This new decade started out with a bang with Vince Carter putting on a show in the slam dunk contest after the previous season ended early due to lockout. For the most part, the post-Jordan era was an endless quest to find the next MJ. It will probably never happen, but there is no denying that we witness the ascents of some of the best and most exciting players in the history of basketball. I present to you the all-decade team.
Purists say you have to build a championship around a big man, then Michael Jordan came along and proved them wrong. Purists say, the little man can't play basketball and should focus on distributing the ball instead of being the superstar, but Allen Iverson had other ideas. Arguably the most influential player of the decade, Iverson revolutionized the game. The NBA changed the rule (zone defense) to cry to stop him. They outlawed his crossover dribble. They introduced dumb rules like the dress code. Iverson is not just a basketball player. He is a cultural icon.
From the minute he set foot in the league, the media and David Stern hate him. Karl Malone and Charles Barkley bashed him for not being a real "point guard". He is more of a combo guard than a real point. But in a league where old school centers are becoming extinct, who cares?
Iverson proves that he can win with his style of play. He regularly led his team to new heights despite having horrible supporting casts, cheap owners, and low payrolls throughout his career (that's what you get when you're not Stern's pet projects). He has been a winner wherever he goes. He led the Nuggets to a franchise record in wins in 2008 and had his most efficient season that year. That was also the only season he had a legitimate sidekick in Carmelo Anthony and he shot at a higher % than Kobe Bryant that season. Despite his diminutive stature, the man they nicknamed "the Answer" plays with reckless abandon and regularly leads the league in free throw attempts. He has 4 scoring titles, 1 MVP award, and 2 all-star game MVP. He single-handedly led the Sixers to the finals in only his 5th season in the league.
Recently, his career has been sidetracked by a trade to the Pistons during his contract year. They forced him to play teamball, but they were still a darkhorse contender (beating the Cavs, Lakers, and Magic head-to-head) until someone high up forced Rodney Stuckey into the starting five. The vets quit after Rip Hamilton was benched and the season went south. They even disrespected the man by pinning the blame on him and benching him. He was blackballed in free agency. The fact is about Iverson is that he hasnt lost much and cannot be a role player. Iverson will never function well in a limited role he needs to be a centerpiece of a team and unfortunately with dumb concepts like "rebuilding" or "building for the future" in vogue, teams are not willing to give let A.I. be A.I.. Iverson could still put up 25+ avg. and it sounds crazy to say but thats not what teams are looking for anymore, they all want a guy to fit into their system to mesh with the players they think are their "best guys." The fact is there are a bunch of teams in the NBA with too much young scrubs that will waste years trying to develop and it will never come to fruition. Teams like Mavericks, Heat, Kings, Clips, Bobcats, Nets, T-Wolves, Pacers, Knicks all should have been looking at Iverson at the start of the season to help them win more this year and next, but they didnt go that route. Unlike the '90s, most teams dont care about winning, they go into a year with a losing mentality and play 82 games of "practice...I mean we talking about using every game of your season as practice, practice!" Its unfortunate these franchises approach the game this way because as well all know A.I. plays to win! When teams fail, they use dumb excuse that they are "rebuilding". That's why the NBA is losing money.
Even though his career achievement will always be tainted by his sexual assault case and his feud with Shaquille O'Neal (which ultimately cost them a championship in 2004), Kobe Bryant is definitely one of the most prolific scorers of the decade and the best clutch players since MJ.
He is an all-around talent with no major weakness with a killer instinct.
Bryant won a 3-peat with fellow superstar Shaquille O'Neal from 2000-2002 and added another title to his collection last year. With 1 MVP, 4 championships, 2 scoring titles, and 3 all-star game MVPs, Bryant's legacy is secure.
Bryant went through a period of difficulty after Shaquille O'Neal and Phil Jackson departed. With a depleted roster, the Lakers were mediocre for a number of years with Bryant single-handedly carrying the team to the playoff. After the acquisition of Pau Gasol, the Lakers took off again and have been to the finals for the past 2 years.
T-Mac, along with Kobe Bryant and his own cousin Vince Carter, is probably the closest the NBA has in terms of being the next MJ this decade. McGrady has incredible athleticism and high basketball IQ. He can score almost at will. Despite his well-documented injury problems, McGrady was a dominant force from 2000-2008. He single-handedly carried the Magic to an epic 7 game series against the vastly superior Detroit Pistons. His lack of supporting cast explains his lack of playoff success. I mean, with a roster of Darrell Armstrong, Drew Gooden, Andrew DeClercq, Pat Garrity, Mike Miller, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue, and Gordon Giricek, it would be hard to even get into the playoff.
