The concept of big threes in the NBA is neither hypothetical nor theatrical. Behind the formation of the greatest big threes in NBA history is a story of disillusion, patience, teamwork, and determination. Every team in the league’s history has seen at least one prominent trio.
Some franchises like Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are known for bringing big threes in the NBA more than once. Others like the Bulls, the Spurs, the Warriors, etc. aren’t lagging behind as well. So, it’s easy to get confused while choosing the best trios because many have put their styles and skills into a successful journey.
The reason why we call them trio is because they display brilliant performances together. In this article, we’ll put some lights on the greatest NBA trios of all time.
The Best NBA Trios the NBA Has Ever Seen
When you want to make a list of big threes in the NBA, you’ll see many of them from every generation of the game. Here, we’ve mentioned only those famous trios in history who managed to get past the boundaries of time.
#10 Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen/Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics)
In August 2007, the Boston Celtics had completed two of their mega trades and in the eyes of many experts and fans, both deals were undoubtedly crazy. On the night of the 2007 NBA draft, they traded their fifth overall pick rookie Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak and guard Delonte West for Ray Allen.
This deal gave the Celtics a complete team that time as they added one of the best 3-point shooters in the history. The Boston Celtics then traded Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomez, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and two future draft picks for Kevin Garnett, one of the biggest trash talkers in NBA’s history.
In their first season together, they had 66 wins in the regular season and defeated Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons in the 2008 NBA Playoffs. The Celtics returned to the finals under the leadership of the 3 veterans, and defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals to win the championship.
However, in the following seasons, the Celtics lost their dominance and failed to compete due to age factor. In 2012, Ray Allen signed with the Miami Heat and the Celtics’ Big 3 parted ways.
#9 Wilt Chamberlain/Jerry West/Elgin Baylor (Los Angeles Lakers)
In the summer of 1968, the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Wilt Chamberlain from the Philadelphia 76ers. That would spark the gathering of NBA’s 3 most powerful offensive juggernauts in the Lakers: 32-year-old Chamberlain, 30-year-old West, 34-year-old Baylor.
Wilt was a legendary center who rivalled the great Bill Russell in his prime, Jerry West was an excellent point guard who shot the ball very well and Elgin Baylor was just definition of a complete small forward. The Big 3 shocked the whole league at the time but unfortunately, they have never won a championship together.
#8 Kobe Bryant/Shaquille O’Neal/Derek Fisher (Los Angeles Lakers)
Stats may not always speak of what really matters for NBA trios. Kobe, Shaq, and Fisher passed eight seasons together from the middle of the ’90s to the early dates of the 2000s.
Three consecutive championships along with one final appearance may seem to be short of what’s perfectly glorious. But, their combined feats were no less enjoyable and appreciable than others on this list.
As they were dominating the league, everyone would admit that Shaq was one of the top players at that time and Kobe secured his spot among the all-time greats. Fisher made a great mate playing his role as a leader and outside shooter.
#7 Isiah Thomas/Joe Dumars/Bill Laimbeer (Detroit Pistons)
Before the Detroit Pistons drafted Isiah Thomas in 1981, they were a poor team with many bad seasons. The team improved slightly better since then but they took a big leap when they acquired Bill Laimbeer in 1982 and Joe Dumars in 1985.
Laimbeer joined the Pistons in a trade with the Cavaliers while Dumars was drafted 18th overall by the Pistons in the 1985 NBA Draft. They won 2 consecutive championships in 1989 and 1990. One of the major factors of their success was that they played very discipline and physical defense hence opponents’ struggle to score on them.
The team was known as the “Bad Boys” as they reportedly played dirty and displayed the worst of unsportsmanlike conducts. Due to this, they were quite hated by NBA teams and fans back then.
#6 Tim Duncan/Manu Ginobili/Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)
Few people would deny that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili make the Spurs winningest trio. All 3 players played together from 2002 to 2016 and won 4 NBA titles in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. Tony Parker was selected 28th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2001 NBA Draft. On the other side, Ginobili had to wait 3 years to play for the Spurs after he was drafted in 1999.
