The New Breed: the Best NBA Players of the 2000s

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When looking back at the National Basketball Association in the 2000s it is impossible not to think of the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant drama. It was the NBA’s (and ESPN’s) version of reality television. Before “I Love New York” or “Jersey Shore” were ruining the whole concept of television shows (simultaneously lowering average American IQs), Shaq and Kobe were creating drama was that must-see TV for all sports fans. It was truly transcendent watching two athletes in their primes that had so much animosity towards each other off of the court yet had so much chemistry on the court. Together they won four championships in Los Angeles creating a dynasty that the rest of the NBA envied.
The 2000s were dominated by the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs somehow quietly won three championships in the decade. Tim Duncan (or “Mr. Fundamentals” as Shaq referred to him) led the Spurs and they always kept it classy when they won. Not here in L.A., we had huge parades that led to riots.

Los Angeles parades were littered with imbeciles that knew little about the game but a lot about Shaq and Kobe. Those same simpletons lit stuff on fire and partied like porn stars which unfortunately gave Lakers fans a bad image. What a travesty! Word is that those guys will make bail for the next Lakers Championship.
The 2000s bred a whole new batch of new NBA superstars. While the NBA was dominated by the Lakers and Spurs there was an infusion of incredible talent that was distributed evenly all over the NBA. These are the Top 5 Players of the 2000s:

5 Allen Iverson

Image Credit: Wikipedia

“AI”! Iverson stood at only 6’1 and weighed 165 but nobody had a bigger heart. Not only was it impossible to guard Iverson (one on one or five on one), buthe was likely to embarrass any defender who attempted to stop him. His is arguably the quickest player to ever lace up Reebok’s. And his leaping ability was amazing! “AI” has countless highlights of debilitating cross-over dribbles that lose defenders. Every time you watched “AI” play you were bound to get a good laugh out of a defender’s attempt to stay in front of him. Then there is that infamous cross-over of a past-his-prime Michael Jordan! Sad but true. Iverson averaged 28 points, six assists, two steals and shot 42% from the field. He was the 2001 NBA MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star, three-time NBA Scoring Champion, three-time NBA Steals Leader and two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP. What was truly remarkable about “AI” was that he carried his teams all by himself, he had no help. The only reason he is not higher on this list is because he failed to win a championship. And that is not his fault, he was not surrounded by the talent that it took to accomplish that feat. He did get to the NBA Finals in 2001 where he lost to the Lakers. And he singlehandedly carried his team there. The NBA will likely never see another talent like “AI”.

4 Kevin Garnett

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“KG”! Garnett was the first player drafted straight out of high school that had immediate success. He stood at 6’11, 220 lbs. and has tremendous leaping ability. Nobody could get as high as a prime Garnett. He was a highlight waiting to happen every time he stepped onto the floor. He also had an intensity and competitiveness that was truly admirable. In the decade Garnett averaged 21 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and shot 50%. Garnett won the NBA Championship in 2008, 2004 NBA MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star, 2003 NBA All-Star Game MVP and four-time NBA Rebounding Champion.

3 Shaquille O’Neal

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The only reason O’Neal is not number two on this list is because his production began to tail significantly towards the latter part of the decade. After the Lakers traded O’Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004his game started a gradual decline. Injuries began to catch up to him and the Lakers organization was forced to choose between O’Neal and Bryant. It was a tough decision at the time that in hindsight does not look so difficult. O’Neal averaged 23 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and shot 58% in the decade. He was a four-time NBA Champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, 2000 NBA MVP, nine-time NBA All-Star, three-time NBA All-Star Game MVP and 2000 NBA Scoring Champion. O’Neal is arguably the most physically dominating player that the game has ever seen. Along with his colossal 7’1, 325 lb. frame was a personality that was even bigger than that. A true champion on and off of the court.

2 Tim Duncan

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Mr. Fundamentals dominated with a finesse game that was second to none. His post game and footwork were fundamentally sound and his bank shot is still the best known to man. Despite standing at 6’11 and weighing 255 lbs. Duncan is not considered a physical player who overpowers defenders. But he lacks a true weakness and rarely ever takes a bad shot. Duncan averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and shot 50% in the decade. He was a three-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time NBA MVP and 10-time NBA All-Star.

1 Kobe Bryant

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Big things were expected from this once in a lifetime talent from the moment he was drafted with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft straight out of Lower Marion High School (drafted by the New Orleans Hornets and traded to the Lakers for the flopping Vlade Divac; not this deal was not done with a gun and a ski-mask). Kobe averaged 28 points, six rebounds and five assists while shooting 45% in the 2000s. He was a four-time NBA Champion, 2009 NBA Finals MVP, 2008 NBA MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star, three-time NBA All-Star Game MVP and two-time NBA Scoring Champion. Those accolades put Bryant at a level few have others ever achieved.

This new breed of NBA superstars was just the beginning. They are now super-athletes and not just basketball players. This list is easily the most diverse of them all. You have Bryant who can literally do it all, Duncan a big guy with finesse game, O’Neal, a big guy with a physical game, Garnett a big guy who can fly and Iverson a little guy with amazing quickness. These are the Top 5 Players of the 2000s. Wouldn’t you agree?

Rolando Rodriguez is a California State University alumni. He is currently a freelance writer for the Daily Breeze where he covers local high school sports. Mr.Rodriguez is an avid sports fan who closely follows MLB, NBA, NFL, MMA and boxing.

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