NBA Basketball: The Best Big 3 of Each Decade

Bruce ChenAnalyst IJuly 10, 2012

NBA Basketball: The Best Big 3 of Each Decade

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    In the past decade, we've seen the most recent NBA champions include three All-Star quality players on many an occasion. The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have all captured the NBA crown with such talent.

    It is leading to attempts by other NBA franchises such as the Brooklyn Nets to try and build their own "Big Three." Are we officially in the Big Three era in the NBA today? Some would argue we always were. Let's take a look at each decade see what the best of each era has to offer.

60's: Russell-Havlicek-Cousy

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    They won nine titles during that decade. Yeesh. It'd be weird to imagine the 60's Celtics having a "Welcome Party" and Bill Russell talking about "not five, not six, not seven...", with Hondo randomly yelping like Chris Bosh, but they're the only team in history that could've gotten away with it.  

    In all seriousness, all three players are members of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history. Russell is the gold standard for all defensive centers, dominating his greatest contemporary and offensive counterpart in Wilt Chamberlain. He used his defense and rebounding as outlets to fuel their offense.

    Although Cooz retired early on, he was instrumental in getting the Boston legacy on the map. He had 10 All-NBA First team selections and was a part of six rings. His assists numbers don't quite reflect how good of a facilitator he was because back then, you only got an assist for a pass directly leading to a basket. He was the definition of point guard, and his skill-set is still the standard by which traditional point guards are measured.

    And Hondo was the prototypical swingman back in the day. The "Havlicek stole the ball" moment will live forever with Boston fans, and he might be the most clutch member of this group. Some would argue he's the most clutch Celtic ever.   

70's: Wilt-West-Baylor

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    Yeah, they only won one title. But the 70's were sort of an era of team play; the presence of the ABA kind of diluted the potential for top-heavy teams. Couple that with the fact that this team was one of the best of all-time, and I have to give it to Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

    Here are three guys you could argue are all top-10 players of all-time. Their peak may have been in the late '60's/'early 70's, but there just weren't too many other good examples to choose from.

    Check out their outrageous stats from their legendary '69 season, even though they lost to Celtics in the Finals that year. Injuries to Wilt and Jerry retiring and the timing of things kept them from reaching their full potential. If they had come together a bit sooner and gotten a bit luckier, they may have been the team on the last slide.  

80's: Bird-McHale-Parish/Magic-Kareem-Worthy

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    I couldn't find it in my heart to pick one or the other.

    We can compare them any way we want. The Lakers trio came up with two more rings, although you can't discount how dominant the Celtics trio in '86 when they were killing teams en route to a 67-15 record. That doesn't fully describe how dominant they were because 11 of their 15 losses came to sub-.500 teams. 

    The Lakers' '87 edition was probably their best when they murdered their opponents in the playoffs by an average of 11 points per game and had only one loss in the playoffs. I'd say the Celtics had a little worse luck with injuries (Larry's back couldn't stay healthy). Then again, Magic did get HIV, too.

    If I had to choose, I'd give the slight edge to the Lakers because of the rings. They both had bad luck with their leading man having an injury/illness and comparable dominant peaks. Let's move on. I already feel bad about not being able to have the Sixers '83 trio of Moses Malone, Julius Erving and Andrew Toney anywhere in this article.  

90's: Jordan-Pippen-Rodman

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    These three dudes came together and won 72 games, then 69 the next year. Wow. Rodman was the best rebounder and could defend any post player, which is relevant because this was the era of David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and young Shaquille O'Neal

    Their second three-peat was more dominant than the first. Michael Jordan provided classic moments such as the flu game, and during their second three-peat, got taken to a Game 6 just three times and to a Game 7 just once. Let me say that again. Wow.

2000's: Duncan-Ginobili-Parker

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    I'm a bitter Lakers fan who's only putting them here because they actually had three members of their main core. I wish I could just put Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal-Phil Jackson as a threesome and call it a a day, but that would be terribly biased.

    That said, these guys won three titles together. If they weren't winning, they always made it to the playoffs and, save for their collapse to the Grizzlies (it was in 2011, and Manu wasn't playing), were always in the Conference Semis or Finals, threatening for the title.

    Duncan will go down as the greatest power forward ever. Parker is one of the best point guards in the league, and Ginobili may be known for his flopping, but he's one of the legit crunch-time players in the NBA and led the best second-best unit in the league for a really long time. We're valuing longevity and consistency here, and these guys were the king of it.

    Boston's Three Party obviously gets honourable mention, but they only had one title and were only formed in 2007. 

2010's: James-Bosh-Wade

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    We're only two years into the decade, so this is a "for-now" designation. The Oklahoma City Thunder's threesome of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden could easily take this spot in the next decade. And what if Brooklyn manages to combine Deron Williams and Joe Johnson with Dwight Howard?

    Stay tuned.