Legends of the NBA: 25 Best Players of the 2000s

Peter EmerickSenior Writer IIOctober 1, 2012

Legends of the NBA: 25 Best Players of the 2000s

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    The 2000s were a period in the NBA that featured the rise of some of the greatest players to ever play the game, including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and many more.

    The NBA is where it's at today because of the talent and rivalries that were established during that decade. Following the "golden age" of the NBA would've been a tall task for any group of NBA players, but the 2000s generation was certainly up to the challenge. To be considered for this list, a player must have played at least five seasons during the 2000s, which are defined as the 1999-00 through the 2008-09 seasons.

    Ahead is a breakdown of the best 25 players to play during the 2000s. 

First to Miss the Cut

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    29. Jermaine O'Neal, C, Indiana Pacers: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Jermaine O'Neal is a player who doesn't get as much credit as he deserves. In the 2000s, O'Neal averaged 16.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game for the Indiana Pacers.

    While those numbers aren't as good as some other superstars who made this list, they are still impressive in their own right.

    O'Neal's major issue was that he continually focused on his perimeter game, rather than his interior post game, which resulted in his 46 percent shooting percentage for the decade. That is relatively low for the 6'11" power forward/center. O'Neal was as close as you can come to making the list, but his low shooting percentage kept him off. 

     

    28. Ben Wallace, C, Detroit Pistons: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons)

    Ben Wallace was a poor-man's Dennis Rodman during the 2000s. He only performed on an elite level on the defensive side of the ball and on the glass, and he helped his team win an NBA title.

    Wallace averaged 11.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game for the Pistons in the 2000s, and he was an absolute monster on the defensive side of the ball. From shutting down Shaquille O'Neal to hanging with Tim Duncan, Wallace owned the paint during the 2000s.

    If he was more of a force on the offensive side of the ball, he could have squeaked his way onto this list. 

     

    27. Gilbert Arenas, SG, Golden State Warriors: 2002-2009 (Eight Seasons)

    If you want a player who is all about offensive production, then Gilbert Arenas is your man. In the 2000s, Arenas averaged 22.8 points per game on 42.7 percent shooting from the field and 35.8 percent from beyond the arc.

    Arenas also kept his teammates involved at an impressive level, averaging 5.5 assists per game in the decade. If he put more time in on the defensive side of the ball, he could have been a more complete player and had a more productive NBA career.

    Instead, he let his off-the-court issues impact his career (via the New York Post), and that's why he didn't make the cut for the top 25 players of the 2000s. 

     

    26. Shawn Marion, SF, Phoenix Suns: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Shawn Marion has been a journeyman in the NBA, playing for four teams over the span of his 13-year career. But his most productive days came in the 2000s when he was playing with the Phoenix Suns.

    From being one-tenth of a rebound per game away from averaging a double-double over the decade to shooting 48.1 percent from the field, Marion was a force to be reckoned with on the offensive side of the ball.

    Unfortunately, he couldn't help the Suns get to the NBA Finals. Because of that, he's barely kept off this list. 

25. Michael Redd, SG, Milwaukee Bucks

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    2000s Stats: 20.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 45.2 FG%, 38.6 3FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2001-2009 (Nine Seasons)

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2004 NBA All-Star, 2004 All-NBA Third Team

    Michael Redd quietly put up some impressive numbers during the 2000s. From shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc to putting up 20 points per game, Redd's production in the decade was nothing to laugh at.

    His only problem was that he played for the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that couldn't make it out of the first round of the NBA playoffs after Redd's rookie season.

    Redd's individual success never translated into team success, and that is exactly what kept him from being a true superstar in the NBA. For a player who was so efficient on offense, Redd was also a competent defensive player—averaging one steal per game over the span of the nine seasons he played in the 2000s. 

24. Stephon Marbury, PG, New York Knicks

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    2000s Stats: 19.7 PPG, 7.4 APG, 3.0 RPG, 43.8 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Two-time NBA All-Star, Two-time All-NBA Third Team

    Stephon Marbury may be best known for his awesome head tattoo of his own logo today, but during the 2000s, he was one of the most explosive offensive point guards in the entire NBA.

