The concept of an NBA “Big 3” started with LeBron’s “decision” to go to the Miami Heat and join up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The reality is that long before that, great trios were winning championships in places like Boston and Los Angeles. Sometimes one superstar can win an NBA championship by himself, but that’s not usually the case. Great duos have a better shot, but it typically takes three great players to bring home a title.
Some teams have much better Big 3s than others, but everyone has to start somewhere. A handful of these trios are playing together today, while some harken back to the golden era of hoops. Some players even made multiple Big 3s, and one of guys that did might surprise you. Check out every NBA team’s best Big 3 of all time.
30 Atlanta Hawks
Dominique Wilkins, Kevin Willis, Doc Rivers
The trio of small forward Dominique Wilkins, power forward/center Kevin Willis, and point guard Doc Rivers played together for the Atlanta Hawks from 1984 to 1991. The team failed to win an NBA Championship and reach the NBA Finals or even the Eastern Conference Finals. They were still very talented and beat out trios including Dikembe Mutumbo, Steve Smith, and Mookie Blaylock and Jeff Teague, Al Horford, and Paul Millsap. Dominique was the star of the team and was a nine time NBA All-Star with the Hawks and led the league in scoring in 1986. Willis won a title with the Spurs years later, and of course Rivers went on to become a coach and got his ring with the Boston Celtics, leading another pretty good Big 3.
29 Boston Celtics
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish
The Boston Celtics have had several NBA legends play for their storied franchise over the years. Their all-time Big 3 consisted of forward Larry Bird, power forward Kevin McHale, and center Robert Parish. What makes this Big 3 unique is that they were all essentially big men, with no guards among them. They played together for 12 seasons from 1980 to 1992 and took home 3 NBA Championships in 5 NBA Finals appearances. These three beat out other very good Big 3s including Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and Tom Heinsohn and Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. Bird is one of the greatest players of all time with three NBA MVPs and two NBA Finals MVPs. McHale was a seven time NBA All-Star and was known for his defensive skills. Parish was a nine time All-Star and the NBA leader in games played.
28 Brooklyn Nets
Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson
Before they became the Brooklyn Nets, the New Jersey Nets had a pretty solid Big 3 which consisted of point guard Jason Kidd, shooting guard/small forward Vince Carter, and small forward Richard Jefferson. The team reached the NBA Finals in 2003 and looked like they would be even better by adding Vince Carter in 2004. Kidd went on to win an NBA Championship with the Mavericks in 2011 and was a 10 time NBA All-Star. He was known for his defense and also led the league in assists five times. Vince Carter is still playing but is best remembered for his slam dunking ability which won him the Slam Dunk contest in 2000, but he is also an eight time NBA All-Star. While Jefferson didn’t achieve much in the NBA, he did win a Championship with the Cavs in 2016 and is a nice complementary player.
27 Charlotte Hornets
Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Muggsy Bogues
This Big 3 played for the Charlotte Hornets from 1992 to 1995. Power forward Larry Johnson was the #1 overall pick in the 1991 NBA Draft and won the Rookie of the Year. He was very popular and helped make the Hornets relevant when he joined point guard Muggsy Bogues. Center and power forward Alonzo Mourning was added to the team as the #2 overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. LJ, or “Grandmama”, was very successful in high school and won the NCAA Championship at UNLV. He was a two time NBA All-Star who finished his career with the Knicks. Mourning won an NBA championship in 2006 with the Miami Heat and was a seven time All-Star. Muggsy Bogues didn’t’ accomplish much in the NBA but was a nice ball distributor for his big men.
26 Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman
Many NBA fans think of the late 90s Chicago Bulls as one of the best Big 3s of all time, and for good reason. This trio only played together from 1995 to 1998, but won three NBA Championships in three NBA Finals appearances. At the time, they set the record for winning 72 games in a season and Jordan won the NBA MVP award in two of their three seasons together. They also achieved something unprecedented by all being named 1st team All-NBA in the same season. This trio are now teammates in the Hall of Fame and won an amazing 45 playoff games in three seasons. Jordan and Pippen won six championships together, while Rodman had already won two others with the Detroit Pistons during the bad boys era.