I know most of y'all would argue why I picked KG over Tim Duncan, but I really believe that KG would be just as successful as Duncan if he played with David Robinson early in his career and Tony Parker and Emmanuel Ginobili in the later part of his career.
Ever since he came into the league straight outta high school, the player they dubbed "the kid" has taken the league by storm. He is a 7 footer with incredible court vision, athleticism, low post moves, lock down defense, crashing the boards. KG is the complete package. He is a great teammate with abundant energy and intensity. His winning attitude also feeds off to his teammates.
KG's lack of playoff success with Minnesota was the result of the incompetence of then GM Kevin McHale. Some of his sidekicks throughout the years were Anthony Peeler, Joe Smith, Wally Szczerbiak, Terrell Brandon, Rasho Nesterovic, Michael Olowokandi, Kendall Gill, and Gary Trent.
The only time he had a team in Minny with Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, the T-Wolves went to the conference final. After partnering up with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in Boston, "the Kid" has cemented his legacy.
With the retirement of David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, and Hakeem Olajuwon and the untimely kidney ailment of Alonzo Mourning, Shaq is the only dominant center in the NBA in this era.
With 4 championships, 1 MVP, 1 scoring title, 3 finals MVP, and 3 time All-star game MVP, Shaq is probably the most recognizable player of the generation. He is a larger than life figure.
He is a serious MVP candidate as recently as 2006 and an all-star last year at age 37.
Even though some of his achievement was overshadowed by his feud with ex Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, his resume speaks for itself. After partnering with Dwyane Wade to win another title in 2006, Shaq is now chasing possibly a last parade by partnering up with LeBron James in Cleveland at age 38.
The coach of the previous decade is again the coach of the decade. 6 titles in the '90s plus 4 more titles in the 2000s. It's just business as usual for Phil.
The kid from Canada has an odd career curve. He is a late bloomer in every sense of the word. He had a uneventful start to his career as the third string point guard in Phoenix behind Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd. After forming a formidable threesome with Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley in Dallas, Nash went back to the Phoenix Suns as a free agent and completely revolutionized the game of basketball. Under coach Mike D'Antoni's 7 second or less breakneck offense, the Suns set various NBA record on offense. Nash is also immortalized in the process as a 2 time NBA MVP. He made his teammates Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, Leandro Barbosa, and Boris Diaw into household names.
The only reason they never made the finals is due to the controversial game against the Spurs when Robert Horry intentionally punched Steve Nash and pushed them onto the scorers table. The subsequent suspension of Stoudemire and Diaw more or less ended the series.
Then the stupidity of new GM Steve Kerr wasted several seasons of Nash's prime. At age 36 this year, Nash is still going strong and the Suns are running and having fun again.
No one did more for Canadian basketball than Vince Carter. The man they called "Vinsanity" or "Air Canada" is simply "Half man, Half amazing".
VC is an 8-time all-star and former rookie of the year. He was widely considered the heir apparent to Michael Jordan and was probably the most popular player in the NBA for the first part of the decade.
Often overlooked due to his amazing dunks is his underrated long-range game. Vinsanity is a very good shooter who can spread the floor. He is also an underrated leader with high basketball IQ. The knock against him is always that he didn't give his all when things weren't going well and the graduation ceremony he attended before game 7 in the second round of the 2001 playoff against the Sixers, but the way the New Jersey Nets have played this year after his departure more than vindicated him.
His 7 game duel with Allen Iverson in the 2001 playoff will go down as one of the best one-on-one matchup between 2 superstars in NBA history. At age 33, Vince Carter is now partnering up with Dwight Howard to chase his first NBA championship.
The decade started poorly for Pierce as he was almost killed after he was stabbed numerous times in the 2000 offseason, but Pierce recovered and become one of the biggest legends in Celtics history.
Pierce is one of the most underrated player of the decade. He is an all-around talent who can score in bunches, get to the free throw line at will, and play lockdown defense.
He, along with Antoine Walker, led the Celtics to significantly overachieve with the likes of Kenny Anderson, Eric Williams, Tony Battie, and Walter McCarty all the way to the Eastern Conference final in 2002 and pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in NBA history against the Nets in game 3 of the Eastern Conference final.