    When he wasn't lighting up the stat sheet with double-doubles, Marbury was feuding with his head coaches, and that certainly hurt his reputation in the league. From Larry Brown to Isiah Thomas, Marbury just couldn't seem to get along with any coach he was under.

    Marbury also couldn't help his teams, from the Phoenix Suns to the New York Knicks, reach that elite level in the NBA, and that's why he's one of the first players to make the list. With more team success, Marbury could've had a better legacy and would have been higher on this list. Instead, he's just another player held back by a lack of discipline and maturity. 

23. Baron Davis, PG, Charlotte Hornets

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    2000s Stats: 16.9 PPG, 7.3 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 40.9 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Two-time NBA All-Star, Two-time NBA Steals Leader, 2004 All-NBA Third Team

    While Baron Davis' career was held back by inefficiency on the offensive side of the ball—evident by his 40.9 percent shooting from the field in the 2000s—his production across the board was rather impressive during the decade.

    Davis' play was marked by aggressive athleticism that helped him overpower bigger and stronger guards on a consistent basis. He never backed down from any challenge, and that's the foundation of why he was such a talented and special player. 

    He was also a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball, averaging nearly two steals per game in the 2000s. At times his aggressive play hurt him, but for the majority of the decade, his aggressive play is what defined him and his success. Davis played bigger and stronger than he was, and that's why he's on this list. 

22. Carmelo Anthony, SF, Denver Nuggets

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    2000s Stats: 24.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 46.0 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2004-2009 (Six Seasons)  

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Two-time NBA All-Star, Three-time All-NBA Third Team, 2004 NBA All-Rookie First Team

    Carmelo Anthony may not have lived up to the hype of being better than his draftmate LeBron James during the 2000s, but his individual production was more than impressive.

    His balanced production was a major reason why the Nuggets made it to at least a first-round playoff appearance every year during 'Melo's years in Denver, and it was also why they were a few games away from the 2009 NBA Finals.

    The one thing that held 'Melo back during the 2000s is the same thing that holds him back right now, and that's his lack of intensity on the defensive side of the ball. If he brought the focus and tenacity that he has on offense to the defensive side of the ball, he could be on the same level as Kobe and LeBron, but for now, he's solidified himself as the 22nd best player in the 2000s. 

21. Pau Gasol, PF, L.A. Lakers

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    2000s Stats: 18.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.7 BPG, 52.0 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2002-2009 (Eight Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2009 NBA Champion, Two-time NBA All-Star, 2002 NBA Rookie of the Year, 2009 All-NBA Third Team, 2002 NBA All-Rookie First Team

    For the majority of the decade, Pau Gasol spent his years in Memphis, and he's a major reason why they were relatively competitive during the 2000s.

    For the past few seasons, Gasol's production has been bolstered by the play of Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. But he proved in Memphis that he could put a team on his back and carry it. He did that by nearly averaging a double-double without much star power around him.

    Gasol's post game mixed with his ability to step out of the paint and hit mid-to-long range jumpers were major reasons why he helped the Grizzlies hang with some of the best teams in the Western Conference during the 2000s. His high basketball I.Q. makes him a dangerous player today, and it's why he's earned a spot near the top 20 on this list. 

20. Amar'e Stoudemire, PF, Phoenix Suns

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    2000s Stats: 21.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 54.1 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2003-2009 (Seven Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2003 NBA Rookie of the Year, Four-time NBA All-Star, 2007 All-NBA First Team, Two-time All-NBA Second Team, 2003 NBA All-Rookie First Team

    With Steve Nash as his pick-and-roll mate, Amar'e Stoudemire was one of the most dangerous big men in the game. During his years with the Phoenix Suns, he was hard to stop, putting up near double-double averages.

    Stoudemire's greatest strength was his ability to not only roll to the basket and finish with authority, but his ability to catch the ball on the perimeter and hit mid-to-long range shots. While Stoudemire focuses on that talent a bit too much right now, it was his money maker in the 2000s.