25 Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love
You won’t hear much argument about naming the current Big 3 in Cleveland their best of all time. These three have played together since 2014 and brought Cleveland its first NBA Championship in 2016. LeBron decided to break up his other Big 3 in Miami to come back to Cleveland to play with Irving, and then the team acquired Kevin Love from Minnesota for Andrew Wiggins. The Cavs lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in the 2014-15 season, but beat them in a rematch in the 2015-16 season. Most NBA fans know about James’ accomplishments, but both Irving and Love are four time All-Stars who were drafted #1 and #5 respectively. If they would have opted to keep Wiggins instead of trading for Love, they could have had a Big 3 made up of all #1 picks.
24 Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion
Power forward Dirk Nowitzki and point guard Jason Kidd played together in Dallas from 1994 to 1996, with the latter becoming part of the “Three J’s” with Jamal Mashburn and Jim Jackson. Kidd rejoined the Mavericks in 2008 and forward Shawn Marion was added in 2009. This Big 3 won the NBA Championship in 2011 with Dirk being named NBA Finals MVP. Nowitzki is approaching his 20th season with Dallas. He won the NVA MVP in 2007 and is a 13 time All-Star and four time All-NBA First Team selection. Kidd was a 10 time All-Star and five time All-NBA First Team selection. He also led the league in assists five times. Marion was a four time NBA All-Star and was known for playing hard and hustling.
23 Denver Nuggets
Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby
The Denver Nuggets have never won or even appeared in the NBA Finals, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had some great players along the way. From 2006 to 2008 they had a very solid Big 3 in the form of forward Carmello Anthony, guard Allen Iverson, and big man Marcus Camby. Mello is a 10 time NBA All-Star and led the league in scoring in 2013. In 2003 he won the NCAA championships with Syracuse and was named the Final Four MVP. Iverson was the league’s MVP in 2001 and an 11 time All-Star along with two All-Star Game MVPs. Marcus Camby was the weak link in this Big 3, but he was great on defensive, being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 and he also led the league in blocks for four seasons.
22 Detroit Pistons
Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer
Detroit’s Big 3 of point guard Isiah Thomas, guard Joe Dumars, and center Bill Laimbeer had a long run, playing together from 1985 to 1993. The team won back to back NBA Championships in 1989 and 1990 and also consisted of Dennis Rodman, John “Spider” Salley, and Vinnie “the Microwave” Johnson among others. Dumars was named Finals MVP in 1989 and Thomas took that honor in 1990. The original Isiah was a 12 time NBA All-Star and led the league in assists in 1985. Dumars was a six time All-Star and made the All-Defensive First Team four times. Laimbeer was a four time All-Star and led the league in rebounding in 1986. These three helped make up a great defensive team who could also outscore their opponents including the showtime Lakers.
21 Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant
The Golden State Warriors adding Kevin Durant to their already great team in 2016 came as a big surprise for many. Ever since the most recent Big 3 was put together in Miami, teams have started assembling team consisting of three or four superstars. Guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had already been playing together since 2011 and won an NBA Championship in 2015 before setting a new record for regular season wins in 2016. They added free agent forward Kevin Durant in 2016, although an injury suffered in 2017 may impact the team’s chances at winning a title together. Curry is a two time MVP and Durant has one the award once, all since 2014. Add in Draymond Green and this will go down as one of the best teams ever if they stay together long enough.
20 Houston Rockets
Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley
The Houston Rockets won the NBA Championship in back to back seasons in 1994 and 1995 led by center Hakeem Olajuwon along with the likes of Kenny Smith, Sam Cassell, and Robert Horry. Clyde Drexler joined the team in 1995 to help them win their second consecutive championship, and Charles Barkley joined in 1996. These Big 3 stayed together until 1998 when Drexler retired, and Barkley did the same in 2000. “The Dream” was named Finals MVP for both titles and was the league MVP in 1994 along with being a 12 time All-Star. He led the league in blocks three times and rebounds twice. “The Glide” was a 10 time All-Star whose number was retired by both the Rockets and Trail Blazers. “Sir Charles” was the league MVP in 1993 and an 11 time All-Star.
