By ZACH TROMBLY
After a lot of hard thinking and the debating of different players that have played in this historic decade, I have finally assembled the ultimate top ten players from the 2000’s.
10. Jason Kidd: Phoenix Suns (2000-2001), New Jersey Nets (2001-2008), Dallas Mavericks (2008-2009)
Not known for his scoring prowess, Jason, without a shadow of a doubt, has solidified himself as one of the top passers of all time.
In the 2000’s, Jason led the league in assists per game four times, more then any player this decade. Jason is also currently second on the all time list in assists; only trailing John Stockton by about 5,000 assists.
Jason is the only player in NBA history to record at least 15,000 points, 7,000 rebounds, and 10,000 assists. He was elected an All-Defensive Selection eight times, and was voted to the NBA All-Star Game seven times this decade.
The face of the New Jersey Nets franchise for so long, Jason holds the Nets franchise records in career assists, career 3-pointers, career steals, and career triple-doubles. Jason led the Nets to their only two NBA Final appearances, where they fell short in both to the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs.
Even without a championship ring, Jason has already easily reserved his spot in Springfield at the Basketball Hall of Fame.
9. Dirk Nowitzki: Dallas Mavericks (2000-2009)
Easily the best player to ever come out of a foreign country, Dirk has turned basketball into a global phenomenon in his native country, Germany.
Arguably the best pure scorer of the decade, Dirk Nowitzki has impressed us with both his dynamic post moves and his silky smooth jump shot. Nowitzki is one of those rare players that can hurt you from both inside the paint, and behind the arc.
Like Jason Kidd, Dirk has also been the franchise player of the Dallas Mavericks for the last ten years, leading the Mavericks in scoring each of the last ten years, hitting a peak off 26.6 points per game in the 2005-2006 season. That same year, Nowitzki led the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals to take on the Miami Heat.
Going into the playoffs, Dallas was the four seed in the Western Conference and was considered a major underdog to the Miami Heat, who were the two seed in the Eastern Conference. In a series that showed a lack of support for Nowitzki from his teammates, the Mavs fell short, losing to the Heat in six games.
The following year, Dirk was hungry for redemption, leading the Mavericks to the best record in the NBA, and capturing his first Most Valuable Player Award. Unfortunately for Dirk, the Mavericks were upset in the first round by the Golden State Warriors in what is considered one of the biggest NBA playoff upsets ever.
Dirk’s other accomplishments this decade include being an eight time NBA All-Star and winning the FIBA World Championship in 2002, where he was also the MVP of the tournament.
8. Dwyane Wade: Miami Heat (2003-2009)
Dwyane Wade “flashed” onto the scene immediately forgoing his senior year at Marquette University, and was taken fifth overall by the Miami Heat in a strong 2003 draft class.
Wade had a strong rookie campaign, leading the Miami Heat to qualify for the playoffs, but losing in the second round to the top-seeded Indiana Pacers. The following year, the Heat made a trade to get Shaquille O’Neal from the Los Angeles Lakers, in hopes of winning a championship for the Heat. And in just two years, the Miami Heat did just that after defeating the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals in six games, in what was Miami’s first championship.
Dwyane Wade was named the Most Valuable Player of that NBA Finals, in what is argued as one of the best finals performances of all time.
D-Wade is one of the most balanced players of the decade, with his an array of awards. These include an NBA Scoring Championship in 2009, being named to the All Defensive Team twice, and being voted as an NBA All-Star five times from 2005 to 2009, and most likely will be voted in this year as well.
Dwyane Wade is probably best well known for turning what seemed as a failed franchise in the Miami Heat into a contender for the NBA Championship every year, and even leading his team to their first and only NBA Championship in 2006.
Dwyane was arguably the biggest contributor in the United States 2008 run for a Gold Medal on the “Redeem Team”. With the help of several other NBA All-Stars, Dwyane was a big factor in the 2008 Summer Olympics when the United States won a Gold Medal.
7. Kevin Garnett: Minnesota Timberwolves (2000-2007), Boston Celtics (2007-2009)
The most intense player of the last decade, “KG” is known for his agile and emotional style of play.
From 1995 to 2007, Kevin Garnett was easily Minnesota’s biggest sports icon. He was the player who really got the ball rolling in Minnesota with a young team.
Kevin began his legacy in Minnesota, and he is one of the only players in NBA history to be the career leader in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, and games played for one team.
Despite Kevin’s statistical success in Minnesota, it wasn’t until 2007 when he was given his first legitimate chance to win a NBA Championship after being traded to the Boston Celtics to team up Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. In the first year of the trio's existence, they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Kevin is one of the most complete players in NBA history, being named the Most Valuable Player in 2004, joining the All-Star Team and all All-Defensive Team all ten years in this decade, and becoming the Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 with the Celtics.
6. Steve Nash: Dallas Mavericks (2000-2004), Phoenix Suns (2004-2009)
In a country that is known for breeding their hockey players, Steve Nash is one of the only Canadian players currently in the NBA. Early in his career on the Mavericks, he lived in the shadow of franchise player Dirk Nowitzki. The duo of Nowitzki and Nash had mild success as they reached the Western Conference Finals only once. During Nash’s tenure in Dallas, he was named to the All-Star Game twice.
In 2004 Steve opted to become a free agent and ended up being signed by the Phoenix Suns. Steve was the perfect fit for the Suns “10 seconds or less” offensive style, incorporating his great speed and shooting ability in arguably the most dangerous offensive attack in the NBA.
During Nash’s time in Phoenix, he was named to the All-Star game every year besides 2009. He also cashed in on back-to-back Most Valuable Player Awards in 2005 and 2006, becoming one of the only players to win consecutive MVP trophies.