The Spurs, however, have never won two consecutive championships. In 2014, the Spurs defeated the Miami Heat in the finals as the series ended 4-1. Next year in the first round of the playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers played well to beat the defending champion hence their elimination from the postseason.
#5 Stephen Curry/Kevin Durant/Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
One would want to take that the Golden State Warriors trio should get a better position on this list. Relax! Before Durant’s entry into the side, Warriors was very close to a team that others find difficult to challenge.
The trio consists of two finest shooters and a highly talented offensive player who have given the team so much that Oakland’s fans can’t forget about them anytime soon. If things go on as expected, one can imagine seeing them bask in greater glory together, no matter where they set foot on.
#4 Larry Bird/Kevin McHale/Robert Parish (Boston Celtics)
Here we got one more Celtics trio but from a later generation. In the 1980s, the Celtics were deadly rivals of the Los Angeles Lakers. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish joined forces to fight the Los Angeles Lakers’ combination of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. The Celtics’ Big 3 were amongst the most gifted offensive players in NBA history and they won 3 championships together.
In 1980, Red Auerbach traded for Robert Parish who played for the Golden State Warriors that time. From the Parish trade, Boston Celtics acquired a pick from Warriors to draft Kevin McHale from University of Minnesota.
Larry Bird was the leader and the core of the Big 3, Kevin McHale was one of the best power forwards in the history with beautiful post moves, and Robert Parish was a defensive specialist center who loved to block opponents’ shots. Together, the trio won 3 championships and they continued to play for the Celtics until 1992.
#3 Bill Russell/Bob Cousy/John Havlicek (Boston Celtics)
The Boston Celtics trio demonstrated their prowess throughout the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. During this period, their domination was pretty obvious as they claimed six titles. Their individual achievements were even greater as Russell had 11 titles, Havlicek and Cousy won as many as eight championships each.
The Celtics couldn’t have a better defender in the inside than Bill Russell. Cousy’s skills as a point guard were never something one can underrate. Speaking of a forward, Havlicek was a genius who did extraordinarily well at both sides of the basketball court. Two of these guys have also had the honor of playing the highest number of NBA finals.
#2 Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen/Dennis Rodman (Chicago Bulls)
Jordan is arguably regarded as the most prolific star whose role as a clutch performer will remain significant throughout the entire existence of the league. Pippen was an extremely capable point forward while Rodman established himself as a rebounding specialist.
This Chicago Bulls trio stayed together for just three years and brought their side three championships in a row from 1991 to 1993. During that brief period of time, they had particular role to play, and it’s obvious they excelled. Their coordinated efforts worked out so well that the Bulls had 72 wins, an unbelievable feat that may be too hard for any team to break.
#1 Magic Johnson/Kareem Abdul Jabbar/James Worthy (Los Angeles Lakers)
In the 1969 NBA Draft, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was picked first overall by the Milwaukee Bucks and played for 5 seasons with them. Seven years later, Abdul-Jabbar joined the Los Angeles Lakers. In his fifth season, the Lakers got the first overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft. With that pick, they drafted Magic Johnson. Since then, Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson had established a dominant dynasty nearly a decade in the City of Angels.
The Lakers proceeded to win the NBA championship in 1982. What was even more fantastic was that they once again got the first overall pick through certain trade and the Lakers used this draft pick to pick up James Worthy.
Big Game James was an important part of the Lakers’ “Showtime” period. James Worthy’s strong slam dunks had brought unspeakable visual enjoyment to Lakers fans and also further strengthened the dynasty. They together won the NBA championships in 1985, 1987, and 1988 leaving little for spectators to do nothing but consider them as the Lakers best trio.
Is that all about the big three NBA? We guess some players deserve a place, even another famous trios list! Here’re some honorable mentions.
- Walt Frazier/Willis Reed/Dave DeBusschere (Knicks)
- LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (Miami Heat)
Hopefully, our list of best big threes in NBA history has served you well. Still, we appreciate receiving your thoughts and exciting ideas via email and social shares.