COMMENTARY | With all due respect to Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman was the final piece of the best Big Three in Chicago Bulls history.
The inclusion of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in any Big Three for the Bulls goes without saying. They are, after all, the two best players in franchise history. Sure, Jerry Sloan is in the Hall of Fame -- and Derrick Rose is well on his way -- but Jordan and Pippen won the last game of the NBA Finals six times. And since greatness is measured in championships, they stand apart from the rest.
The third member is harder to identify. Since the Bulls had separate runs of three straight championships, there are two candidates for the final spot in the all-time Big Three.
Grant v. Rodman
From the beginning of the 1990 season until the end of 1993, Grant averaged 13.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. During his three seasons with the Bulls, Rodman averaged 5.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 0.3 blocks every 48 minutes. So which is a more valuable set of statistics? Does Grant's offensive prowess trump Rodman's ability to rebound?
That question is impossible to answer. What it comes down to is the subjective nature of each player's impact.
Rodman brought a level of energy to the team that Grant could never match. He was a staunch defender who oftentimes drew the toughest assignments in the biggest games. He shut down Shawn Kemp, for example, during the 1996 Finals when the forward was at the top of his game. Rodman also led the league in rebounding in each season he was with the Bulls, reaching a high point of 16.1 boards per game in 1996-97. He was the personification of effort.
Grant was fantastic, no doubt, but he did not seem to have the same impact on the team dynamic as Rodman did. Simply stated, the Bulls do not win 72 games in 1995-96 with Grant on the team. And that makes the combination of Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman the best Big Three in Bulls history.
Now, where do they rank among the all-time best in the NBA?
To be clear, this list is a historical ranking. It will not include any current collection of superstars.
Big Three All-Time NBA Rankings
4. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish
Along with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics dominated the 1980s. Led by the stewardship of Bird, the group won a total of 583 games in those 10 seasons, made it to the NBA Finals five times, and took home the hardware on three occasions. The played the game in a manner that harkened back to the days of Bill Russell and stood in sharp contrast to the next group on the list.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, and James Worthy
"Showtime" gripped the nation in the 1980s. Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, and Worthy set such a high bar in both entertainment and statistical excellence that they changed the game forever. In eight seasons together, the trio went to the Finals six times and won three titles. All three are members of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.
2. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman
The trio won back-to-back-to-back titles and a combined 203 games in their only three seasons together. With Jordan's drive, Pippen's defense, and Rodman's tenacity on the glass, the Bulls were almost unbeatable. According to Basketball-Reference.com, the 1995-96 team led the league in offensive (115.2) and defensive (101.8) rating.
1. Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, and Bill Russell
Cousy, Heinsohn, and Russell are -- hands down -- the greatest Big Three ever. From 1956-63, the group won the NBA Finals six times. To be sure, they had a great supporting cast that included John Havlicek, but it the leadership of Russell and Heinsohn that set the tone for the rest of the team. Coached by the legendary Red Auerbach, the Celtics were the original dynasty.
- Sports & Recreation
- Dennis Rodman
- Scottie Pippen
- Michael Jordan
- Horace Grant