If you have been watching the NBA for a while, you know all about the idea of the “Big Three.” Every team strives to bring together trios of superstars in order to give their team the best chance of winning a championship.
Throughout the history of the NBA, there have been dozens of Big Threes that have been either intentionally or accidently put together by GMs and coaches. This article is going to looks at twelve of the best Big Threes in the history of the league
12. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant
Out of all the talented Big Threes on this list, there is only one entry where the three players are still on the same team. The current Golden State Warriors have been one of the best teams in NBA history over the last few seasons, and show no signs of slowing down. They are three of the best offensive players in the league, and are all matchup nightmares for opposing coaches and players alike. There is a good chance that when all is said and done, these three will have won numerous championships together. Plus there’s Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins on the team, which makes us question which three players are playing the role of Big Three on any given night. It’s borderline unfair. By the time Curry, Thompson, and Durant are eventually split up, they could end up even higher on this list.
11. Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Jeff Hornacek
The best seasons that the Utah Jazz ever had were when Malone, Stockton, and Hornacek were on the court together. They took the team to back-to-back NBA Finals, but they lost both to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls — no shame in that, really. Stockton and Malone are often seen as one of the best guard and big men combos in history, but Jeff Hornacek played a very underrated role on the squad. They won at least 55 games in all but one season that they played together and never missed the playoffs. If the Bulls weren’t as legendary in the mid-90s as they were, this Jazz team likely would have been able to take home multiple NBA titles. But lots of great players don’t have rings due to MJ and Co.
10. Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook
While this ill-fated group never brought a title to Oklahoma City, the trio made a few very deep runs in the playoffs, but just couldn’t take that next step. Durant, Harden, and Westbrook only had three years together before Harden was off to the Rockets, and then a few seasons later Durant went to the Warriors. Now, each player is among the best scorers in the league and are annual MVP candidates. It’s crazy to think of them on the same team now. If only the Thunder could have kept them together for a few more seasons, they definitely would have had the firepower to win a championship, but egos got in the way.
9. Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Bill Laimbeer
In the late 1980s, no NBA team was more feared or respected than the Detroit Pistons, and it was largely because of these three players. Dumars and Laimbeer were incredibly tough and rugged, with Thomas bringing a ton of speed, skill and talent to the table from the point guard position. They made three straight NBA Finals from 1988 to 1990 and never missed the playoffs from 1983 and 1992. Their”Bad Boys” style of play won them two NBA titles in 1989 and 1990, as simply no team could keep up with them in the paint. They even held back the eventual rise of Air Airness for a few seasons, as Jordan’s Bulls were routinely unable to get past these Pistons.
8. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett
In 2007, the Celtics pulled off a couple of huge trades, to bring both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to Boston. Along with perennial All-Star Paul Piece, fans were excited for what the team might achieve. Well, this Big Three didn’t disappoint — the team won 66 games their first season together and actually went on to win the NBA championship over the Lakers. While that would be their only title as a trio, the team had several more great seasons (including another 60+ win season and five straight Atlantic Division titles) before the Big Three ended in 2012 when Ray Allen signed with Miami.
7. Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West
While they were only on the same team for four years, these Laker legends made good use of their time. They won a title in their last season together (which was 1971-72), but made three Finals as a Big Three. All three players played an incredibly important role for the team and even though they only went 1-2 in Finals appearances, they often don’t get the respect that they deserve as a trio. And while Baylor was near the end of his career when they won, he was still an important part of the team. Of course, they wouldn’t be the last Laker Big Three to find success.
6. Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and Tom Heinsohn
While these guys didn’t play in the “modern” NBA like most of the trios on this list, they were impossible to leave out. While the Celtics had a ton of talent during the 50s and 60s, this Big Three (arguably the very first Big Three in NBA history) led the way. They played six seasons together under legendary coach Red Auerbach, and won an astonishing five NBA championships in that time. That run of success is almost unheard of nowadays (although give Golden State a few more seasons together and we’ll reevaluate). All three of these men were multi-time All Stars and took home a ton of different individual awards. Some argue that John Havlicek was actually the third member of this Big Three, as he sort of took over once Heinsohn’s career started to wind down.
5. Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy
Despite only playing six seasons together, this Big Three made their time count. They made it to five NBA Finals in that period, taking home three of them. Each one of them won a single Finals MVP award, showing how important each member of this Big Three truly was. Each one brought something different to the table as a player, but all were instrumental in the Lakers being one of the best teams in the 1980s. Magic Johnson was the brightest star as he also won a few regular season MVP awards along the way, but all three are seen by most fans as some of the greatest players ever. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still holds the record for most career points in the NBA with 38,387.
4. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish
These three legends played alongside each other in Boston from 1981 to 1992, and never missed the playoffs in that stretch. Not only that, but they also won three NBA championships and made the Finals a handful more times. While Bird was the undeniable star of the show (winning three straight MVPs from 1983 to 1986), Parish and McHale formed one of the most talented and tough front courts the NBA has ever seen. Their battles with the showtime Lakers are now basketball legend.
3. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh
In the modern day, LeBron James’ decision to go to the Miami Heat is still one of the most shocking in sports history. With Chris Bosh also heading to South Beach with him, the Heat instantly became one of the best teams in the league. Wade, James, and Bosh would win two NBA championships during their tenure, and would make the finals each of the four seasons that LeBron was in town. While James and Bosh got a lot of criticism for this move, it paid off as they got their championships.
2. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman
There has arguably never been a dynasty in the NBA like the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s. They won six NBA titles in the decade, with the final three coming in the late 1990s thanks to Pippen, Jordan, and Rodman. While the trio only played three seasons together, they also won an NBA title in each of the three seasons that they played together (you could argue that the Bulls’ initial three-peat included the Big Three of Jordan, Pippen, and Horace Grant). The trio were awesome on both sides of the ball, and no other team could compete with them. Since the three departed, the Bulls have not been back to the NBA Finals.
1. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli
This entry might shock you a little, but we feel there has been no better duo than Duncan, Parker and Ginobli. From 2002 to 2015, the team won 4 NBA championships together and made the playoffs each and every season that the three stars were together. Not only that, but the team never won less than 50 games a season with the big three on the court. They weren’t flashy or showy, but they got the job done unlike any other trio ever did. With all of these players gone to other teams or retired, the Spurs simply aren’t the same.