    Failing to re-sign Stoudemire was a terrible move for the Suns as it sent them into an immediate rebuilding mode. Phoenix made three Western Conference Finals appearances with Stoudemire on the roster. Stoudemire's success in the 2000s was certainly bolstered by Nash's play at the point. But in his own right, Stoudemire was a monster on both sides of the ball, which is something you can't say for him at the moment.  

19. Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs

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    2000s Stats: 16.7 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 49.0 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2002-2009 (Eight Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Three-time NBA Champion, 2007 NBA Finals MVP, Three-time NBA All-Star, 2009 All-NBA Third Team, 2002 NBA All-Rookie First Team

    Tony Parker's numbers might not be that eye popping, but his near 50-percent shooting percentage and well-balanced production show just how well he's able to manage a game.

    His ability to control the Spurs' offense in the 2000s is a major reason why they won three NBA titles in the decade. It's also a major reason why the Spurs have been one of the winningest teams of the decade.

    One of Parker's best traits is his ability and willingness to be coached. When you have one of the greatest NBA minds of all time leading you in Gregg Popovich, it makes accepting direction that much easier. Either way, without his willingness to be coached, he wouldn't be the player he is today, and he wouldn't be considered a top player of the 2000s. 

18. Chauncey Billups, PG, Detroit Pistons

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    2000s Stats: 15.6 PPG, 5.9 APG, 3.1 RPG, 42.2 FG, 39.6 3FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2004 NBA Champion, 2004 NBA Finals MVP, Four-time NBA All-Star, 2006 All-NBA Second Team, Two-time All-NBA Third Team, Two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team

    Chauncey Billups is an interesting player. He can excel at both the point guard and shooting guard positions, but his most valuable trait is his leadership for whichever team he's playing for.

    Billups was a major reason why the Detroit Pistons were one of the most competitive and winningest teams in the Eastern Conference over the span of the 2000s.

    His ability to make big-time and clutch shots night in and night out helped him stand apart from other guards in the 2000s. Even to this day, when there's a big shot that needs to be made, you can't find too many players better than Billups. 

17. Vince Carter, SG, New Jersey Nets

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    2000s Stats: 23.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.4 APG, 44.6 FG%, 37.8 3FG% 

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Eight-time NBA All-Star, 2001 All-NBA Second Team, 2000 All-NBA Third Team

    Vince "Vinsanity" Carter made a name for himself in the 2000s with his high-flying dunks and his ability to jump over this seven-foot French man.

    When he wasn't winning dunk contents, he was putting up some of the most impressive production across the board of any player during the decade. 

    Unfortunately, Carter was stuck on a bad Toronto Raptors team for the first part of the decade, and he made his way to the Nets after they made back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in the early 2000s. His first NBA title still eludes him, as does an appearance on an All-NBA First Team, and that's why he's not higher on this list. 

16. Chris Webber, PF, Sacramento Kings

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    2000's Stats: 21.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.2 BPG, 46.1 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2008 (Nine Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Four-time NBA All-Star, 2001 All-NBA First Team, Two-time All-NBA Second Team, 2000 All-NBA Third Team

    Chris Webber never won an NBA Championship, or an NCAA title either, thanks to his epic timeout fail. But aside from that, Webber was a force to be reckoned with during the 2000s.

    He had impressive range for a 6'9'', 245-pound forward/center, and that's what made him such a special player. Webber was a major reason why the Kings were competitive in the Western Conference during the early part of the 2000s.

    Webber just couldn't help the Kings get over that hump in the West and become a championship-caliber team. The intensity that Webber brought to the court for the Kings made them the team that they were, and once he left, their attitude went with him.

    That's why the Kings haven't been that competitive since, and that's why he's one of the best players of the 2000s. 

15. Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets

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    2000's Stats: 19.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 52.5 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2003-2009 (Seven Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Seven-time NBA All-Star, Two-time All-NBA Second Team, Three-time All-NBA Third Team, 2003 NBA All-Rookie First Team

    Yao Ming not only dominated the NBA during the 2000s, he also transformed the international culture of the league and continued to pave the way for international stars to make the transition to the NBA.

