Who Is The Best “Big Three” In NBA History?

03.19.12 7 years ago

*Who is the best big three in NBA history? Think it through because the best comments/responses below will be printed in the next issue of Dime.*

The issue of teaming up – star players coming together to corner the market – only really became a problem when a certain three schemed their way to South Beach. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh went from universally loved, or at least respected, to the evil Empire of the NBA, the black hats. Three All-Stars playing together in their primes isn’t exactly some new notion that Pat Riley stumbled upon in the midst of slicking back his hair. The NBA’s long been a place where the best become the best… because they play with the best.

While the means were usually different – the Celtics of old built a dynasty through the draft, as did the Lakers and Bulls while the new age C’s used trades to find their Big Three – the ends remained the same. ‘Bron, Wade and Bosh took out the middle man by coming together themselves, but the goal was to always get as many talented players as possible, and then figure out the rest later.

Ask the Bill Russell-era Celtics. He teamed up with Bob Cousy and Tommy Heinsohn (before he was a maniacal announcing homer, dude could really play) to win six titles together. Russell himself would go on to win five more once Cousy and Tommy Points hung up the Cons for good, and he did it not just by controlling the backboards and blocking shots, but by playing with an absurd four members of the NBA’s Top 50 at 50, as well as teammates who were selected to 26 All-Star games from 1957-1969. No big three ever won as much. No big three was ever so unmistakably unstoppable.

During the ’80s, the Golden Age of pro basketball, the Lakers and Celtics took the game to new heights by relying on their combined star power. Boston’s Bird, McHale and Parish fused their talents to create the greatest front line in NBA history. They rode the three Hall of Famers to a trio of titles – they also headlined what I believe might still be the best team ever, the ’86 Celtics – and would’ve had many more if not for injuries and more importantly, the flashy trio from Hollywood: Magic, Kareem and James Worthy. Before Worthy was drafted at No. 1 overall in 1982, the Lakers had already won two titles with Abdul-Jabbar and Magic. But once they added the man so affectionately referred to as the fastest forward in the league, the Lakers pushed it even higher. In this big three’s first seven years together, they made the Finals six times. They’d go on to win three more, repeating as champs in 1988.

Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman‘s three-year run from 1995 through 1998 was so dominant that it felt like everyone else was playing for the silver. Superman, Batman and Rodman won a ridiculous 203 regular season games together (losing just 43), and barely had to sweat through three playoff runs. Jordan was the best player ever. Pippen was the best mortal in the game. And even Rodman was considered the best “role player.”

Early in the following decade, the Lakers won three championships in a row, and made the Finals four out of five years, with a prime Shaquille O’Neal and a coming of age Kobe Bryant. Together in those five seasons, O’Neal (27 points per game) and Bryant (26.2 points per game) rained hell on everyone that dared question them. You could’ve put Mary Poppins into the third wheel, and they still would’ve dominated. Derek Fisher. Robert Horry. Rick Fox. It made no difference when you had the two most talented players in the game playing together as perhaps the most lethal inside-out combination ever.

But they might not have even been the best big three of this era. There was the Boston teams Danny Ainge built revolving around Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, a trio that inspired the modern day “big three.” Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili also won just as many titles together as the Lakers (three), and stayed competitive and harmonious for a longer period of time. Combined, the three from the River Walk have made 19 All-Star Games (and counting), and have yet to win fewer than 50 in a season since running up 60 W’s in Ginobili’s rookie year. Basically, the Spurs are Method Man to L.A.’s Biggie.

Are the current three amigos causing havoc on South Beach the most talented threesome yet? There’s a strong possibility. But are they the best? I think you need the jewelry to back that up. In a season where it’s becoming increasingly clear there are four teams putting distance between themselves and the pack (Miami, Chicago, Oklahoma City, San Antonio), we think the Heat have the best chance of anyone of finding that jewelry to support their argument. Whether that happens or not will definitely come down to one of those three all-world players, and whether he acts like a deer caught in a car’s high beams or grabs the opportunity and makes love to it.

With that, who do you think was the best big three in NBA history?

*Who is the best big three in NBA history? Think it through because the best comments/responses below will be printed in the next issue of Dime.*

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