NBA's Decade In Review
With the first decade of the 2000's only a couple of weeks away from ending, I will be reviewing the last ten years of the NBA. In this article, I will choose the best player, team, coach, game and performance along with the biggest trade, low point and controversy of this great decade. I hope you all enjoy and tell me your opinions on my choices.
Best Player—Kobe Bryant
Kobe just edges out Tim Duncan due to him winning one more ring than Duncan this decade. Kobe averaged 28 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists while shooting 46% from the field and being one of the best perimeter defensive players in the league and arguably the most clutch player.
He made the All Star team every season, was selected to the All NBA first team seven times and the second team twice and was selected to the All Defensive first team seven times and the second team twice. Finally, he won four championships in six Finals appearances and won one Finals MVP award and one regular season MVP award.
Runner Up—Tim Duncan
Best Coach—Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson is the best coach as he led the Lakers to the most championships with four and Finals appearances with six this decade. He was also able to help rebuild the Lakers after his brief one year hiatus, in which the Lakers missed the playoffs, back to contention the last two seasons. He will go down as the greatest NBA coach ever as he now holds the record ten championships and twelve NBA Finals appearances as a head coach.
Runner Up—Gregg Popovich
Best GM—R.C. Buford
Buford along with team president and head coach Gregg Popovich helped make the Spurs the most consistent franchise in the league as they won 50 or more games in a season each year this decade. Buford also selected future All Stars Tony Parker late in the first round and Manu Ginobili with one of the last picks in the entire draft.
Runner Up - Mitch Kupchak
Best Franchise—Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers were the best franchise this decade, despite having a rough three stretch after the Shaquille O'Neal trade to the Miami Heat. They won four championships (while being the only team to win back to back as they won the decade's first three titles), six Finals appearances, and were the most popular due to their star power of Kobe and Shaq.
Runner Up—San Antonio Spurs
Best Team—2000-2001 Lakers
This Lakers team only won 56 games in the regular season, just beating out the Kings for the division title, but their legendary post season domination is the reason why the were the best single season team of this decade.
These Lakers went 16-1 in the playoffs as they swept each of the first three series to make it to the Finals, before dropping game one of the Finals to the 76ers. Then, they swept the rest of the series and won their second of three consecutive championships, with Shaq winning his second Finals MVP award.
Runner Up—2007-2008 Boston Celtics
Best Game—2002 West Conference Finals Game 7
This game was in reality for the championship as the Kings and Lakers were the two best teams in the league and the Nets would have had no chance against either team in the Finals. It was game seven after the controversial game 6 finish where the Lakers won barely with a huge free throw disparity and it was being played in Sacramento.
The game went into overtime and the Lakers prevailed with a 102-106 victory to make it to their third straight Finals appearance. The Kings were the better team, according to Phil Jackson after the game, but they gave the game away to the Lakers.
The Kings shot a pathetic 2-20 from the three point line and a horrific 16 out of 30 from the free throw line (53%), while the Lakers shot 7 out of 17 from the three point line (41.2%) and an excellent 27 out of 33 from the free throw line (81.8%). The Lakers went on to sweep the Nets and win their consecutive championship, while the Kings were never able to recover.
Runner Up—2004 Western Conference Semifinals Game 5 between Lakers and Spurs; Derek Fisher 0.4 Game Winning Shot
Biggest Trade—Lakers/Heat Shaq Trade
This trade ended the decade only dynasty and helped the Heat win the franchise's only championship. The Lakers traded Shaq for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, a future first round pick (ended up being Jordan Farmar) and a second round pick.
The Lakers missed the playoffs the next season and couldn't pass the first round the two seasons after that, while the Heat made the Eastern Conference Finals and then won it all in Shaq's second season.
Runner Up—Lakers/Grizzlies Trade (Pau Gasol to Lakers for Kwame Brown, Marc Gasol, Aaron McKie, 2 First Round Picks and Javarris Crittenton)
Best Performance—Lebron James 2007 ECF Game 5
The series was tied at two games apiece between the heavily favored Detroit Pistons and the Cleveland Cavaliers and game was in Detroit. The Pistons seemed like they were pulling away as they were up by seven with 3 minutes left, before Lebron scored the Cavalier's last 25 points the rest of the way, including both overtime periods.
Lebron hit the game winning layup with 2 seconds remaining in double overtime and the Cavs won the game 109-107 to gain a 3-2 lead in the series, before winning Game 6 at home. Lebron ended the game with 48 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals while shooting 18-33 from the field, 2-3 from the 3 point line and 10-14 from the free throw line.
Runner Up—Kobe Bryant's 81 point game vs. Toronto Raptors (Second Highest Scoring Performance Ever)
Biggest Controversy—2002 WCF Game 6
First off, Game 5 of the series, which was played in Sacramento involved some questionable officiating against the Lakers as they lost in a close game where Shaq only attempted one free throw and fouled out. Now, in Game 6, the Kings were up 3-2 and were looking to end the Laker's dominance.
The game was tied at 75 going into the fourth quarter, before the Lakers had a 27-9 advantage at the free throw line in the final quarter, which helped the Lakers win 106-102, before beating the Kings in game 7 and then winning their third title in a row.
The Kings felt the officiating was unfair and due to Shaq's complaining of how previous games in the series were officiated. "I feel sorry for our team, because they did everything they could to win the game,'' Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. "It's a shame, a real shame. ... Our big guys get 20 fouls, and Shaq gets four. You tell me. Obviously, they got the game called the way they wanted to get it called.
In the game, Shaq dominated as he had 41 points, 17 rebounds, and 2 blocks while shooting 14-25 from the field and 13-17 from the free throw line, while Kobe 31 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists on 10-20 shooting. Disgraced official Tim Donaghy said the referees wanted the series to go seven games so they favored the Lakers.
Runner Up—2007 Western Conference Semifinals between Spurs and Suns (Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw suspended for leaving bench)
Biggest Low Point—The Malice at the Palace
The game was between arguably the two best teams in the East at the time - the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, the defending champs, in the middle of November, 2004. However, what looked like a great road win for the Pacers turned into arguably the ugliest moment in the NBA's history as members of each team started fighting with each other and then several members of the Pacers were involved with altercations with fans in the stands and on the court.
The game was ended with 45.9 seconds remaining and the victory was awarded to the Pacers in a 97-82 final. "It's the ugliest thing I've seen as a coach or player," said Pistons coach Larry Brown, who was in the middle of the confrontation, trying to break it up. I'm just embarrassed for our league and disappointed for our young people to see that."
I felt like I was fighting for my life out there," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "I'm sorry the game had to end this way." "The NBA is withholding comment until it can review the incident," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.
The results of this brawl were the Artest was suspended for the rest of the season (73 games), including the playoffs, Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 games, Jermaine O'Neal for 15 games, Ben Wallace for 6 games, Anthony Johnson for 5 games, and Reggie Miller, Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell and Derrick Coleman one game each for leaving the bench during an on-court altercation.
Overall, the sad and somewhat forgotten part of this incident was the Pacers had a legitimate chance of winning the championship that season, but it all ended when their top three players all missed a significant part of the season, especially their second best player in Artest, who missed the rest of the season.
Runner Up—Tim Donaghy's Allegations
All Decade First/Second Teams
Point Guard—Jason Kidd
Shooting Guard—Kobe Bryant
Small Forward—Lebron James
Power Forward—Tim Duncan
Center - Shaquille O'Neal
Point Guard—Steve Nash
Shooting Guard—Dwyane Wade
Small Forward—Paul Pierce
Power Forward—Kevin Garnett