Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant and the Lakers All-Decade NBA Team
During these years, there were many standout players for the team that helped contribute to the 530 wins and playoff runs. Leading the pack is obviously Kobe Bryant, who was named the NBA Player of the Decade by TNT and ESPN.
But who makes up the other 11 spots?
This article will break down the most deserving candidates for the starting spots per position, as well as seven reserve places.
Please note that only contributions during the 2000-2009 seasons were taken into consideration in selecting players. Thus, the 2010 championship season and current season do not qualify.
Feel free to comment about the selections, and whether there were any players that should have made the team or been a starter.
Shaquille O’Neal (Starting C)
Player Stats: 27.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.6 bpg
Achievements: MVP (2000), three-time Finals MVP (2000 – 2002), five-time All –Star (2000 – 2004), two-time All-Star MVP (2000, 2004), five-time All-NBA First Team (2000 – 2004), three-time All-Defensive Second Team (2000, 2001, 2003), Scoring Champion (2000)
The starting center selection is one of the easiest to pick.
From 2000 – 2002, Shaquille O’Neal was one of the most dominant players of all-time. Perhaps his best performance came during the 2000 NBA Finals when he averaged 38.0 ppg, 16.7 rpg and 2.7 bpg while shooting 61 percent.
O’Neal proved to be a difficult matchup for most teams as the double teams directed towards him opened up teammates for more open shots. In addition, Shaq’s physical moves usually got opponent frontlines in foul trouble.
Despite his dominance, Shaq’s issues became a problem for the team. Team owner Jerry Buss started to see him as an overweight and overpaid athlete, as he would continually show up out-of-shape to camp each year.
O’Neal’ skirmishes with teammate Kobe Bryant became well-known and when faced with the decision of whom to keep, Buss decided the future of the franchise was better left in Kobe’s hands.
Still, Shaquille O’Neal ranks as one of the best players in NBA history and his most dominant career years were during this era.
Pau Gasol (Starting PF)
Player Stats: 18.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.1 bpg
Achievements: All-Star (2009), All-NBA Third Team (2009)
For the first six and a half seasons of his career, Pau Gasol was more of an obscure talent in the NBA. After he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in the middle of the 2008 season, his career started to take off.
While working with Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, Gasol has become a tougher player, a better rebounder, and a better defender.
In the two years in this decade that Gasol was with LA, he led the Lakers to back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals, helping the team win the championship against Orlando in 2009. Even more amazing during his first two seasons with LA, the team failed to lose three games in a row at any time.
Being nearly a perfect fit in the triangle offense, Gasol has become one of the more recognized stars of the league while playing for the Lakers.
Already winning another championship in 2010, Gasol will continue to be a key player if the Lakers are going to win any future championships.
Rick Fox (Starting SF)
Player Stats: 7.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.9 apg
At first glance, Rick Fox’s stats in this era do not stand out as an impressive line.
However, Fox’s contributions to three championship teams were immeasurable. Along with decent ball-handling skills, Fox’s ability to hit outside shots helped stretch defenses. In fact, Fox hit a number of clutch shots during key games during his Lakers career.
Similar to Ron Artest on the current Lakers squad, Fox provided a bigger body at the small forward spot who exhibited pesky and tenacious defense to help stop opponents.
Fox gained known for his celebrity marriage to Vanessa Williams and his various acting roles, but his veteran presence with the Lakers was key to the team’s success during the early part of the decade.
Kobe Bryant (Starting SG)
Player Stats: 28.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.7 spg
Achievements: MVP (2008), Finals MVP (2009, 10-time All –Star (2000 – 2009), three-time All-Star MVP (2002, 2007, 2009), seven-time All-NBA First Team (2002 – 2004, 2006 – 2009), two-time All-NBA Second Team (2000, 2001), All-NBA Third Team (2005), seven-time All-Defensive First Team (2000, 2003, 2004, 2006 – 2009), two-time All-Defensive Second Team (2001, 2002), two-time Scoring Champion (2006, 2007)
While Kobe Bryant turned some heads in the late 1990s and is still a force in the NBA today, it was his accomplishments during the 2000s decade that defined his career.
Bryant’s ability to play both ends of the floor in dominant fashion earned him the reputation of being the best all-around player for several years. Combined with his winning, leadership and clutch abilities, Kobe Bryant has emerged as one of the top-five players of all-time.
The list of accomplishments by Bryant in the decade is quite long, but a few that stand out are his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors and outscoring the Finals-bound Dallas Mavericks 62-61 through three quarters.
If Kobe Bryant eclipses Magic Johnson as the greatest Lakers player of all-time, it will be his work during the decade that will help get him there.
Derek Fisher (Starting PG)
Player Stats: 9.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.0 apg
When NBA pundits talk about the worst point guards in the league, Derek Fisher’s name often comes into the conversation. By looking at just the plain stats, they fail to realize the intangibles that Fisher has.
Few players in the NBA are as effective leaders as Fisher is. Besides inspiring his teammates, Fisher does little things that don’t show up in box scores that help get wins, like drawing charges and hitting clutch shots.
In fact, the decade is full of Derek Fisher clutch moments. From the “0.4 second shot” against the Spurs in 2004 to the clutch threes against the Orlando Magic in the 2009 Finals, Fisher has a way of shining when some people tend to doubt him.
