The NBA’s Best All-Time Trios

The old saying suggests that three is a crowd. On the other hand, there’s also the ancient axiom confirming that good things come in threes.

What’s known for certain is that in NBA history, combining three superstars on the same court is often a recipe for filling the team’s trophy case with hardware.

In the case of the Brooklyn Nets, adding three-time scoring champion and ex-MVP James Harden to a lineup that already featured former scoring champ, MVP and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, as well as All-NBA guard Kyrie Irving instantly caused the NBA Vegas odds on the Nets to shorten.

Brooklyn is now the -140 odds-on favorite to win the Atlantic Division title, as well as the +135 chalk to earn the Eastern Conference title and head to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2003, when they were still the New Jersey Nets. The Nets are the second betting choice to win the NBA title at odds of +300, behind only the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers (+260).

How terrific will this trio be together? What will Harden, Durant and Irving accomplish as a group? That won’t be known at the very least until the end of this season.

By then, we should be able to gain a much more accurate handle on where this threesome falls on the list of the NBA’s greatest trios.

Elgin Baylor NBAs Best All Time Trios
“Elgin Baylor” by Getty Images is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers

Wilt The Stilt was a seven-time NBA scoring champion and seven-time league rebounding leader when the Lakers acquired the veteran center from the Philadelphia 76ers in 1968 to be the centerpiece of a trio, surrounded by pure scorers West and Baylor.

Small forward Baylor averaged 27.4 points per game over his 14-season NBA career. Point guard West poured in 27 points per game, also over a 14-season career. 

West was MVP of the 1969 NBA Finals. Baylor played in 11 NBA All-Star Games. With the Lakers, Chamberlain led the NBA in rebounding four times and in field goal percentage on three occasions, including shooting an astonishing .727 in 1972-73, his final season with the team. He was the 1972 NBA Finals MVP. 

As a team, the Lakers went to three NBA Finals in the four seasons that this trio was together. Their lone triumph came in 1971-72, a 4-1 win over the New York Knicks. However, Baylor wasn’t around for the playoff run. He retired earlier that season.

The Lakers lost in seven games to the Celtics in 1968-69 and in seven games to the Knicks in 1969-70.

Scottie Pippen NBAs Best All Time Trios
“Scottie Pippen” by Getty Images is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Chicago Bulls

The Bulls threepeated as NBA champions from 1990-91 through 1992-93, but were two years removed from those titles when they acquired rebounding demon Rodman in 1995. Rodman was a two-time NBA champion in Detroit, so he knew how to win and how to fit into a winning culture. Power forward Rodman led the NBA in rebounding in all three years as Chicago repeated the threepeat from 1995-96 through 1997-98.

Shooting guard Jordan was NBA scoring champion in all three of those campaigns beginning with 1995-96, giving him 10 titles during his career. Jordan was the league MVP in two of the three seasons and the NBA Finals MVP in all three campaigns.

Small forward Pippen averaged 19.6 points per game over those latter three championship seasons. He was a seven-time NBA All-Star. 


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