With Lebron James deciding to go back home to Cleveland and chase championships as a Cavalier, the NBA’s most formidable trio of players is no more. But perhaps another one is here to replace it; the Cavs have all but put pen to paper on a deal that will unite Kevin Love with James and Kyrie Irving, a new super trio. This NBA offseason has, indeed, proven that NBA franchises are still looking for talented trios in order to win Championships.
This list thus ranks the ten greatest trios in NBA history. What do you think?
10 Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, Tim Hardaway—Golden State Warriors
This trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin is the only one on this list that did not win a championship. The 1990-1991 Golden State Warriors, in fact, did not even do too well in the regular season, finishing with a 44-38 record and losing in the Western Conference semis to the formidable Los Angeles Lakers. That said, this was a dynamic trio of scorers which literally carried an otherwise mediocre team. That season in which they lost to the Lakers in the playoffs, all three players averaged over 20 points per game: Mullin averaged 25.7 points per game on over 50% shooting; Mitch Richmond averaged 23.9 points per game on 49.4% shooting; and Tim Hardaway averaged 22.9 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting, pitching in 9.7 assists per contest. With these three studs, the Warriors had a scintillating offense, albeit without much success.
9 Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace—Detroit Pistons
In the 2003-2004 season, this multi-talented trio of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, and Ben Wallace led the Detroit Pistons to the NBA Finals wherein they defeated the heavily favoured Los Angeles Lakers. What made this trio special was the observable ways in which each player’s game complimented the others and supplemented what the others lacked. While an anemic scorer, Wallace averaged 3 blocks and 12.4 rebounds per game that season, making the Pistons a defensive leviathan. On the other hand, Billups and Hamilton combined to make the team a potent offensive threat. Billups was the centerpiece, as he played best with the ball in his hands, scoring off the dribble and distributing the rock. Hamilton was great at playing without the ball in his hands, running the baseline and using screens effectively to get open for jumpers. Unfortunately, this trio might wind up being the only one on this list that does not end up with at least one player in the Hall of Fame.
8 Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett—Boston Celtics
Perhaps the modern day NBA, in which it is paradigmatic to spend big on several “superstar” players as opposed to building deeper teams, was ushered in when Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett became teammates before the 2007-2008 season. That year, the trio led the Celtics to the NBA Finals wherein they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers. Before they became teammates, all three players had struggled in the postseason. Their respective games coalesced into a lethal unit, as the Celtics finished with 66 wins that season. Ray Allen, everyone’s favourite sharpshooter, averaged 17.4 points per game on 44.5% shooting; Paul Pierce, the heart and soul of the Celtics prior to that season, averaged 19.6 points per game on 46.5% shooting; and Kevin Garnett, a former MVP, averaged 18.8 points per game on 53.9% shooting. What stood out about this trio was the fact that, despite not having had much previous success in the playoffs, all three were clutch, which helped them come out on top in the NBA Playoffs.
7 Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer—Detroit Pistons
This trio of Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Bill Laimbeer led the Detroit Pistons to back-to-back NBA Championships in the late 80s and early 90s. They were also the most physically dominant trio on this list. The “Bad Boys,” the moniker given to this trio’s Pistons teams, played a borderline violent style of basketball, and one need not look further than the way in which they beat up a young Michael Jordan in the Playoffs for proof of this. Thomas was the floor general, averaging a double-double in points and assists. During the Bad Boys’ championship run, no point guard was better. Joe Dumars was the more laconic player of the trio, quietly scoring, yet defending with tenacity. Laimbeer was the least talented of the three, but he was always in the opposition’s face, and he rebounded the ball effectively. Of course, this trio was part of a very well-tooled squad, one that included John Salley and Dennis Rodman, for instance. But these three were definitely the biggest studs.