Steve is religiously in the top 5 in 3-point shooting, free-throw percentage, and assists every year. Leading the league in assists three times this decade. Steve Nash is one of the biggest fan favorites of this decade as well as being considered one of the top role models for children with his frequent charity work.
5. Allen Iverson: Philadelphia 76ers (2000-2006, 2009), Denver Nuggets (2006-2008), Detroit Pistons (2008), Memphis Grizzlies (20 09)
One of the most controversial players of the decade in all of sports, Allen Iverson is one of the most outspoken and unpredictable players in the leagues history. “The Answer” is also one of the most electric and exciting players to ever step foot onto the hardwood.
Only standing at six feet tall, Allen used his swiftness and speed to get to the basket and become one of the NBA’s most dangerous scoring threats ever. Allen’s instant offense helped him collect his three scoring titles this decade. Allen is also one of the few players to be voted into the All-Star Game all ten years this decade.
Despite all these statistical accolades, Allen’s biggest success came in the 2001 season where he collected his one and only Most Valuable Player Award, while also leading the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals, where they fell short to the Los Angeles Lakers. In reality, the Lakers were too much for the Sixers, who were solely lead by Iverson.
After Philadelphia, Allen had success in Denver, continuing to dazzle us with his elusive scoring ability and that amazing crossover. Since Denver, Allen’s abilities have really faded out, especially in Detroit and Memphis, where he was upset with the fact that he would have to come off the bench for them if he wanted to make an impact.
4. LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-2009)
LeBron James is easily the most hyped player in NBA history even throughout his High School days, where ESPN would record many of his games throughout his senior season at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.
LeBron has built a one-man dynasty of his own in the city of Cleveland. Many critics questioned the “King James” hype and were cynical of him, thinking he just might become another Kwame Brown or Eddy Curry. The hype was legit though, and LeBron busted out onto the scene in his rookie season, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in one of the best rookie classes of all-time. In LeBron’s sophomore season for the Cavaliers, he made his first All-Star Game, beginning a streak of All-Star Games that has continued up until this year.
Even though LeBron was having individual success as a player, his team was still in a playoff slump; which was put to rest in LeBron’s next season when he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first playoff birth since 1998. The following year, LeBron led the Cavs to the NBA Finals after a Game seven overtime victory against the dynastic Detroit Pistons. In that game seven, LeBron scored the teams last twenty-five points. LeBron’s performance has since been called “Jordan-esque”.
The Cavaliers fell short that year to the San Antonio Spurs, but it was a sign of good things to come for the Cavaliers. Two years later, Lebron won his first ever Most Valuable Player Award, and topped off that year with a Gold Medal at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. LeBron could easily be the player of the decade in the next ten years.
3. Shaquille O’Neal: Los Angeles Lakers (2000-2004), Miami Heat (2004 -2008), Phoenix Suns (2008-2009), Cleveland Cavaliers (2009)
Shaquille O’Neal is the second most charismatic superstar in NBA history behind a man named Michael Jordan.
“Shaq” was already a big name superstar before this decade even began. O’Neal got the decade going with a bang when he was the underlying factor in the Los Angeles Lakers three-peat from 2000 to 2002. During Shaquille’s time as a Laker, he was the most dominant player in the NBA, capping it off with a scoring title in 2000. O’Neal was eventually traded to the Miami heat in 2004 to team up with young star on the rise, Dwyane Wade. Together, they won an NBA Championship; Dwyane’s first, Shaq’s fourth.
This decade, Shaquille has made the All-Star Game every season except in 2008, where he missed it due to injury. Shaq has been named to six All-NBA First Teams and three All-Defensive Teams the last ten years. Shaq is most known for his charisma however, putting himself on the map for something else besides basketball when he stared in movies, recorded rap albums, and even became a police officer.
Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most influential superstars in NBA history and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer by the time he retires.
2. Tim Duncan: San Antonio Spurs (2000-2009)
“The Big Fundamental” is not known for his showmanship and brashness. He is however, one of the best basketball players of all-time.
Tim Duncan is a proven winner, as he has been the face of the successful San Antonio Spurs since his rookie season. During Duncan’s illustrious career in San Antonio, he has made the All-Star Game all ten years this decade, been named to the All-NBA Team all ten times, been named to All-Defensive Team all ten times, not to mention the three championship rings on his fingers.
Tim Duncan makes the game look easy every time he is out there with his dominant post moves, frequently using the glass when he gets the opportunity.
Duncan is the biggest factor in the San Antonio Spurs dynasty, which has risen this decade. The captain of the team has put the Spurs up there as one of the best teams of the decade.
Like Shaquille O’Neal, without question, Duncan is a first ballot Hall of Famer. I do not think there is one player in the league who I have more respect for then Tim Duncan.
1. Kobe Bryant: Los Angeles Lakers (2000-2009)
The best NBA player of the decade without question, Kobe Bryant is a proven winner, love him or hate him.
This decade, Kobe Bryant has been part of four Los Angeles Lakers Championships, and six NBA Finals appearances. Kobe’s accomplishments are endless, but to name a few: he has made the NBA All-Star Game all ten times this decade, made the All-NBA Team all ten times, made the All-Defensive Team nine times, won two scoring championships, holds the record for most points in a game with 81 versus the Toronto Raptors in 2006, is a three time All-Star Game MVP, and in 2008 won his first and only Most Valuable Player Trophy.
Not only would I argue that Kobe Bryant is the best basketball player of the decade, I would also argue that he is one of the best athletes of the decade. If he keeps it up, Kobe Bryant would be in contention with LeBron James as the basketball player of the decade for the next ten years.