As New Year’s Eve is approaching us, the decade is coming to a close. The NBA has seen a decade that has witnessed many up and downs including various events and various players, from the malice at the palace to the complete 360 society has made towards Kobe Bryant going from infidel to the current number one selling jersey. The NBA has seen its own share of controversy and greatness. However, some questions need to be answered. Here’s my take on the best of the decade in the NBA.
Who was the player of the decade?
The player of the decade was personally the toughest award to decide. It came down to three players: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Shaquille O’Neal. Prior to this year I would give the award to Tim Duncan hands down. He has two MVPs to Kobe’s one and three finals MVPs to Kobe’s one. However, Kobe has shortened the gap by winning the title as the top dog, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to their first title in seven years. However. Tim Duncan is the player of the decade.
As for Shaq, he has now left four teams all on bad terms and while Shaq has been the most dominant post presence of the decade he has been on the downside of his career for the past three years.
Duncan’s stats in terms of scoring pale in comparison to Kobe’s. However, Duncan has been the unquestioned leader and top dog every year on every Spurs team since he has been in the league. He has never missed the playoffs since he was drafted; he showed up in big games, most memorably the 2003 NBA finals performance where he averaged an astounding 24 points, 17 boards, 5 blocks and 5 assists. Duncan has made 12 all defensive teams and made 11 all star teams. Duncan has also led teams with different supporting casts and has been the model for consistency in the NBA.
However, the media has neglected Tim Duncan due his quite personality and glorified Shaq and Kobe which I’m sure will lead to may disagreements due to the fact that Tim Duncan has not gotten the attention that Shaq and Kobe have gotten.
Who is the franchise of the decade?
This was another close call that came down to the Lakers and the Spurs again. However, this time I will give the edge to the Lakers. Although the Spurs have been the more consistent team, the Lakers have beaten them four out of five times this decade. The Lakers won their fourth title this decade which was their first since the Shaq departure.
The Lakers have four titles this decade, including six finals appearances. The Lakers also had the more dominant teams, including an unprecedented three peat, the only one of the decade. The Lakers had the best duo of the decade with Shaq and Kobe, two all time greats.
When I think of the Spurs, I think of consistency. However, the Lakers, although less consistent, were more dominant. Even without Shaq, they recovered from the Shaq trade and did it with a new squad of Kobe, Gasol, Odom, Ariza, Fisher, and Bynum, ending the decade with is a squad that can be dominant for a few more seasons into the next decade. It was tough to go against the consistency and excellence of the Spurs. However, the Lakers did beat them four out of five times this decade, and had more dominant teams.
Which is the team of the decade?
The 2000-01 Lakers were the definition of dominant, although their regular season record wasn’t the best as they won 56 games, 10 less than the 07-08 Celtics, nine less than the 08-09 Lakers, and 11 less than the 99-00 Lakers. But the Shaq-Kobe combo cruised through the finals without losing one game and was an Allen Iverson 48 point explosion away from an unprecedented 16-0 postseason.
The 2000-01 Lakers swept through a 50 win Portland team, a 55 win Kings team, and a 58 win Spurs team to beat the Allen Iverson led Sixers in 5 games. The Lakers had built the perfect nucleus of two of the game’s biggest stars in Shaq and Kobe to go with a group of older role players like Rick Fox, Ron Harper, Robert Horry, Brian Shaw, and Horace Grant. You could make the argument for many other teams due to regular season wins but a primed Shaq and a primed Kobe is almost unbeatable.
Who is the GM of the decade?
The GM of the decade, like many of these, can be argued and although he may be ending the decade on a bad note I would go with Joe Dumars. Dumars is infamous for picking Darko over Carmelo, and breaking up the great Pistons teams by trading Billups for Iverson in a move that was really a salary dump to give the Pistons some cap space for a run at some free agents which turned out to be Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
But Dumars made some great moves over the decade, going back to what started the great Pistons teams. Dumars assembled a great group of players by making some trades, going back all the way to 2000 in which Dumars made a trade that at the time seemed one sided by trading a primed Grant Hill for Chucky Atkins and more notably Ben Wallace. The trade allowed Hill to sign a huge contract with the Orlando Magic who seemed to be one of the teams that would challenge in the east.
Wallace, at the time, was an undrafted player who was an unknown. However, Wallace proved to be one of the best defensive players of the decade as he made the all defensive team six times, four NBA all star teams despite never averaging double digit points per game, three times all NBA second team, Wallace made third team twice, but most importantly four times as the NBA defensive player of the year.
In 2002, Dumars made another smart move by trading Jerry Stackhouse, who was the team’s leading scorer, for Richard Hamilton who at the time was known as a skinny player who couldn’t really stay healthy. Since then Hamilton has become one of the most productive shooting guards in the league, and perfected movement without the ball. Hamilton was key piece in the Pistons championship run.
However, you could make the argument that Dumars’ biggest move was in 2002 when Chauncey Billups signed with the Pistons for the midlevel exception to be their starting point guard. This was despite having the reputation for being a journey man who didn’t know how to properly play the point guard position, being more of a shoot first guy in a point guard’s body.
Billups quickly changed that as he became known more for his great defense and clutch shooting. He was the emotional leader of the great Pistons teams and may have been the best player on the team as he won the finals MVP in 2004 when the Pistons shocked the world and beat the Lakers.
But even with Billups, Hamilton, Ben Wallace, and drafting Tayshaun Prince, there was still something missing. That is when Dumars brought in the final piece: Rasheed Wallace. Wallace provided some big game experience as he had played in some big games with Portland. He provided a shot blocking presence to go along with Ben Wallace, and he was a versatile four who spread the floor with his ability to shoot the three pointer.
Joe Dumars may be ending this decade on a bad note, but these Pistons are far from the finished product he envisions, as we can expect that Dumars will attempt to build another championship team. Dumars built something special, he built a championship team without having one true star like the other teams. The Pistons of this decade made it to the eastern conference finals an unprecedented six straight times.
Who is the coach of the decade?
Although you could make the argument for Gregg Popovich, I have to give it to Phil Jackson. Four titles, six finals appearances, and much more turmoil. Jackson started the decade as a champion and ended the decade as a champion.
Which is the best individual performance?
I would go with LeBron James’s incredible performance against Detroit in game five of the 2007 eastern conference finals. James scored 25 straight points including 29 of the Cavs last 30. The Cavs prevailed in double overtime in which may have been one of the greatest games of all time. Kobe Bryant’s 81 points on the Raptors was incredible and may never be done again, but it was a regular season game not game five of the eastern conference finals.
Which is the playoff series of the decade?
The Kings-Lakers series in 2002 is unforgettable. There was much drama and much controversy due to the advantage the Lakers had in free throw attempts, especially in game six, in which the Lakers shot 27 4th quarter free throws. The series all culminated in game seven, where the game featured 19 lead changes and 16 ties. The Lakers won the series in overtime and were the eventual champs.
While the decade is over, the next decade should be just as good if not better. With Dwayne Wade and LeBron James playing in the midst of their primes, Dwight Howard, Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant getting better by the dribble, and guys like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash and Paul Pierce still playing at a high level the next decade should be great.