Forming a big three makes one thing for certain; someone’s going to have to make some sacrifices. It’s a precondition for a team to be successful, and to maximize the overall talent of the group. So in order to maximize your winning chances, one has to optimize his role on the team.
Over the years, Chris Bosh has become an epitome for a superstar taking a back seat for the better of the group. Hats off to LeBron and Wade, but Miami’s success wouldn’t have been possible without Bosh accepting his role of being the third option. And not only that but thriving in it. Bosh went from being a bonafide superstar to being a superstar in his role as the third guy. He did become a 2x NBA champion in the process. It was a sacrifice well worth, but it sure hasn’t been easy.
That’s a common thing with big threes. Someone’s numbers have to go down, for the sake of fit. Because at the end of the day, basketball is played with only one ball. And with egos and appetites of three high-tier NBA players on the same roster, having a guy like Bosh is key.
However, it’s not always the case. Over the years, we’ve witnessed NBA trios who were able to keep the same level of play regardless of them teaming up together. Best proof for it? Try all of them finishing in top 15 in MVP voting. The last time it happened was in ’05, and it was done by the Suns‘ trio of Stoudamire-Marion-Nash, with the latter winning the award.
Of the 127 sportswriters charged with selecting the ’05 MVP, 65 placed Steve Nash at the top of their ballots. The one who came closest to taking the award from Nash was Shaquille O’Neal, as he received 58 first-place votes. Nash was seen as the biggest factor in improving the Suns from a 29-win team the previous year to winning 62 games in ’05. And fairly so. He orchestrated the best offense in the league while also leading the NBA in assists. His 15.5/3.3/11.5 on .502/.431/.887, combined with his impact on the team’s success was enough for Nash to receive the MVP award.
Calling Steve Nash the x-factor for Suns’ huge jump is fair. However, something like that wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for Amar’e Stoudemire. S.T.A.T. finished tied for the ninth place in ’05 MVP voting along with Ray Allen and was one of five guys who received first-place votes. He had himself a breakout year, averaging 26 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest, and being the perfect second fiddle next to Nash, as the two became one of the most dynamic one-two punches in the NBA. They utilized the pick-and-roll game to perfection, laying the foundations for the high-paced, three-point oriented game we are witnessing in the league today.
There’s no question; the Suns based their success on the offensive side of the floor. But they weren’t a bad defensive team. In fact, the Suns had the 17th best defense in the league. Not amazing, but considering the pace they were playing at, and the focus D’Antoni had put on offense, it was pretty solid.
The one who anchored Phoenix’s defense was Shawn Marion. The biggest testimony to his defensive impact was the fact that The Matrix finished fifth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. But, more importantly, he was also tied for the 14th place in the MVP voting. Marion received only one vote, but it was enough for him to make a list. And let me tell you, with the year he had, and the impact he had on the Suns, placing him higher on the list wouldn’t have been a mistake. Shawn started in all 81 games he had played in and was a walking double-double. He finished the season averaging 19.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest, while also playing elite defense. Marion was the perfect guy next to a duo of Nash and Stoudemire. He was an ideal two-way wing, able to make an impact without the whole offense catering to him. And he brought it defensively, every single minute he had spent on the floor.
Marion was Bosh-like type of the third option, but without the need for adjusting his game. It made the whole fit much more seamless, which is the reason the whole thing worked the way it did. There weren’t any questions about the fit, partly because of their styles of play, but also because of the system that was implemented. It was a perfect recipe for forming a big three, and a footprint for future teams to follow.
Having all three of your stars finishing in top 15 of the MVP voting is a rarity. Before the Suns’ trio did it, it was done by the Bulls’ trio of Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman. It’s not as surprising as the fact Nash, Stoudemire, and Marion were also able to pull it off. Something like that makes their attainment the ultimate testimony to the importance of fit in the NBA.