19 Indiana Pacers
Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson
The Indiana Pacers have never won an NBA Championship, although they did it win it three times in the old ABA. Although the trio of Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and David West could stack up against almost any triad in the league, the best Pacers Big 3 consisted of guards Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, and Mark Jackson. The team also featured Jalen Rose and Rik Smits and made the 2000 NBA Finals, losing to a Lakers team led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. These Big 3 played together from 1997 until that season. Miller was a five time All-Star, as was Chris Mullin. Jackson led the league in assists in 1997 and became a successful coach and broadcaster. Reggie became a successful announcer as well, while Chris Mullin went on to coach at St. John’s starting in 2015.
18 Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
The longest tenured member of this Big 3 is actually center DeAndre Jordan who was drafted by the Clippers in 2008. They then drafted forward Blake Griffin with the #1 pick in 2009 and acquired guard Chris Paul from the Hornets in 2011. The team hasn’t been able to reach the NBA Finals with other great teams in the West including the Warriors and Spurs. These three are still a great trio even if they don’t win any rings. Paul is a nine time All-Star and has led the league in assists four times and in steals six times. Griffin is a five time All-Star who has been injury prone, and Jordan made his first All-Star team in 2017 and has led the league in rebounding twice.
17 Los Angeles Lakers
Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy
The Lakers have basically had three different Big 3s that could rank near the top of this category. The runners up are the trios of Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor as well as the Big 3 of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and anybody that was lucky enough to play with them. The winners are Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worth who played together from 1982 to 1989, winning three NBA Championships in six NBA Finals appearances. Magic and Kareem won two other titles together before Worthy was added, and Abdul-Jabbar won his first ring with the Milwaukee Bucks. Johnson was a three time NBA MVP and also a three time NBA Finals MVP. Kareem was a six time MVP and a 19 time All-Star while worth was a seven time All-Star and one time NBA Finals MVP.
16 Memphis Grizzlies
Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley
The Grizzlies haven’t been around very long, but this trio has been together in Memphis since 2009. Point guard Mike Conley was drafted #4 overall by the Grizz in 2007 and center Marc Gasol joined the team in 2008, with forward Zach Randolph being added in 2009. In 2013 they reached the Western Conference Finals where they were swept by the Spurs. They have been a playoff team almost every year but haven’t won anything. Gasol was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and both he and Conley were named to the All-Defensive Second Team the same year. If this core can stick together for a few more season and add another key piece they have a shot, but still have to get by the top teams in the West.
15 Miami Heat
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
Even though they weren’t the original Big 3, they may have been the first to coin the term. This Big 3 was also the most storied, and started with LeBron’s “decision” to bring his talents to South Beach. He joined his friend Dwyane Wade. The trio was mocked for their promises of “not one, not two, not three…” but ended up winning back to back NBA Championships and reaching the NBA Finals four seasons in a row. These three were selected to the All-Star Game nine times together. Even though James went back to Cleveland in 2014, the Big 3 wouldn’t have lasted much longer due to Bosh’s health conditions. This Big 3 is also the only trio to win an NBA Championship and a Gold medal together.
14 Milwaukee Bucks
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Bob Dandridge
Just a few years after the Milwaukee Bucks were formed, they won the NBA Championship in a four game sweep over the Baltimore Bullets. The team was led by two all-time greats, center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and point guard Oscar Robertson. Kareem was also in the greatest Big 3 for the Los Angeles Lakers with Magic Johnson and James Worthy. The “Big O” won the MVP award in 1964 and was a 12 time All-Star and three time All-Star Game MVP. He led the league in assists six times and is considered one of the best of all time. That duo was joined by Bob Dandridge, who also won a title in 1978 with the Bullets. He was a four time All-Star who was known for his defense.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell
Big man Kevin Garnett was the face of the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise for many years, and deservedly so. He didn’t win an NBA Championship until he went to the Boston Celtics, but the “Big Ticket” was a 15 time All-Star and was the NBA’s MVP in 2004. He was known for his defensive and led the league in rebounding for four consecutive seasons. From 2003 to 2005 he was joined by Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell to form Minnesota’s best Big 3. Sprewell was a four time All-Star and was also known for his defense, while journeyman Sam Cassell was a three time NBA Champion, winning two others with the Houston Rockets. Minnesota has gone through some lean years, but soon could have another great Big 3 if they can find one more piece in addition to Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
12 New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Jrue Holiday
Chris Paul may be the best player in the history of the New Orleans Pelicans, but he didn’t play with anyone good enough to be considered a Big 3. The best trio to play in New Orleans was actually just formed in 2017, consisting of big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins paired with point guard Jrue Holiday. Davis was the Pelican’s #1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and Holiday joined the team in 2013. Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings in 2017 and how successful they can become remains to be seen. Davis is a four time All-Star was the game’s MVP in 2017. He has also led the league in blocks twice. “Boogie” cousins is a three time All-Star, and Holiday is the team’s leader in both assists and steals for 2017.
