The phenomenon of the Big 3 is a rather recent phenomenon. Some go way back to the 70’s, but by in large, we are seeing more Big 3’s today than ever before. A part of the reason for that is because a Big 2 is no longer enough to win a NBA Championship anymore. Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were good enough to win a Championship with some solid role players around them, David Robinson and Tim Duncan were also good enough to win a Championship with some solid role players around them, but it will increasingly become more and more rare for any team to win a NBA title with solely a Big 1 or a Big 2.
This means that we will start to see more and more Big 3’s than ever before. And it may not be farfetched to say that we may even start to see some Big 4’s in the future. There are some Big 3’s that may come to mind as you look at this list and to your surprise not find them there. The primary reason for this is because their entire corpus of work may not have been great enough for them to include. This is not a list about the best Big 3’s over the course of one year, but their collective work as a team. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, if they were truly outstanding.
Furthermore, one might be tempted to include a Big 3 on this list, when in actuality it is really more of a Big 2.5. Two superstars and one role player do not make a Big 3. A Big 3 must include 3 stars, not just two of them. For example, a person might be tempted to include Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, and Dan Majerle on this list during their Phoenix Suns days. However, Thunder Dan was more along the lines of a glorified role player that could bomb three’s from anywhere than a franchise type of player. How do you know? Put Thunder Dan as the number two or number one guy on any team, and there is no way that the team would even make it to the playoffs. He is a solid role player to have as your third best scorer, however, that does not make him good enough to qualify as a member of the Big 3. Below are the best Big-3 combinations in NBA history.
25 Milwaukee Bucks: Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen, Sam Cassell
24 Portland Trailblazers – Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Kevin Duckworth
23 Cleveland Cavaliers – Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance
22 New York Knicks – Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, John Starks
21 Sacramento Kings – Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic
20 Golden State Warriors – Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin
19 Detroit Pistons – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace
18 Oklahoma City Thunder – Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden
17 New York Knicks – Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed
16 Detroit Pistons – Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer
15 Houston Rockets – Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley
14 Philadelphia 76ers – Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Andrew Toney
13 Phoenix Suns – Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Amar’e Stoudemire
12 Orlando Magic – Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson
11 New Jersey Nets – Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson
10 Utah Jazz – Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek
9 Los Angeles Lakers – Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West
8 Boston Celtics – Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen
7 Miami Heat – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
6 Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
5 Los Angeles Lakers – Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy
4 Chicago Bulls – Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman
3 Boston Celtics – Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish
2 Boston Celtics – Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn
1 San Antonio Spurs – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili
The number one Big-3 of all-time have played 12 seasons together so far from 2002 to the present. They were just nominated as the best franchise in all of sports by ESPN and it is primarily because of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. The Big 3 just won their fifth championship this past year and have won a total of 129 playoff games together. That is more than double what Russell, Cousy, and Heinsohn have won. The fact that this trio have stayed together so long is a testament to their character and willingness to sacrifice points and salary. Let’s be honest, we will never see another trio stay this long together and win this long together for a very, very long time.
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