The best lines in NBA history

More NBA franchises aim to build a “big three” as the easiest path to title contention. A number of NBA champion and dynasty teams were led by three specific top players, all together at the highest level. Each of the three players was a star in their own right, but they took the league to another level when united.

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Not all trios will reach their full potential despite looking great on paper. Kevin Durant teaming up with Kyrie Irving and James Harden or Kobe Bryant teaming up with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash showed how things can fall apart quickly. The three big tandems to achieve huge success provided the best scenario. NBA fans will always see the following trios among the best in league history.

ten Kevin Durant/Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson

The Golden State Warriors already had three greats when they added generational talent Kevin Durant to the mix. Many people in the league felt it was unfair for Durant to join a 73-win team, but they didn’t stick together long enough to rank higher.

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Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are perhaps the most dominant trio as they have never lost a full-strength playoff. The problem is that they only played together for three seasons before Durant wanted to make a switch.

9 Isiah Thomas/Joe Dumars/Bill Laimbeer

The core Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s and early 1990s became a surprisingly dominant force. Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars put together one of the best backcourts in league history. Bill Laimbeer was considered the heart of the team that helped create the Bad Boys character. Some fans rank Dennis Rodman above Laimbeer, but Pistons fans value the latter more. Detroit has become known for its toughness on the field with these three names in mind. Two NBA championships have been won in consecutive seasons, with Thomas and Dumars parting ways with Finals MVPs. This trio eliminated Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan in their playoffs.


8 Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen/Paul Pierce

The NBA saw a sea change in 2008 when the Boston Celtics went from a forgettable secondary team to a norm in a single offseason. Boston pulled off a heist by trading both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce. That first season saw the Celtics dominate the regular season and win the NBA championship. Boston never won another title with that core, but they remained the biggest threat to Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in every playoff.

seven Larry Bird/Kevin McHale/Robert Parish

The Eastern Conference was primarily won by another Boston Celtics team in the 1980s due to their core strength. Larry Bird was arguably the best player in the league with stars Kevin McHale and Robert Parish forming a formidable trio atop the roster.

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Boston has won three NBA championships and has always been seen as a contender to win it all. Bird was the one setting the stage for success, but McHale and Parish provided that toughness in the paint that forced the other teams to fight back.

6 LeBron James/Kyrie Irving/Kevin Love

Many fans and pundits say the 2016 NBA championship is the most impressive in league history. The Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors behind play by LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. This trio spent three years together, made the NBA Finals each time, and achieved a historic goal. LeBron’s block, Kyrie’s three winners and Love defending Stephen Curry to keep the lead will always be remembered for that epic Game 7 win. It is unfortunate that Irving wanted to leave, otherwise they would have even more achievements.

5 Magic Johnson/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/James Worthy

The Los Angeles Lakers had unparalleled star power in the 1980s when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were on the same roster. Both men are still among popular choices to complete Mount Rushmore of NBA legends along with Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Kareem and Magic had won two rings together when another legend, James Worthy, joined them to form a great trio. The Lakers won three NBA championships with that core and were the most impressive NBA franchise of the decade.

4 LeBron James/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh

The NBA witnessed a further rise of teams trying to form a great trio to wrestle with when the Miami Heat won the 2010 offseason. LeBron James and Chris Bosh each signed with Dwyane Wade’s Heat team with a world of hype and expectations between them. The knock against the Miami trio was that they declared they would win 5-7 rings and finished with just two. One bright spot for the Heat was that they made every NBA Finals together and became a league phenomenon. Everyone wanted to see them knocked out during LeBron’s four-year dominance.

3 Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson/Draymond Green

The Golden State Warriors second line makes the list because of the longevity and overall success involved. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are already iconic figures in the Warriors franchise, with many years left together. The trio won an NBA championship and made it to three NBA Finals before and after Kevin Durant made the team. That core has been Western Conference class for nearly a decade with many teams building up contenders and failing every season.

2 Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen/Dennis Rodman

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen having two hat-tricks with the Chicago Bulls featured Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman as their respective third-best players for each run. Rodman’s time for the 1996-98 period was more impressive due to his defense and toughness putting them above. Chicago had its epic 72-win season to start the treble by dominating the playoffs every year. Jordan was the best in the league, Pippen was among the best all-around players, and Rodman added the X factor to make them almost unbeatable.

1 Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili

The San Antonio Spurs have seen their top three enjoy resounding success for more than a decade together. Tim Duncan had already won an NBA championship with David Robinson when Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili joined the roster as late-round draft picks with international backgrounds. Spurs have changed their identity from dominating two big men in the paint to a fluid attack. Parker and Ginobili added another dynamic to help San Antonio win four NBA championships with that core a decade apart. A young Kawhi Leonard joining them for the final ring showed just how great Spurs’ scouting department was.