a 2nd Big 3 within this team.  During this entire run, the team also had the Head Coach, Gregg Popovich, the same General Manager, R.C. Buford, and the same owner, Peter Holt.  Not a single team in history that has had that amount of stability and success over a 15+ year stretch.

1.  Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, & Power Forward x – This is technically 2 separate Big 3’s, but with Jordan & Pippen being 2 of them, I made an exception.  The 1st run featured Horace Grant, a hard-nosed forward with a great jumper.  The 2nd run included Dennis Rodman, he of no offensive game, but one of the best defenders the NBA has ever seen.  Each trio delivered a Three-peat©, with neither team ever really being challenged in their Finals runs (only Reggie’s Pacers in 1998 took them to 7 games).  Greatest Big 3(s) of all-time.

  Like this article?  Share it on Twitter or Facebook.  Like us?  Follow us on Twitter (@big3sportsblog1) or like our Facebook page (@big3sportsblog).  Not a fan?  Tell us why!