Where Nets' Harden-Durant-Irving Big 3 Ranks Among NBA's All-Time Best

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJanuary 14, 2021

Where Nets' Harden-Durant-Irving Big 3 Ranks Among NBA's All-Time Best

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    Brad Penner/Associated Press

    Brooklyn is now the home of the latest three-man superteam after the Nets acquired Houston Rockets guard James Harden in a blockbuster deal Wednesday, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

    Harden joins Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, whom the Nets acquired during the 2019 offseason.

    Superteam Big Threes have a mostly positive history ever since the 2007-08 Boston Celtics popularized the concept with the additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce.

    Some have found tremendous success, like LeBron James' Miami Heat, which won two championships. Others have not, such as Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony on the 2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder, which did not win a playoff series.

    We'll soon find out how the Nets will do, but until then, here's a look at how the team stacks up with superteam Big Threes from years past.

    For the purposes of this list, the ranking includes Big Threes partially or entirely constructed via free agency or trade (a la the 2007-08 Celtics) in which established stars joined together to form a powerful trio. It does not include trios that happened solely via the draft, like the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors or the 1950s and 1960s Boston Celtics.

    In addition, the Nets' Big Three has not played a game together yet. Every other Big Three on this list won at least one championship, and if we're basing this off Big Three accomplishments, then the Nets will naturally finish last.

    Therefore, the list is based on the individual accomplishments of the players when the Big Three was formed. In other words, how accomplished was the group when it came together in hopes of a championship?

    With that being written, here's a look at the top seven.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers): LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love

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    LeBron James (2003-2014): Two-time NBA champion, four-time NBA MVP, 10-time All-NBA, 10-time All-Star, 2007-08 scoring champion

    Kevin Love (2008-2014): Three-time All-Star, 2010-11 NBA rebounding champion

    Kyrie Irving (2011-2014): Two-time All-Star

         

    LeBron James went from one Big Three to another when he left Miami for Cleveland in free agency. He joined Kyrie Irving, whom the Cavs drafted first overall in 2011.

    Kevin Love soon landed with Cleveland when the Cavs agreed to a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves in August 2014.

    The trio proceeded to make four straight NBA championships, all of which were against the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs went 1-3, but the one was an epic win over the 73-win Warriors in 2016.

    The group broke up after four years: Love is still a Cavalier, but Irving eventually landed with the Boston Celtics. James departed for the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.

6. Boston Celtics: Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Ray Allen (1996-2007): Two-time All-NBA, seven-time All-Star

    Paul Pierce (1998-2007): Two-time All-NBA, five-time All-Star

    Kevin Garnett (1995-2007): 2003-04 NBA MVP, eight-time All-NBA, 10-time All-Star, four-time rebounding champion

         

    The Boston Celtics orchestrated a pair of trades that brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to the Boston Celtics in 2007, joining Paul Pierce and instantly forming the NBA's top team.

    Boston cruised through the regular season with a 66-16 mark and stormed through the playoffs before finishing with a six-game win over Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals.

    The C's went to one more NBA Finals with this group in 2010, losing to the Lakers in seven.

    This group could also arguably be considered a Big Four because of point guard Rajon Rondo, who expertly ran the offense and played excellent defense.

5. Brooklyn Nets: James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    James Harden (2009-2021): 2017-18 NBA MVP, seven-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, three-time NBA scoring champion

    Kyrie Irving (2011-2021): 2014-15 NBA champion, two-time All-NBA, six-time All-Star

    Kevin Durant (2007-2021): Two-time NBA champion, 2013-14 NBA MVP, nine-time All-NBA, 10-time All-Star, four-time NBA scoring champion

         

    On paper, the Nets should be instant Eastern Conference favorites and a strong NBA title contender that can compete with the league's best team in the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

    That's a lot easier said than done, and Kyrie Irving has been away from the team for personal reasons. Still, scoring will never be an issue for this team, especially with sweet-shooting Joe Harris as the Nets' fourth option.

    The Nets have started a so-so 7-6, but no one is running away with the East. The Celtics currently lead the way at 7-3, and the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers are right behind them at 8-4. The opportunity is there for the Nets to get the East's No. 1 seed, gain playoff home-court advantage and give the rest of the league some serious problems en route to a championship.

