NBA All-Decade Team
As the decade comes to a close, I've been bombarded left and right by numerous media outlets with various "best of the decade" lists. One more wouldn't hurt anyone.
As the name suggests, the following is my "All Decade" squad. I was originally going to pick 10 players—five starters, five backups—but the work proved to be much more time consuming than I had anticipated. As such, my list includes a starting five and a sixth man.
I'm sure a lot of you will disagree with some of my picks; that's good. The list is made to inspire conversation.
Note that, above all else, I looked for longevity with my list; players who have played for the better part of, or entirety of, the decade. You won't find Chris Paul or Kevin Durant on this list.
Enjoy, and let me know if you disagree.
Starting Point Guard: Steve Nash
When the decade began, Nash was far from being considered one of the league's elite point guards. Jason Kidd, Stephon Marbury, and Steve Francis were the NBA's gold standard (I hate labeling Allen Iverson a point guard, even though he spent much of his career there); Nash was nowhere near the MVP-caliber player we know him as today.
As the decade progressed, Kidd slowed down quite a bit, and Marbury and Francis totally fell off the map. Nash aged quite well, netting himself two MVP awards by anchoring a series of high-octane Suns teams that perennially led the league in points scored, averaging anywhere between 15-19 PPG and 10-12 APG during his five-year tenure with the team. To this day, Nash remains one of the top point guards in the league, a future first ballot Hall-of-Famer.
Naming him the starting PG over Kidd was a tough decision, but one that I ultimately chalked up to longevity. Nash has been an elite talent for the better part of this decade. Simply put, when he's on the court, he changes the game in a way that few other point guards do. Kidd's numbers are certainly impressive, but he simply doesn't affect the game the way Nash does.
Two other names that will certainly be tossed around are Chris Paul and Deron Williams. The two young point guards are exceptional, but they haven't been around long enough for me to consider them "point guard of the decade."
Starting Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
Well, shit. Every position gets easier to figure out after point guard. Kobe Bryant is a no-brainer, and this is coming from somebody who HATES the Lakers. Simply put, Kobe is the closest thing to MJ the league has seen since Jordan retired.
I honestly don't have much to explain with this pick. Kobe is one of the greatest shooting guards of all time, and there really weren't that many other 2-guards who I felt warranted heavy consideration.
The only ones I could think of were Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson, both Hall-of-Fame talents to be sure. Still, neither could match Kobe's dominance from beginning of the decade to the end. When it's all said and done, Kobe Bryant will finish his career as one of the top 10 players of all time, and most of his career highlights were established in the '00's.
Starting Small Forward: LeBron James
LeBron James has the misfortune of being drafted in '03, giving him an immediate disadvantage when being compared to other forwards on my All-Decade team.
That being said, I have absolutely no qualms with placing him here; like Kobe, I have trouble finding players who can match LeBron's consistent dominance, even though he's only played in seven of the decade's 10 years.
LeBron's game is unheard of. Anybody reading this is already sick of ESPN analysts waxing poetically about the King, so I won't waste your time.
I would like to say, though, that as his career matures, people are going to stop making Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson comparisons. LeBron is one of the most unique talents the league has ever seen, and by comparing him to players of the past, we are cutting him short. He is blazing his own path.
The only other player who could have been included here is Paul Pierce. I hate the Celtics as much as I hate the Lakers, but I respect Pierce's game. I'm not sure if he'll ever be a Hall of Famer, but he's been one of the most consistently good small forwards of the decade.
I considered Carmelo Anthony for a bit, but it's taken him a bit longer than James to maximize his game. A good player going forward, but not an all-decade type player.
Starting Power Forward: Tim Duncan
The Big Fundamental. What a guy. Easily one of the quietest superstars in recent memory, so it's incredibly easy to forget about him. He doesn't do anything flashy, doesn't call out his coaches, doesn't give reporters any quotes worth repeating. He goes out and delivers. Every. Single. Night. He's so boringly consistent that it's easy to overlook him.
Honestly, I get annoyed when people don't mention him as one of the game's best. What more could you ask for from your power forward? Career averages of 21-plus PPG (on .508 shooting), 12 RPG, three-plus APG, two-plus BPG.... sick.
Duncan led the Spurs to four NBA titles, earning Finals MVP in three of them.
There really was only one candidate who truly challenged TD's spot on my list: Kevin Garnett. Garnett is a great player, but I'm a big believer in star players carrying their teams when it matters the most. KG's playoff failures have been well-documented, so I won't elaborate...but they are the primary reason why I'm going with Duncan over Garnett.
Duncan never had a problem of elevating his game when it mattered the most, as three Finals MVPs can attest to. He is, in my humble opinion, the defining player of the '00's.
Starting Center: Shaquille O'Neal
Has any player ever affected the fortunes of both teams—both positively and negatively—than Shaq? Arguably THE most dominant player of his time, Shaq dominated opposing centers for five different teams, four of them in this decade. His statistics are simply jaw-dropping, and his style of play is incredibly overpowering. Even now, at the age of 37, he continues to be an effective player.
Like many of my starting picks, this pick is self-explanatory. No other center comes close to matching Shaq's dominance throughout the decade.
Sixth Man: Allen Iverson
Like LeBron, Allen Iverson is one of the most unique players who the game has ever seen. He combines a lightning-quick first step with a nose for the basket that made him a frequent visitor to the free throw stripe—the sign of a truly tough player.
Iverson averaged a little more than nine free throw attempts a game. For comparison's sake, Michael Jordan, regarded as one of the greatest slashing shooting gaurds of all time, averaged 8.2 FT attempts per game for his career. So, yeah, Iverson lived in the paint.
What's most remarkable about Iverson's playing style is the fact that the man was shorter than six feet tall. He took a beating on a nightly basis, but never let it grind him down. He is the toughest player of the decade, somebody capable of dominating a game despite giving up a half of a foot to most of his defenders. There will never be another Allen Iverson.