As the quality of his supporting cast continued to decline, Pierce eventually demanded to be traded. Thankfully, help arrived as future Hall of famers Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were brought in to restore the Celtics dynasty. Pierce was named finals MVP and an 8 time all-star. His legacy is secured.
I know y'all are asking where's Timmy D? Well, I decided to put him in as a center.
Nowitzki is the most accomplished international player in the history of the game. (No, Canada doesn't count or Nash would be in the discussion.) He changed the game as a 7 footer who happens to be one of the best 3 point shooter in the game. He is a 9 time all-star and won 1 MVP. He also led the Mavericks to the final in 2006 before controversial calls cost them the series and the title.
Tim Duncan may be the epitome of boring basketball, but he is a class act and a dedicated professional who is one heck of a player. Despite being in a small market, Duncan managed to win 4 titles against all odds. After the retirement of David Robinson, which ended the "Twin Tower" era, the Spurs were able to continue to contend with Duncan at the helm. He partner up with Tony Parker and Emmanuel Ginobili for 3 more titles.
With 2 MVP trophies, 4 championships, 12 all-star appearances, 3 finals MVP, and 1 all-star game MVP, Duncan is one of the most accomplished players of the generation and one of the few dominant big men of this generation.
Popovich successfully reinvent the team after David Robinson's retirement. He integrated young talents such as Parker and Ginobili into the lineup. His team regularly plays the best defense in the NBA. His 4 championship rings and strong track record speak for themselves.
Jason Kidd is probably the best pure point guard of the generation. Sure, he can't shoot to save his life (career shooting percentage barely above 40), but he is a triple double machine, a lockdown defender, and an amazing floor general who maximizes the talent of everybody around him.
Kidd led the sorry franchise known as the New Jersey Nets to 2 straight final appearances. He also made Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson into stars. He won more than 50 games with 3 different teams this past decade. Now, at age 37, Kidd is still going strong and partnering up with Nowitzki chasing his first NBA title. But with 10 all-star appearances, 2 final appearances, and #3 all-time on triple-doubles, his legacy is secure either way.
Wade is currently one of the best players in the NBA. He can score, dish, defend, and get to the free throw line. A 6 time all-star, 1 scoring title, 1 title, and 1 final MVP, Wade is definitely one of the best players of this generation and somebody to watch out for in the coming decade.
Love him or hate him, LeBron James is a unique talent. He is a point guard with a power forward's body. A strong player who can get to the rim almost at will. A versatile defender and a guy who can also run the offense. As a 6-time all-star, 1 time MVP, 1 scoring title, 2 all-star game MVP, and former rookie of the year, he is definitely somebody to watch out for in the next all-decade team. He is currently partnering up with Shaq chasing his first NBA title.
Injuries aside, Amare Stoudemire is a great talent. He can finish at the rim almost at will and with his midrange jumper, it is almost impossible to defend him. He is regularly ranked among the leaders in field goal percentage. And obviously nobody could forget the way he completely dominated against Tim Duncan in the 2005 playoff. He is a 5 time all-star and a former rookie of the year. At only 27, he is definitely somebody to watch out for in the future.
For the most part of the decade, Jermaine O'Neal has been the best big men in the East. The decade started off as a turning point for O'Neal, as he was traded to the Indiana Pacers in exchange of Dale Davis after wasting the first 4 years of his career on the bench in Portland straight out of high school. Isiah Thomas, a great talent evaluator, immediately groomed him to be his franchise player as Reggie Miller headed toward the twilight of his career.
J.O. did not disappoint. He became a nightly 20-10 presence and one of the best shot blockers in the league. Under his lead, the Pacers were 61-21 in 2004. He's a 6-time all-star and former most improved player. However, due to injuries, he is no longer the same player even though he is only still 31.
Allen Iverson, the cultural icon of the hip-hop generation, and Larry Brown, the basketball purist, were an odd match. Their father-and-son, love-hate relationship had their share of run-ins and disputes, but at the end of the day, the team was winning. Brown was able to steer a squad full of role players and one superstar in Allen Iverson to the finals in 2001.
After his departure, he won his first NBA title with the Pistons in 2004, again with a bunch of role players, and made it back there again in 2005.
Since then he had unsuccessful stint in New York and has been helping the upstart Bobcats to make the playoff.
Unfortunately, there are only so many spots. Here are the guys who absolutely deserves to be there.
Chris Webber, Ray Allen, Chauncey Billups, Gilbert Arenas, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Elton Brand, Antawn Jamison, and Shawn Marion.