6 Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Chris Bosh—Miami Heat
The sad or auspicious breakup—depending on one’s perspective—of this trio of Dwyane Wade, Lebon James, and Chris Bosh occasioned this list. The “Super Best Friends’ Club” was, as everyone reading this article right now knows, an electrifying trio. The city of Miami should commission a holy triptych to commemorate how they changed the landscape of the NBA from 2010-2014. Indeed, everyone loved or hated the Miami Heat; there was absolutely no middle ground. As for their opposition, everyone wanted to crush the Miami Heat; there was no other way. Depending on who was analyzing him, James was either the Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson of this group (He couldn’t just be Lebron James, could he?), while Dwyane Wade was the lethal slasher, who could drive harum-scarum to the rim and finish with divine poise. Chris Bosh was the I’m-happy-to-even-be-mentioned-in-conjunction-with-these-guys-so-I’m-going-to-sacrifice-for-the-betterment-of-the-team kind of player in this equation. Yah, he might just be the archetype. In any case, this trio led the Miami Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals, winning two of four.
5 Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili—San Antonio Spurs
Arguably, this trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili—the only extant trio on this list, an important note if one considers how long they went between winning their first and last championships together—should be higher on this list. This trio embodies consistency, professionalism, and selflessness, focusing their talents each year on the ultimate prize: a championship. Whereas the Warriors’ trio in the tenth spot on this list was the most electrifying to watch during their day, this trio is the prettiest to watch in today’s NBA—a distinction that means more to results than entertainment. That is to say, watching Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili playing basketball together is not akin to seeing a blockbuster action flick, but rather an expertly paced drama that weaves viewers into its narrative; the latter will always have more of an impact than the former. Next season, they will try to repeat as champions, and, despite their age, no one will overlook them.
4 Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale—Boston Celtics
It is somewhat of a disservice to the Boston Celtics of the 1980s to highlight this trio over the rest. Danny Ainge and the late Dennis Johnson should not be overlooked. However, the trio of Larry Bird, Robert Parish, and Kevin McHale were the most important pieces to the Boston Celtics in the 1980s. This trio’s consistency should be noted, as they won several championships over the course of many seasons. In the 1985-86 season when they won their last championship together, Larry Bird led the team with 25.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game. Kevin McHale averaged 21.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. Robert Parish averaged 16.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Constantly battling the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, this trio helped put the NBA on the map and stitch it into the American social fabric.
3 Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy—Los Angeles Lakers
This trio of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy, which the previous trio battled throughout the 80s, was the main attraction on the Los Angeles Lakers teams of the 1980s and early 1990s, a team that was dubbed “Showtime.” Showtime was unbelievably successful because of these three. When they won it all in the 1984-1985 season, Magic averaged 18.3 points and 12.6 assists per game on 56.1% shooting. Worthy averaged 17.6 points per game on 57.2% shooting. Kareem averaged 22 points and 7.9 rebounds per game on 59.9% shooting. The 1980s witnessed one of the greatest, if not the greatest rivalry in American sports of all time in the Celtics-Lakers showdowns.
2 Sam Jones, Bill Russell, John Havlicek—Boston Celtics
In the 1960s, one could say there were three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the Boston Celtics winning the NBA Championship. Indeed, Bill Russell, Sam Jones, and John Havlicek combined to make the Celtics the cream of the crop of a burgeoning league. When Bob Cousy retired, Havlicek entered and gave the team a more potent scoring option. In the 1965-1966 season in which the Celtics won it all, Russell averaged 12.9 points and 22.8 rebounds per game, Havlicek averaged 18.8 points per game, and Jones averaged 23.5 points per game. All three are in the Hall of Fame for a reason.
1 Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman—Chicago Bulls
Objectively, this is the pre-eminent trio in NBA history. Michael Jordan is the best player of all time, so it makes the decision a no-brainer. But Scottie Pippen is one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, and, throughout his tenure, he bolstered the Bulls on offense and defense. Dennis Rodman, after his game effloresced on the Bad Boys teams that won back-to-back championships, was the tough, unrelenting ingredient in this trio; he is the best rebounder of all time (sorry, Bill Russell). This trio really speaks for itself.
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