    What's most impressive about Ming's production over the decade is that his points-per-game average increased every season until his career began to be hampered by injuries. Over the span of his first five seasons, his scoring average increased from 13.5 points in 2003 to 25.0 points in 2007.

    Until knee and foot injuries plagued his career, Ming consistently improved, and that's what made him such a special player. He always put the work in to make himself and his teammates better. That's why the Houston Rockets returned to glory with him in the paint, and it's why he's the first true center to make this list.

    It's a shame his career had to end early because of injuries. If he stayed healthy, he could've been even more productive and helped the Rockets become a title contender in the West.

14. Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic

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    2000s Stats: 17.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.0 BLKPG, 56.8 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2005-2009 (Five Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2009 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Three-time NBA All-Star, Two-time NBA Rebounding Champion, 2009 NBA Blocks Leader, Two-time All-NBA First Team, 2009 NBA All-Defensive First Team, 2008 NBA All-Defensive Second Team, 2005 NBA All-Rookie First Team

    Dwight Howard may have only played five years in the 2000s, but he acquired a ridiculous amount of accolades, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

    What's even more impressive than his own accomplishments is that he helped transform the Orlando Magic's entire franchise. He took it from a losing team during his rookie year to being in the NBA Finals in 2009.

    Without Howard, the Magic wouldn't have been able to make that transition. He was such a force in the paint that teams would have to focus all of their attention on him, which opened up the floor for his teammates.

    In this decade, Howard was always one of the most loved players and personalities in the NBA. While that much has changed, his play certainly hasn't. The 2000s were full of dominant centers, and Howard was certainly one of them. 

13. Paul Pierce, SF, Boston Celtics

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    2000's Stats: 23.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, 44.3 FG%, 36.3 3FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2008 NBA Champion, 2008 NBA Finals MVP, Seven-time NBA All-Star, 2009 All-NBA Second Team, Three-time All-NBA Third Team

    When Paul Pierce hangs up his laces, he'll certainly be considered one of the top three players to ever play for the Boston Celtics, in addition to being one of the best small forwards to ever play the game.

    Pierce lacks that elite level athleticism that makes other star players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade so special, but he never let that hold him back. 

    Pierce is a very intelligent player, and he understands how to beat more athletic and stronger players by utilizing his size and quick stroke. At the foundation of his success is his desire to be the one with the ball in his hands, down two points with time running out. His abilities in the clutch helped him earn the 2008 NBA Finals MVP award, and it's why he's on this list.

    Without his willingness and confidence to take the big-time shots, the Celtics wouldn't be where they are today. While Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo often get most of the recognition for the Celtics' success, Pierce was the foundation of the Celtics' franchise during the 2000s. 

12. Ray Allen, SG, Seattle Supersonics

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    2000s Stats: 22.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.8 APG, 45.2 FG%, 40.3 3FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2008 NBA Champion, Nine-time NBA All-Star, 2005 All-NBA Second Team, 2001 All-NBA Third Team, 2003 NBA Sportsmanship Award

    Before Ray Allen was helping lead the Boston Celtics to the 2008 NBA title, he was lighting the Western Conference up from beyond the arc for the Seattle SuperSonics and the Eastern Conference for the Milwaukee Bucks.

    While Allen gets the most focus for his deadly stroke, he was also a leader for his teams during the 2000s. He led on the court with intensity and determination, and he led off the court with maturity.

    Back in the day, Allen was a much more aggressive player. He'd drive to the basket with serious authority and finish with finesse. I mean, he was even in a movie with Denzel Washington. It doesn't get much better than that.

    Allen would be higher on this list if he brought more discipline to the defensive side of the ball. But taking him for just his pure stroke, he's still deserving of being near the top 10 on this list. 

11. Tracy McGrady, SG, Orlando Magic

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    2000s Stats: 24.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.2 APG, 43.5 FG%, 

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Seven-time NBA All-Star, 2001 NBA Most Improved Player, Two-time NBA Scoring Champion, Two-time All-NBA First Team, Three-time All-NBA Second Team, Two-time All-NBA Third Team

    Tracy McGrady was a much more complete player during the 2000s than most give him credit for.

    Averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game over the span of 10 years isn't an accomplishment that most NBA players achieve, and it's why he's so high on this list.

    Unfortunately, McGrady never found himself on a team that was able to help him reach that next level in the NBA. Without talent around him, McGrady was never able to truly showcase his elite talents like he could have if he had some legitimate help.

    While McGrady's career is now on the decline, there's no doubt that during the 2000s, the cousin of Vince Carter was one of the best shooting guards in the entire league. 

10. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks

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    2000s Stats: 23.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.8 APG, 47.4 FG%, 38.2 3PFG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2007 NBA MVP, Eight-time NBA All-Star, Four-time All-NBA First Team, Three-time All-NBA Second Team, Two-time All-NBA Third Team

    By looking at Dirk Nowitzki's production during the 2000s, specifically his shooting percentage, you'd think that he spent most of the time in the paint. 

    Knowing that the seven-foot Nowitzki spent most of his time on the perimeter and in the mid-range area of the court makes his production that much more impressive. Nowitzki paved the way for other international players to come to the NBA and play the way that he did, and that's something he should be extremely proud of.

    Nowitzki helped make the Dallas Mavericks who they are today, and that started with transforming them from a losing team in the late 1990s to a team that only missed one playoff appearance in the 2000s.

    He could very well go down as the greatest international player to ever play the game. At worst though, he'll always have a top-10 spot on this list of the best players in the 2000s. 

9. Jason Kidd, PG, New Jersey Nets

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    2000s Stats: 14.0 PPG, 9.2 APG, 7.0 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 40.2 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Seven-time NBA All-Star, Four-time NBA All-Star, 2003 All-NBA Second Team, Three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, Five-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team, Four-time NBA Assists Leader

    It's hard enough for a player to average near a triple-double over the span of one season, nevertheless to nearly average one over the span of an entire decade.

    While Kidd was 0.8 assists and three rebounds per game away from that historic milestone, the fact that he did that as a 6'4'' point guard is absolutely amazing.

    While he wasn't able to lead his New Jersey Nets to an NBA title, he did lead them to two straight NBA Finals appearances in his first seasons with the Nets, and that's quite a feat.

    Kidd played the game with such a high level of basketball I.Q. that he was almost in a league of his own during the 2000s. He's certainly deserving of being in the top 10 of this list and being considered one of the top point guards to ever play the game. 

8. Steve Nash, PG, Phoenix Suns

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    2000s Stats: 16.2 PPG, 9.1 APG, 3.2 RPG, 49.4 FG%, 43.6 3FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Two-time NBA MVP, Six-time NBA All-Star, Three-time All-NBA First Team, 2008 All-NBA Second Team, Two-time All-NBA Third Team, Three-time NBA Assists Leader

    Steve Nash may not have averaged the level of production that Jason Kidd did during the 2000s, but he helped his team more—evident by his back-to-back NBA MVP awards in the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

    Nash understands the game on a whole different level than most players, and in the pick-and-roll offense there is no better court general.

    In his years with the Phoenix Suns and Amar'e Stoudemire, we saw Nash at his best, dribbling through and picking apart defenses with ease. While he was the best facilitator in the game during the 2000s, he was also the most efficient three-point shooter—an average of 43.6 percent from beyond the arc.

    What makes that so impressive is that he managed to shoot at a more efficient rate than even Ray Allen during the decade. Nash still has a few years ahead of him, but his most productive days were clearly in the 2000s. 

    Interesting note about Nash: He was the first non-American to win the NBA MVP award. Impressive stuff to say the least.  

7. Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat

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    2000s Stats: 25.2 PPG, 6.7 APG, 4.9 RPG, 48.3 FG% 

    Years Played in 2000s: 2004-2009 (Six Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2006 NBA Champion, 2006 NBA Finals MVP, Five-time NBA All-Star, 2009 NBA Scoring Champion, 2009 All-NBA First Team, Two-time All-NBA Second Team, 2007 All-NBA Third Team, Two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, 2004 NBA All-Rookie First Team

    The Miami Heat were around for a decade or two before Dwyane Wade, but their first NBA title didn't come until his talents were in South Beach.

