Commentary

LeBron James & Co. evoke great trios

Originally Published: July 8, 2010
By Patrick Hruby | Page 2

LeBron James. Dwyane Wade. Chris Bosh. A formidable trio, to be sure. But where will they rank among the greatest sports, pop culture and historical triumvirates of all time?

Page 2 is glad you asked. Herein, our picks for top triples:


1. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Anyone Else

[+] EnlargeJordan, Pippen and Grant
AP Photo/Mark EliasMichael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and [insert third wheel here] enjoyed unparalleled success in the 1990s.

Résumé: Six NBA championships, a 72-win regular season, two spots on NBA's 50 Greatest Players list, a 1992 Olympic gold medal, 21 All-Star Game appearances and video games like "Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City" and "Slam City with Scottie Pippen." Plus whatever those other guys did.

Scouting report: No matter the role players who came and went during the Chicago Bulls' dynastic 1990s run -- Horace Grant, John Paxson, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr -- Jordan and Pippen were constant, and constantly great.

Alpha dog: Do you really need to ask?

Glue guy:Pippen, whose point-forward skills and defensive versatility freed Jordan to dominate ... er, dominate even more.

Shining moment: Beating down hated rival Detroit Pistons en route to championship No. 1; beating back both age and the Utah Jazz for championship No. 6.

Secret shame: Jordan's No. 23 Washington Bullets throwback jerseys; Pippen's finances.


2. The Three Stooges

Résumé: Godfathers of cinematic slapstick humor -- without them, there would be no "Jackass."

Scouting report: Face-slapping? Check. Nose-tweaking? Check. Pie in the face? Check. Every semi-cruel thing you found funny on the playground but were told not to laugh at as a grown-up? Check.

Alpha dog: Moe. If he wasn't poking Curly's eyes, he was tormenting Larry. Or was it the other way around?

Glue guy: Curly, whose dancing and singing stole the show. And invited extra abuse from Moe.

Shining moment: This ... or perhaps this ... wait, it had to be this.

Secret shame: 1970s cartoon "The Robonic Stooges," which featured the trio as animated, bionic crime fighters with extendable limbs.


3. Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith

Résumé: Three Super Bowls, the restoration of Dallas Cowboys to NFL prominence and national relevance, three spots in pro football Hall of Fame, generated excitement and revenue that likely helped indirectly fund both Jerry Jones' new stadium and face.

Scouting report: A pinpoint passer, a diva wide receiver and a workhorse runner -- a combination so good even Barry Switzer couldn't mess things up.

Alpha dog: Tie between Smith's heart and Irvin's mouth. Both were the secret sauces in the Cowboys' winning recipe.

Glue guy: Aikman, who stayed poised, cool and professional in a locker room that was part circus, part "COPS" episode. And that's without mentioning Charles Haley.

Shining moment: Either the Herschel Walker trade -- which laid the foundation for Dallas' dynasty in the 1990s and ultimately allowed the Cowboys to draft Emmitt Smith -- or the moment coach Jimmy Johnson realized Aikman was, in fact, a better quarterback than Steve Walsh.

Secret shame: Dominant offensive line, solid defense, unsung Jay Novacek and Daryl Johnston were seldom-mentioned -- yet equally important -- cogs in Cowboys' success.


4. Charlie's Angels

[+] EnlargeCharlies Angels
Michael Ochs Archive/Getty ImagesJaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson sizzled across television screens in the 1970s.

Résumé: Ultimate television babes of yore.

Scouting report: Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson as glass-ceilinged LAPD officers who quit the force to become private detectives, working for a mysterious boss via speakerphone? Some producers consider show premise and ask why. Aaron Spelling considered show premise and asked why not?

Alpha dog: Fawcett, for her famous -- and un-linkable -- fishnet poster alone.

Glue guy: Had to be Charlie. Duh.

Shining moment: The time they went undercover as roller-derby girls. Or maybe the time they portrayed maids. Or maybe the time they just wore bikinis. As Fawcett once put it, "When the show was number three [in the ratings], I figured it was our acting. When it got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra."

Secret shame: Show only lasted five seasons; attempted spin-off "Toni's Boys" -- starring three handsome male PI's working for Barbara Stanwyck -- was canned after a pilot episode.


5. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish

Résumé: Three NBA titles, three players on the NBA's 50 Greatest Players list, three spots in the pro basketball Hall of Fame, too many All-Star Game appearances for us to count without a calculator.

Scouting report: Original "Big Three" formed greatest front line in pro basketball history. No debate.