11 New York Knicks
Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed
The New York Knickerbockers have seen their share of great and not so great years since they were founded in 1946. Although the trio of Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, and John Starks was pretty good in the 90s, the all-time Knicks Big 3 includes point guard Walt Frazier, guard Earl Monroe, and big man Willis Reed. Reed was drafted #8 overall by the Knicks in 1964 and Frazier was selected #5 overall in the 1967 NBA Draft. Monroe was picked #2 that same year by the Baltimore Bullets, and joined the Knicks in 1971. Frazier and Reed won their first NBA championship in 1970, and won their second with Monroe in 1973. Reed and Frazier were both seven time All-Stars and Monroe earned that designation four times.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden
The Oklahoma City Thunder had a really good thing going from 2009 to 2012, when the Big 3 of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden all played together. In their final season together, the Thunder reached the NBA Finals where they lost to the Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat. At the time these guys were playing together in OKC, they were recognized for their talents but it seems like they each became greater after they all broke up. Westbrook is the only one who stayed with the Thunder, as Harden joined the Rockets in 2012 and Durant went to Golden State in 2016. Now that they are all separated, all three of these guys are legitimate MVP candidates which goes to show that they could have gone down as one of the best Big 3s of all-time.
9 Orlando Magic
Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Horace Grant
The Orlando Magic didn’t have to wait long to be a good team after they were founded in 1989. Over the years they have had some great players including Dwight Howard and Tracy McGrady, but their all-time Big 3 is made up of center Shaquille O’Neal, guard Penny Hardaway, and big man Horace Grant. They played together from 1994 to 1996 and reached the NBA Finals in 1995. We all know that Shaq was a dominant player and one of the best bigs of all time, but some remember Penny Hardaway best for his “Little Penny” commercials. Hardaway was a four time All-Star and his number was retired by the Magic. Grant is best known for winning four titles with the Chicago Bulls, but he didn’t crack their Big 3 with Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman.
8 Philadelphia 76ers
Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks
Young NBA fans may not realize that the Philadelphia 76ers are one of the successful NBA teams in history, winning championships in 1955, 1967, and 1983, and reaching the NBA Finals six other times. The Sixers had a great trio in Allen Iverson, Chris Webber, and Andre Iguodala, and of course Charles Barkley is one of their best players of all time, although he didn’t play with enough other talented players. That makes the best 76ers Big 3 of all-time Julius Erving, Moses Malone, and Maurice Cheeks. This trio swept the Lakers in the 1983 NBA Finals after losing to them the year before. “Dr. J” was a four time MVP and won three championships counting the ABA as well. Malone was a three time NBA MVP and Mo Cheeks was a four time All-Star and four time All-Defensive First Team selection before becoming a coach.
7 Phoenix Suns
Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle
The Phoenix Suns have had a lot of winning seasons, but have never won an NBA championship and only reached the NBA Finals twice. Although the trio of Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion played very well together, they aren’t quite the best Big 3 the Suns have ever had. The Big 3 of Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, and Dan Majerle played together in Phoenix from 1992 to 1995 and reached the NBA Finals in 1993, losing to Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman’s Chicago Bulls. Barkley is remembered for his time in Philadelphia and Phoenix and was an 11 time All-Star and won the MVP the year he reached the finals. KJ was a three time All-Star who went on to become Mayor of Sacramento from 2008 to 2016. Majerle was known for his long range accuracy and was a three time All-Star.