    Sure, Wade didn't do it alone. He had the help of one of the best centers in the game in Shaquille O'Neal. But without Wade's grit, determination and leadership, the Heat wouldn't have won an NBA title made in the 2000s.

    Wade also established himself as one of the most dangerous and elite scorers in the game by winning the 2009 NBA scoring title. If scoring was all he could do, he'd still be one of the best players of the 2000s, but the fact that he's also a lockdown defender makes him that much more elite.

    Wade is a player who relies on his athleticism to overpower and outplay opponents today, and that's what he did during the 2000s. His versatility and explosive athleticism mixed with his intelligence makes him a rare talent—certainly deserving of a top spot on this list. 

6. LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    2000s Stats: 27.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.8 SPG, 47.1 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2004-2009 (Six Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2009 NBA MVP, Five-time NBA All-Star, Two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year, 2008 NBA Scoring Champion, Three-time All-NBA First Team, Two-time All-NBA Second Team, 2009 NBA All-Defensive First Team, 2004 All-NBA Rookie First Team

    LeBron James only played six seasons in the 2000s, but throughout those six years, he absolutely dominated the game on an individual level. 

    While he was ringless during the decade, he acquired basically every other honor that a player could during his first few seasons in the NBA. From winning the 2004 Rookie of the Year award to the 2008 NBA scoring title and the 2009 NBA MVP award, LeBron proved that he would go down as one of the best players to ever play the game.

    He may have failed as a leader for the Cavaliers, but they never brought enough talent around him to help him take their franchise to that next level.

    With next to no legitimate talent around him, he single-handedly led the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history, and he did so by going through both the mighty Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons—two veteran-laden powerhouses in the East.

    Even without a title in the decade, LeBron still solidified himself as one of the best players, and he'll continue to be just that as his career goes on. 

5. Allen Iverson, PG, Philadelphia 76ers

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    2000s Stats: 28.1 PPG, 6.2 APG, 2.2 SPG, 42.4 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2001 NBA MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star, Three-time NBA Scoring Champion, Three-time NBA Steals Leader, Two-time All-NBA First Team, Three-time All-NBA Second Team, 2006 All-NBA Third Team, Two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP

    If the Philadelphia 76ers realized what they had in Allen Iverson and brought in another All-Star caliber player to play alongside him, they could have had a dynasty in the 2000s. That's just how dominant of a player Iverson was.

    In 2001, Iverson put the 76ers on his shoulders and carried them to the NBA Finals, and he did so with Theo Ratliff, Dikembe Mutombo and Aaron McKie as the next best players beside him. Iverson made those players look like All-Stars, even though they weren't, and that's what made him such a special player.

    While a lot of experts will knock Iverson for his low shooting percentage, the fact that he had just a sliver of talent beside him makes that 42.4 percentage a little more understandable.

    In addition to his offensive prowess, Iverson was a tenacious defender, and he kept his teammates involved. He was truly an all-around player, and at his core, he was a winner. That's why he deserves to be this high on the list of best players in the 2000s.

    If he had overcome Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals, he may very well have been the top player on this list. 

4. Kevin Garnett, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    2000s Stats: 21.6 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.6 BPG, 49.9 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: 2008 NBA Champion, 2004 NBA MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star, 2003 NBA All-Star Game MVP, 2008 NBA All-Defensive First Team, Four-time All-NBA First Team, Three-time All-NBA Second Team, 2007 All-NBA Third Team, Eight-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, Two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team, Four-time NBA Rebounding Champion

    Kevin Garnett was one of the first players to come into the NBA out of high school, and he made that transition look way easier than it should've been.

    KG took the Timberwolves from the bottom of the Western Conference and transformed them into a perennial playoff team in just a few seasons. With the Timberwolves, Garnett was young, feisty and full of energy.

    His game was defined by intensity and consistent production, continually dominating more experienced big men in the NBA because of his freakish athletic abilities. Garnett also understood better than most players in the league how to get inside his opponents' heads, and he did just that time and time again.

