We’ve seen a lot of Big 3s in the history of the NBA, great players, ideally All-Stars, who have been put together in chase of a title. Typically, to be considered a super-team, you should have at least three all-star caliber players joining forces to destroy the opposition.
The face of the NBA is changing constantly, and there is a good chance we will see more of them being created in the years to come. The salary cap has been greatly increased, which has already paved the way for the creation of more super-teams.
However, we must pay our respects to the Best Trios of all time, so here is a look at the 15 best of all time, the trios that made a huge impact in the game, and left the world in awe:
15. Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Ben Wallace
Despite the lack of a huge name or a Hall of Fame member, this team brought Basketball back to Detroit. They had recently lost Grant Hill to a sign-and-trade with the Magic but brought in Ben Wallace. They also signed free-agent Chauncey Billups in the 2002 off-season and brought Richard Hamilton from the Wizards.
The addition of Rasheed Wallace in February 2004 really sky-rocketed their team, who went on to help the team reach the playoffs. They upset the Lakers in the 2003-04 season and won the NBA title, and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for five consecutive years.
14. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo
The trio played five seasons together from 2007 to 2012, winning the NBA title in 2008. They also had a chance to do it again in 2010 but fell short against Kobe’s Lakers.
They were Boston’s new-age Big 3, and they had a dozen All-Star appearances combined during their time there. And we haven’t even mentioned Ray Allen, who is still considered one of the coldest sharp-shooters in the league. The Celtics almost had a Big 4, had it not been for Garnett’s injury, but they still made a huge impact in the NBA.
13. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and Bob Dandridge
The Milwaukee Bucks managed to compile a “Big 3” in just their third season of the organization’s existence. They already had Bob Dandridge and the marvelous 23-year-old Kareem Abdul Jabbar and pulled a massive trade to bring the 32-year-old Oscar Robertson.
They finished the season with a franchise record of 66 wins and went on to destroy everyone in their path to the NBA Title in 1970-71. They made one of the most impressive playoff runs in league history by going 12-2 and sweeping the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals. In that final duel, Abdul-Jabbar, Robertson and Dandridge combined to average 70.8 points per contest.
12. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson
(Golden State Warriors)
This is almost uncharted territory for the NBA, as the Warriors already had a Big 3 even BEFORE the addition of Kevin Durant, with Draymond Green. They had already captured an NBA title before the arrival of Durant, with their own Big 3.
They had already shattered the NBA record for most wins, and they managed to get even better when they lured KD to join them. The Warriors have won NBA titles both in 2015 and 2017, and they will surely be at the top places on this list in about a decade or so. Just give them a couple more years to fully unfold their talent together.
11. Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Gail Goodrich
(Los Angeles Lakers)
The first of many dominant trios in the Lakers’ history, and it is so low on our list simply because they won just a single NBA title. However, that trio was truly dominant in the three years they played together, with the highlight of that span being the 1971-72 season. Chamberlain was already a legendary player by that time, while West and Goodrich were a spectacular back-court, on both ends of the court.
The trio went on to record an unprecedented 33-game winning streak that not only covered a span of two months, but also a perfect 20-0 December. It eventually helped the Lakers amass a league-record 69 wins, and went on to grab the first NBA title since the Lakers moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.
10. Moses Malone, Julius Erving and Mo Cheeks
The 1982-83 season is one of the most iconic for the 76ers, not only for the personalities involved but also for the NBA title they won (which was their last). The Sixers were led by would-be Hall of Famer Julius Erving, and All-Stars Mo Cheeks, Bobby Jones and Andrew Toney.
However, the addition of free-agent Center Moses Malone really turned the tides for the Sixers, who went on to win the title that year. They swept the Knicks, won the Bucks in five, and also swept the Lakers in the Finals. Moses Malone was the MVP for the Playoffs and became a five-time All-Star in his six seasons with the Sixers. He was a close friend of Julius Erving, and the two worked really well with the unselfish starting PG Mo Cheeks, who was known for his defensive skill-set.
