In a little less than a month, Kevin Durant will make his debut season with the Phoenix Suns, his fourth career team, and while he turns 35 later this week, and it's been 4 years since he reached 60 appearances in a season, this is still a player who in the previous playoffs had 29 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
And as he did with the Golden State Warriors, or like LeBron James did when he came to Dwyane Wade's Miami Heat, Phoenix isn't "his" team at all — as he teamed up with Devin Booker, a guy many consider the best shooting guard in the league. His 34 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in the previous playoffs dwarf even Durant's own terrific line.
Sure, there's DeAndre Ayton, a 25-year-old center who earns like a star — but not enough to get the October 2023 Suns into the Big 3 franchise of league history. For that, it took another mob — and they did, adding Washington's Bradley Beal, a 3-time All-Star selection who was also scored twice in the last 6 seasons.
And now, after we thought that this model had been abandoned a few seasons ago, when the multitude of league stars got along in pairs, and just before the new collective bargaining agreement and updated salary cap limits will make it harder for teams to assemble a trio of stars in the coming years, we thought it would be right to stop for a moment and wonder - is this the last Big 3 team we will see built for a long time?
So yes, maybe you're still a Giannis-Middleton-Jrue Holiday coach, or think Kristap Porzingis alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, or Chris Paul in Golden State is a Big 3 (or even a 4). Good luck to you with that. We will take this opportunity to give you the top 10 of the Big 3 in league history. And let's think about Booker, Durant, and Beal's chances of making it onto that list one day.
10th place: Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain. Los Angeles Lakers, 1968–1970
The X Factor: Entering the list because Willett's addition to the City of Stars was aimed at creating a new hegemony and an answer to the Boston Celtics - a classic early Big 3 move
Why not higher: Because Baylor was injured and they only had two years together, losing once in the Finals. To the New York Knicks
Chamberlain (right) in action, photo: AP
9th place: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. Boston Celtics, 2007–2012
The X Factor: Not only have they brought the Big 3 back into fashion, they've also never lost a playoff series when everyone is healthy and playing.
Why not higher: All three were (bit by bit) beyond their peak when they played together.
Allen, Garnett and Allen, Photo: AP
8th place: Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere. New York Knicks, 1969-1974
The X Factor: The only two titles in Knicks history — twice on the head of West and Chamberlain's Lakers.
Why not higher: simple - because there are better ones
7th place: Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Bill Sherman. Boston Celtics, 1956–1961
The X Factor: Sherman and Cousy were stars before Russell joined, but together they built the foundation for the greatest dynasty in American professional sports history.
Why not higher: Because choosing this trio out of the many Hall of Fame members who were there is a slightly artificial choice.
Russell celebrates, Photo: AP
6th place: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh. Miami Heat, 2010–2014
The X Factor: The move to build an artificial "big"3 of the last generation. An unprecedented move that added three stars at their peak.
Why not higher: because not 5, not 6, not 7...
Bush, James and Wade, Photo: AP
5th place: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors, 2012–present.
The X Factor: Win a championship before, and after Durant.
Why not higher: Because at the end of 2 of those 4 championships they are with a player who turned them into a Big4. And that's another list.
Kerry, Thompson and Green, photo: EPA
4th place: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili. San Antonio Spurs, 2001–2018
The X Factor: The number of "Big3" records that can't be counted
Why not higher: They haven't won a championship in a row. They were never named All-Star in the same season.
Ginobili, Duncan and Parker,
3rd place: Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, Kevin McHale. Boston Celtics, 1980–1992
The X Factor: Bring the term "Big 3" back into fashion. Collectively selected to the All-Star 5 times! (Most on this list)
Why not higher: because of those at the top of the list.
2nd place: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman. Chicago Bulls, 1995–1998
Championships: 3 (consecutively)
The X Factor: 100% success. 3 seasons, 3 rings.
Why not higher: Because Rodman was no longer an All-Star in those days, and that it lasted for a short time.
1st place: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, 1982–1989
The X Factor: Two historic top-5 players together at their peak for nearly a decade. And another that entered the list of the 75 greatest players in history. Not something that will ever be restored.
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Johnson, Worty and Abdul-Jabbar, Photo: AP
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