Another distinguishing factor for the President of the NBA Players Association, Derek Fisher holds the NBA record for three-point percentage in the NBA Finals. Finally, there are only thirteen players in NBA history that have won more championships.
All of this put together gives Fisher a defining legacy and good enough for a starting spot on the All-Decade team.
Andrew Bynum (Reserve C)
Player Stats: 8.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.5 bpg
During the 2000s decade, Andrew Bynum became the youngest player to ever play in an NBA game.
Drafted straight out of high school, Bynum was seen as a promising big center. Under the tutelage of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bynum developed one of the best packages of offensive moves and footwork of any big man in the NBA today.
Unfortunately, most of his time during the decade had him dealing with serious knee injuries. However, he also displayed flashes of brilliance that led many to consider his potential to be one of the best centers in the NBA.
Lamar Odom (Reserve F)
Player Stats: 14.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 4.0 apg
Lamar Odom has been one of the most versatile players in Lakers history. Able to play all five positions on the floor, Odom has gone from being a second option on the team to a reliable sixth man.
During the decade, Odom helped lead LA to two finals appearances. While having a tough time matched up against Kevin Garnett in the 2008 NBA Finals, Odom redeemed himself with his play against the Orlando Magic in the 2009 Finals.
Over the years, Odom has improved his game while in LA, becoming a better team defender and a better rebounder. Often times he is an “X factor” for the Lakers. When he plays well, that gives LA another All-Star caliber player on the court.
Robert Horry (Reserve F)
Player Stats: 6.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.3 apg
Robert Horry is another player whose stats are not going to impress anyone. However, everyone knows that Horry is one of the game’s greatest winners.
He proved quite valuable to the Lakers in stepping up his game during the playoffs and hitting key three-pointers against teams like the Portland Trailblazers and the Sacramento Kings. He also had a knack for making key defensive plays for the team.
In short, Robert Horry defines a perfect role player in the NBA’s dictionary. While playing with LA, Shaquille O’Neal didn’t care at times to be playing with Horry by his side, often asking for a “thug” at the power forward position.
However, without Horry, O’Neal might have only won one or two rings with the Lakers.
Horace Grant (Reserve PF)
Player Stats: 6.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.5 apg
Horace Grant was traded to the Lakers after the 1999-2000 season when the team figured it needed help against the big power forwards in the Western Conference.
Along with steady leadership, Grant did well against the elite power forwards that season, helping to propel the Lakers to a near-perfect playoff run in 2001. In containing Rasheed Wallace, Chris Webber, and Tim Duncan, Grant’s value was immeasurable for the Lakers’ success.
Grant was the perfect power forward role player, possessing a steady mid-range jumper to go with tough inside defense and rebounding.
After leaving the team for a few seasons, he came back two seasons later in what would ultimately be a failed title run in an injury plagued year. But for those fans who remember his play, Grant will forever be valued in Lakers history.
Glen Rice (Reserve SF)
Player Stats: 15.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 apg
Glen Rice was brought to the Lakers in a trade that shipped off fan-favorite Eddie Jones. As one of the most dominant pure shooters in the game, Rice was meant to provide an extra offensive threat while helping to stretch defenses.
During the playoffs run of 2000, Rice helped the Lakers earn its first championship in 12 years, as he hit several key outside shots.
What keeps him from being a starter on the All-Decade Team is that he struggled fitting into the triangle offense and was not that effective on defense. This became apparent in the playoffs, which was why he was ultimately traded for Horace Grant.
Yet, his short time with the Lakers had enough of an impact to merit his inclusion on this list.
Ron Harper (Reserve G)
Player Stats: 6.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg
Like a few players on this list, Ron Harper’s contributions for the Lakers went beyond his stats. When Phil Jackson first came to coach Los Angeles, he needed a steady veteran to help teach his new players the triangle offense.
Ron Harper was the man who helped Jackson make his LA coaching debut successful.
Along with his leadership, Harper was also a tenacious defender. During the playoffs, he made several key plays including a timely basket that helped seal a win against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals.
While playing just two years for the Lakers, Harper is another player that fans appreciated for his hard work ethic.
Brian Shaw (Reserve G)
Player Stats: 4.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.3 apg
Brian Shaw is the last player that deserves to make the All-Decade Team. With the lowest stats of all of the players on the list, one may think that there are many other players that should take Shaw’s place.
While one could make a good case for a few others, there are a few reasons why Shaw deserves a selection.
First, Brian Shaw and Shaquille O’Neal had an unstoppable move called the “Shaw-Shaq Redemption.” This play started with O’Neal posting up and Shaw handling the ball on the sideline. Then Shaq would spin around the defender and slam home an alley-oop pass from Shaw.
No one executed this play better than Shaw, and with Shaq on this team, someone needs to set Shaq up for this devastating play!
Second, Shaw was a versatile guard who could play both backcourt positions. He was one of the smartest players on the team (no wonder why many think he may be Phil Jackson’s replacement as coach when Jackson retires).
Besides knowing when to make the right plays, Shaw helped spearhead one of the greatest comebacks in LA history as he led the team back from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit against Portland in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals. That right there gives him my vote.