4. Los Angeles Lakers: Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Wilt Chamberlain (1959-1968): 1966-67 NBA champion, four-time NBA MVP, nine-time All-NBA, seven-time scoring champion, seven-time NBA rebounding champion

    Jerry West (1960-1968): Seven-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star

    Elgin Baylor (1958-1968): Nine-time All-NBA, nine-time All-Star

         

    This was arguably the first-ever constructed superteam trio in NBA history after the Lakers landed Wilt Chamberlain in a blockbuster deal with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1968.

    Wilt was the game's best scorer and rebounder at the time and undisputedly one of the two best players in the game alongside the Boston Celtics' Bill Russell. Jerry West and Elgin Baylor were routinely making All-Star and All-NBA teams while pouring in points and helping the Lakers form the NBA's most dominant offense.

    Unfortunately, the trio ran into some buzz saws in the NBA Finals, and championship success eluded this trio. L.A. ultimately went to two NBA Finals in three seasons with this group from 1969 to 1971, falling short to the Boston Celtics in 1969 and the New York Knicks in 1970.

    The Lakers did win it all in 1972 after a 69-13 season, but Baylor retired after just nine games and did not finish the year with the team.

3. Miami Heat: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    LeBron James (2003-2010): Two-time MVP, six-time All-NBA, six-time All-Star, 2007-08 NBA scoring title

    Dwyane Wade (2003-2010): 2005-06 NBA champion, 2006 NBA Finals MVP, five-time All-NBA, six-time All-Star, 2008-09 scoring champion

    Chris Bosh (2003-2010): One-time All-NBA, five-time All-Star

         

    LeBron James and Chris Bosh each took their talents to South Beach and joined Dwyane Wade to form a monster Big Three, one that won back-to-back NBA titles in 2012 and 2013.

    Overall, the Heat won four Eastern Conference titles from 2011 to 2014. They fell to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals before the San Antonio Spurs beat them in 2014.

    James went back home to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 to form another Big Three with Irving and Love.

2. Warriors: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Stephen Curry (2009-2016): 2014-15 NBA champion, two-time NBA MVP, three-time All-NBA, 2015-16 NBA scoring champion

    Klay Thompson (2011-2016): 2014-15 NBA champion, two-time All-NBA, two-time All-Star

    Kevin Durant (2007-2016): 2013-14 NBA MVP, six-time All-NBA, seven-time All-Star, four-time NBA scoring champion

         

    Kevin Durant joined a Warriors team that earned the 2015 NBA title and won an NBA record 73 regular-season games in 2015-16 before falling to LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

    Oakland, California, was then home to the last three NBA MVPs, with Durant taking the 2013-14 title and Curry going back-to-back in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

    That was in addition to one of the game's best shooters (and backcourt defenders) in Klay Thompson, not to mention the jack-of-all-trades in Draymond Green, who arguably made them a Big Four.

    This group beat the Cavaliers in the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals. Injuries hindered them in 2019, and they fell to the Toronto Raptors in the NBA championship. Durant then left in free agency for the Brooklyn Nets, ending this championship era.

1. Chicago Bulls: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman

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    Michael Jordan (1984-1995): Three-time NBA champion, eight-time All-NBA, three-time MVP, nine-time All-Star, seven-time scoring champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP

    Scottie Pippen (1987-1995): Three-time NBA champion, four-time All-NBA, five-time All-Star, 1994-95 steals champion

    Dennis Rodman (1986-1995): Two-time NBA champion, two-time All-Star, four-time rebounding champion

         

    The Chicago Bulls traded for Dennis Rodman before the 1995-96 season, and the most dominating team in NBA history was soon formed.

    It helped having the GOAT in Michael Jordan, but having a pair of future Hall of Famers in Pippen and Rodman helped too.

    The 1995-96 Bulls won 72 regular-season games with Jordan, Pippen and Rodman having little issue with the rest of the league en route to an NBA title. They ultimately formed a three-peat, winning the 1997 and 1998 titles as well.

    As The Last Dance documentary noted, the Bulls elected for a breakdown and rebuild after the 1997-98 season, and that proved to be the end of the Chicago dynasty, which featured six titles in eight years.