This is the third post in a three-part series we will be running today on the best decade in NBA history. Was it the 1980s? The 1990s? Or the 2000s? Can you make the arguments that one of the earlier decades was even better? Sure. But not likely. Can you make an argument that one of these three was the best ever? Of course. And that’s what we’re doing…
The best decade in basketball doesn’t have to be a single complicated storyline per say. It’s multiple storylines so powerful that they make our eyes glued to the television screens, and on an even smaller scale, it’s the smaller pieces, the players who can be given credit. Their talents, after all, would clash on a nightly basis. Simple enough.
We measure a big-picture kind of greatness not by a piece and not by a few pieces, but as conglomerates of all the big-picture encompasses. And when we take a glance at the best players, the cream of the crop of the 2000s, what makes it the greatest decade of the NBA could quite possibly be measured in the players who weren’t in the cream of the crop.
In ranking the best decades, we considered the top 12 players in each of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. For the 2000s, we didn’t even have space to include Chris Webber, Vince Carter, Ray Allen and Chris Paul. I’m sure steam might be coming out of your ears now, but bear with me. The depth of the 2000s is exactly what makes it so amazing for a fan perspective and so gripping on any given night. All of the above names are easily and arguably Top-12 players during this era. At the same time, the league showed that star power doesn’t mean winning.
Lakers and Spurs – those two teams dominated the 2000s and also most of our 12-man decade team. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan won multiple titles. Going down the list, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett won single championships. LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki and Allen Iverson all made NBA Finals. The only anomalies on the list are Steve Nash, who never could reach the NBA Finals, and Tracy McGrady, who got a lot of flack for failing to even get out of the first round.
What does this all mean? Teams with great players win titles, but in a decade dominated by a few superpowers led by superstars, a great many struggled to even reach the Finals. And these guys we’re talking about are potential Hall of Famers. Just think about this: How many of these guys could be worthy of knocking some of the original 50 Greatest Players out of the Top 50?
Kobe, Shaq, LeBron and Duncan are shoo-ins with Iverson, Nash, Nowitzki, Wade and Kidd holding arguable places among the league’s greatest ever. Why does this make it the greatest decade of all-time? Because for every great performance that took teams over the top, there were equally great performances on the losing side.
Some would say Nash has yet to reach the Finals because of flukes like Joe Johnson‘s broken orbital bone in 2005 in the Western Conference Finals, then because of Amar’e Stoudemire‘s knee and eye injuries. Jason Kidd was stopped in the Finals by Kobe and Shaq, then Duncan in two consecutive years. Tracy McGrady could never go deep in the playoffs because of guys like Nowitzki knocking him out, and Yao Ming‘s injuries didn’t help his cause. Even LeBron was shot down by Duncan in the Finals during a 2007 Spurs sweep. He again lost to Pierce and Garnett in the 2008 playoffs.
Of course, we know what’s happened in the new decade. Nowitzki finally won his title. Wade and LeBron are likely to win at least one in the next few years. But the 2000s was the prerequisite for all three of those superstars to succeed. That’s how dramatic it was, and we’re not even considering the blossoming of guys like Kevin Durant or Dwight Howard, because though they were dominant figures in the league from the onset of their careers, they weren’t even on the second-tier of best players by 2009.
The conglomerate of players was deadly talented, but even some guys who will land in the Naismith Hall Of Fame couldn’t win in a dog-eat-dog world. And that’s what made the 2000s so great.
Best Player: Kobe Bryant
Best Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Best Song/Artist/Band: “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley/Eminem/U2
Best Movie: Lord of the Ring series
Best TV Show/Cartoon: The Sopranos/South Park
Best MTV Show: True Life
Best News Story: Usain Bolt’s burst onto the scene in the 2008 Olympics
Best/Funniest Coach: Gregg Popovich (for both)
Was this the best decade of NBA basketball?
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @offensivelyfoul.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.