9. Walt Frazier, Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere
(New York Knicks)
They were considered as the elite Knicks team, with all the other Knicks teams getting compared to them, and always coming up short. They were the most dynamic teams in basketball history, despite the numerous super-star egos in the roster.
The trade that changes the Knicks’ history was definitely for Dave DeBusschere, an eight-time All-Star, who became the final piece that helped them win the title. He joined captain Willis Reed, a true leader, and Walt Frazier, one of the all-time clutch performers, and the trio won a couple of titles together (1969-1970 and 1972-1973), signaling the best era for the Knicks.
8. Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Bill Laimbeer
This is one of the longest-lasting Big 3s of all time, as these three played together for eight seasons – from 1985 to 1993. Each of those players was individually good – Thomas was named an All-Star a whopping 12 times, Dumars was a six-time All-Star, while Laimbeer made four appearances in the All-Star Team.
The trio won back to back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990, with Dumars winning NBA Finals MVP the first year, and Thomas the next. They were a solid defensive unit, but they were also great on the offensive end. Thomas and Dumars were one of the best back-courts of all time, with Laimbeer being a defensive presence around the rim.
7. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh
All these three players were actually drafted within the first five picks of the 2003 NBA Draft and would become scoring leaders in their respective franchises over their first seasons. Wade was the only one that was actually drafted by the Heat, while LeBron and Bosh were both signed in free-agency following the 2009-10 season.
They led the Heat to the NBA Finals in all four seasons that they were together, winning back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. That trio was actually the first time we heard the term “Big Three”, and they truly revolutionized the NBA.
6. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Derek Fisher
(Los Angeles Lakers)
The Lakers have had a long history of creating dominant teams, and one of them was surely in the mid-’90s till the early 2000s. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were regarded as the two best players in the league at that time, while Derek Fisher was not as good, but still a great team player.
The trio played with each other for eight seasons and went on to win three successive NBA titles. Moreover, they made it to the Finals once more but failed to win that one.
5. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker
(San Antonio Spurs)
The Spurs actually drafted each of these three players, courtesy of coach Popovich. They took over the Spurs in the post-Robinson era and went on to win four NBA titles together, from 2003 to 2014.
They have won over 1,000 games together, and it was the connection between the “old” Spurs and the “new”. Ginobili actually played with David Robinson in the latter’s final season in the NBA, before Tony Parker joins them in 2001.
4. Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and John Havlicek
The Boston Celtics have had a couple of iconic trios in their history, and one of them was surely the one they had around the late ’50s. Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and John Havlicek composed a really strong squad, winning six championship rings in total.
Bill Russel was the strong defensive anchor in the paint, Havlicek was an all-around player on both ends, while Cousy was the Point Guard. All three have the MVP Award in the NBA Finals, while Russell grabbed 11 rings, and Cousy and Havlicek each won 8.
3. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish
That trio is the most iconic front-court of all time, by far, and they were all inducted into the Hall of Fame. They dominated the courts during the ’80s, as they managed to win three NBA titles, and even made it to the Finals two more times.
Robert Parrish was the least skilled of the three, but still a pretty good Center. Kevin McHale is one of the best power forwards of all time, both on the offensive end, but also on the defense. Larry Bird is by far the best shooter the NBA has ever seen, a killer behind the three-point line, and a true legend.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy
(Los Angeles Lakers)
These three compiled the Showtime Lakers of the ’80s, and they were one of the most spectacular trios in NBA history. Magic Johnson was the all-around guard who did it all, leading the charge for all the other players.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a dominant force inside the paint, while James Worthy was the mercurial forward who pushed the team in the offense. They went on the win three championships together, while Jabbar and Magic had already grabbed two titles before the arrival of Worthy. They are also in consideration of the best players to have played the game.
1. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman
This must be by far the most dominant trio of all time, as the ’90s Chicago Bulls were almost invincible. This particular trio only played for three seasons together, but they won the NBA title on each of the three seasons.
Jordan and Pippen actually captured their second three-peat in their careers, but the addition of Dennis Rodman was very accurate. He was a dominant force in the defense and grabbed even the most unlikely of rebounds. Jordan and Pippen were the focal points of the Bulls’ offense, but their defense was also top notch.