Alpha dog: Bird, whose Hall of Fame skills were matched by otherworldly confidence -- see his finger-wag to conclude the 1985 NBA 3-point contest -- and a deep love of trash talk.

Glue guys: Parish and McHale. Both could score, rebound, defend and start and finish fast breaks as needed.

Shining moment: Going 40-1 at home and capturing the NBA championship in the 1985-86 season.

Secret shame: Possibly not as good as the Lakers trio of Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; also, the Gilbert Arenas-Antawn Jamison-Caron Butler trio of Washington Wizards once had the nerve to use the "Big Three" moniker.


6. Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato

Résumé: Currently appearing on sandwiches from coast to coast.

Scouting report: Three great tastes that taste great together. In an era marked by lunchtime choice and confusion -- seriously, what exactly is a McRib? -- the BLT offers classic comfort.

Alpha dog: Bacon. Everything tastes better with bacon.

Glue guy: Lettuce. The ultimate sandwich role player. Even tolerable when wilted.

Shining moment: When it hits your lips.

Secret shame: Relies too much on mayo.


7. Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz

Résumé: One World Series title, seven Cy Young awards, 24 All-Star appearances.

Scouting report: Pitching trio could beat you with power (Smoltz), control (Maddux) or a dash of both (Glavine). The top MLB rotation of the 1990s.

Alpha dog: Maddux, whose relatively low velocity belied a ferocious competitive streak.

Glue guy: Glavine. Perpetually unruffled.

Shining moment: 1995 World Series victory, which kept the Atlanta Braves from being the Buffalo Bills of baseball.

Secret shame: With three first-rate arms and plenty of other talent to boot, the Braves probably should have won more than a single championship.


8. FDR, Churchill, Stalin

[+] EnlargeBritish Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin
AP PhotoNowadays, it would be difficult to fit the trio of Churchill, FDR and Stalin under the salary cap.

Résumé: Defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. (Oh, and don't forget fascist Italy); set course of 20th century.

Scouting report: Trio's power unmatched in world history, with possible exception of 21st century Lohan-Hilton-Spears collective.

Alpha dog: Stalin, who pretty much ran roughshod over Eastern and Central Europe after promising otherwise at Yalta.

Glue guy: FDR, whose semi-naïve optimism kept Churchill and Stalin together.

Shining moment: Hard to top winning WW II.

Secret shame: Did not register a single All-Star appearance.


9. Run-DMC

Résumé: Took hip-hop sound, fashion and attitude mainstream.

Scouting report: If "My Adidas" and "Christmas in Hollis" don't make you smile, you're dead inside.

Alpha dog: Actually, that would be Joseph "Run" Simmons' brother -- record mogul Russell Simmons.

Glue guy: Jam Master Jay. No beats and scratching, and you're pretty much left with a poetry slam.

Shining moment: Genre-blending, pop culture-shifting rap-rock collaboration with Aerosmith, "Walk This Way".

Secret shame: Inspiration for pretty much all unlistenable rap-rock (see Bizkit, Limp) that followed.


10. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh

Résumé: 2008 Olympics gold medal; news ink and broadcast hours immeasurable to man, like the caverns of Kubla Khan.

Scouting report: Three NBA stars, all in their primes, each playing a different position. At the very least, they'll be a great team in "NBA 2K11."

Alpha dog: Open question. Which is kind of the problem right now.

Glue guy: See above.

Shining moment: To be determined.

Secret shame: That somehow, some way, Brett Favre couldn't be included in the hype.


Also receiving votes: ¡The Three Amigos!; The Three Tenors; GM, Ford and Chrysler; the Olympic TripleCast; Alan Page, Carl Eller and Jim Marshall; the Beastie Boys; Jason Kidd, Jimmy Jackson and Jamal Mashburn; Red, White and Blue (the colors); Crosby, Stills and Nash; the Pointer Sisters; Motorhead; the Good, the Bad and the Ugly; Nirvana; Janet, Jack and Chrissy from "Three's Company"; Sex, Drugs and Rock N' Roll; Lawyers, Guns and Money; Snap, Crackle and Pop; TLC; the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches of government; Destiny's Child; the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria; Tim Tebow, Tim Tebow and Tim Tebow; Barry Bonds, the Clear and the Cream; Tinker to Evers to Chance; The Beatles (sorry, Ringo!).


Patrick Hruby is a freelance writer and ESPN.com contributor. Contact him at PatrickHruby.net.


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