6 Portland Trail Blazers
Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Kevin Duckworth
The Portland Trail Blazers won their only championship in 1977 with Maurice Lucas, Bill Walton, and Lionel Hollins. The team also had a good trio not too long ago consisting of LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, and Wesley Matthews. Their best Big 3 happened during the early 90s and was made up of Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, and Kevin Duckworth. They played together for a good amount of time from 1986 to 1993 and lost in the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992. Drexler won an NBA championship in 1995 with the Houston Rockets, and Porter and Duckworth were both two time All-Stars. Drexler has had his number retired by Portland, Houston, and the University of Houston, and Porter’s number was also retired by the Blazers.
5 Sacramento Kings
Chris Webber, Peja Stojaković, Gerald Wallace
The Sacramento Kings’ playoff drought started in 2007 and they haven’t made the postseason since. They even traded away their best player in recent memory in DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins. From the late 90s to the mid 00s, the Kings reached the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons and reached the Western Conference Finals in 2002. From 2001 to 2004 the Big 3 of Chris Webber, Peja Stojaković, and Gerald Wallace made the Kings relevant. C-Webb was a five time All-Star and led the league in rebounding in 1999. Stojaković won an NBA championship in 2011 with Dallas and was a three time All-Star. Gerald Wallace beat out Mike Bibby and Vlade Divac thanks to his great season in 2010 when he was an All-Star and All-Defensive First Team selection with Charlotte.
4 San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili
Even though the Spurs have had other great players such as George Gervin, David Robinson, and Kawhi Leonard, there’s not much debate that the Big 3 of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginóbili is their best all-time trio. These three played together from 2003 to 2015, winning four NBA championships in five NBA Finals appearances, and you can’t teach that. This was an international trio, with Duncan being born in the Virgin Islands, Parker being from Belgium, and Ginóbili being Argentinian. Duncan was a 15 time All-Star among his long list of accomplishments. He also won his first championship without the other two when he played with Robinson, Sean Elliott, Avery Johnson, and Steve Kerr. Somehow Parker and Ginobili are still with the team although Duncan retired in 2016.
3 Toronto Raptors
DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola
The Toronto Raptors haven’t been very successful since they were founded in 1995. Their best season was in 2015-16 when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the Big 3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Toronto’s best Big 3 has been more of a Big 2 as their role players have changed from year to year. Shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry were joined by journeyman power forward Luis Scola for the season they came closest to reaching the Finals. Both DeRozan and Lowry and three time All-Stars, although Scola had most of his success playing overseas as a two time Spanish League MVP. The team made some big moves in 2017, trading for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, and one of them could join the new Big 3 in Toronto soon.
2 Utah Jazz
Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek
There’s really no argument when it comes to the best Big 3 to ever play for the Utah Jazz. The trio of power forward Karl Malone, point guard John Stockton, and shooting guard Jeff Hornacek played together for the Jazz from 1994 to 2000. Stockton was drafted in 1984 and the Jazz selected Malone the next year, forming one of the best duos in NBA history. Hornacek became their best sidekick, and this Big 3 reached the NBA Finals in back to back seasons in 1997 and 1998, losing to the Chicago Bulls’ Big 3 both years. Malone was a 14 time All-Star and a two time MVP. Stockton was a 10 time All-Star and Hornacek won the Three-Point Shootout twice in addition to being an All-Star once with the Phoenix Suns.
1 Washington Wizards
Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, Bob Dandridge
Although John Wall and Bradley Beal might think they should be part of the best Big 3 in Washington’s history, they would be sadly mistaken. Most of today’s basketball fans have never heard of Bob Dandridge, who joins guys like Shaq and Kareem, making the all-time Big 3s for more than one team. Wes Unseld was drafted #2 overall by the Baltimore Bullets in 1968 and Elvin Hayes joined the team in 1972. Dandridge joined in 1977 and the three were together until 1981, when they all went elsewhere. The Bullets defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in 1978 to win the NBA Championship, and lost to them the following season in a rematch. Hayes was a 12 time All-Star and led the league in scoring once and rebounding twice. Unseld was the Finals MVP the year they won it, and was the NBA MVP in 1969.
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