    He also dominated on both sides of the ball, evident by being on the NBA All-Defensive first team eight times in 10 years. KG was the definition of a complete player. 

    Garnett couldn't get it done with the T'Wolves, but he led the Boston Celtics to their first NBA title in 20 years. The fact that he could transfer his talent to a new team shows his versatility, and it also shows just how dangerous of a player he was during the 2000s.

3. Tim Duncan, C, San Antonio Spurs

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    2000's Stats: 21.4 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.3 BPG, 50.4 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons)  

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Three-time NBA Champion, Two-time NBA Finals MVP, Two-time NBA MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star, Seven-time All-NBA First Team, Three-time All-NBA Second Team, Seven-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, Three-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team, 2000 NBA All-Star Game MVP

    This spot could've gone to Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson or LeBron James, but the fact that Tim Duncan won three NBA titles while averaging a double-double during the 2000s makes him a bit more deserving of the No. 3 spot on this list.

    During a time in the NBA ruled by athleticism and size, Duncan proved that sound fundamentals were still as valuable as they always were. With a pure post game, and the smoothest bank-shot in the game, Duncan dominated the decade with poise and professionalism. 

    There's no doubt that Duncan benefited from learning from Gregg Popovich and studying the game under David Robinson, but the fact that he out-played Robinson in the 2003 NBA Finals shows just how special of a talent he was in his own right.

    Duncan proved that you don't have to be the biggest, strongest or most athletic to be the best in the NBA. You just have to work harder than everyone and understand the game, and that's exactly what he did. It's what made him such a special talent in the 2000s.  

2. Shaquille O'Neal, C, L.A. Lakers

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    2000s Stats: 23.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 58.5 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Four-time NBA Champion, Three-time NBA Finals MVP, 2000 NBA MVP, Nine-time NBA All-Star, Three-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, 2000 NBA Scoring Champion, Seven-time All-NBA First Team, 2009 All-NBA Third Team, Three-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team

    Shaquille "Big Diesel" O'Neal dominated both the 1990s and the 2000s, and he did so because he was physically on a different level than most players, even at the center position.

    O'Neal understood how to truly use his size advantage to dominant whoever his opponent was, and while that seems like common sense, it's something that a number of centers fail to realize. While he benefited from playing with Kobe Bryant, there's no doubt that the Lakers wouldn't have won three straight NBA titles in the early part of the decade without O'Neal.

    He could've been a more productive player if he had figured out how to shoot free throws, but despite shooting 52.2 percent from the charity stripe, O'Neal controlled the game when he was on the court.

    O'Neal consistently overpowered players like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, and the fact that he could do that shows just how great of a player he was.

    O'Neal's production started to taper off during the latter parts of the 2000s when he went to the Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns, and that's why he didn't make it to the top spot of this list. 

1. Kobe Bryant, SG, L.A. Lakers

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    2000s Stats: 28.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 45.7 FG%

    Years Played in 2000s: 2000-2009 (10 Seasons) 

    Notable Achievements in 2000s: Four-time NBA Champion, 2009 NBA Finals MVP, 2008 NBA MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star, Three-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, Two-time NBA Scoring Champion, Seven-time All-NBA First Team, Two-time All-NBA Second Team, 2005 All-NBA Third Team, Six-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, Two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team

    Much like the 1990s were absolutely dominated by Michael Jordan, the 2000s were dominated in the same way by Kobe Bryant.

    Kobe benefited from playing alongside one of the best centers to ever play the game, but he proved that he could lead a team by himself to the NBA's promised land when he led the L.A. Lakers to the 2009 NBA title.

    Kobe's success wasn't earned overnight and it wasn't a natural gift. It was a product of hard work and studying the game. When it came to being a cerebral player, there was no better player in the game than Kobe. He outsmarted his defenders and he constantly broke down defenses by understanding where their weaknesses were.

    His confidence also put him on a whole different level than most other players during the 2000s. He was never afraid to take big shots, and he never backed down from any obstacle that stood in his way of obtaining greatness.

    Kobe was without a doubt the best player of the 2000s, and he could very well be the greatest player in the history of the game.