NBA basketball in the 2000s has its share of detractors because of the style of play, but it deserves appreciation because there was still greatness every single night. The studs who played within the era speak for themselves, from Kobe Bryant to Kevin Garnett to Tim Duncan to LeBron James to a host of others who helped pave the way for the stars of today.
There’s just something about the mystique of this specific decade of basketball. It might not have always been the prettiest basketball, but these guys went to war every night and battled. The 2000s helped many find a passion for basketball after the Michael Jordan dynasty and the lockout closed out the prior decade.
Class of 2020
This decade of basketball was headlined by three of the newest Hall of Fame inductees in Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett. They each led their team to championships within the 2000s, with Kobe’s Los Angeles Lakers winning four (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009), Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs winning three (2003, 2005, 2007), and Garnett’s Boston Celtics winning one (2008).
Kobe captured the world’s attention by showing us his Mamba Mentality every time he laced them up. Duncan showed us just how effective the basics can be. Garnett played with a different type of fire than most big men.
These three legends elevated their teams on both sides of the ball, and it is only right they get inducted into the Hall of Fame together. It’s just so tragic that the late Lakers legend will not be there when it happens.
The Other Stars
There were plenty of other stars scattered throughout the league, including LeBron James, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, and Dirk Nowitzki, just to list off a few MVPs throughout the decade. Nash managed to snag two MVPs, while the other three made NBA Finals appearances.
Then there are Hall of Famers in Shaquille O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, and Jason Kidd. Shaq was a part of the Lakers’ early dominance alongside Bryant. Kidd was one of the best point guards in the league. McGrady was one of the best scorers in the NBA with the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets.
There are a host of other names that could be mentioned here, but for the sake of time, just check out the videos below for a look at more stars who shined within the decade:
Toughness and Defense
Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships. Some of the best defensive forces of all time played within this era, like the trio of Hall of Famers mentioned earlier.
There were plenty of other players and teams that took pride in shutting down the opposition. On a nightly basis, teams did not average 110 plus points a night, with scores even often sitting in the 70s and 80s.
The 2004 Detroit Pistons were the epitome of this. The Pistons used their elite defense to smother opponents en route to a championship. Ben Wallace was the defensive anchor for the team and went on to win four Defensive Player of the Year awards within the decade. The Pistons also held their opponents to 84.3 points in the 2003-04 season, good for second-best in the NBA.
Speaking of those Pistons, the man who instilled that defensive system was a Hall of Fame coach in Larry Brown. His schemes helped everybody on the team flourish, and he was just one of the impressive coaches during this decade.
Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs have been the gold standard in the past few decades. It helps when you have a few Hall of Famers on the squad, but it’s even better when you have one of the greatest coaches of all time to rally the troops and prepare them for the rigors of an NBA season.
Phil Jackson is just another big-time coach from this decade, and most believe Jackson and Pop are contenders for the title of GOAT coach. Being able to handle superstar egos like Shaq and Kobe in the earlier part of the decade is nothing to scoff at, especially when you can help guide them to four NBA Finals appearances together. Phil then returned to the Finals with Kobe several times to close out the decade, winning the 2009 championship in the process (and then winning again in 2010).
Rick Carlisle, George Karl, and Rick Adelman are just a few other notable coaches within the decade.
A Final Appreciation
This decade was truly loaded with a ton of well-rounded players and coaches. Although Bryant, Duncan, and Garnett got to see themselves crowned as champions most of the time, during the season it was not always easy to predict a winner. Seeing the rise of certain players made it that much harder.
Any team Allen Iverson was on posed a threat, whether it was the Philadelphia 76ers or Denver Nuggets. LeBron James took the NBA by storm almost immediately, as did Carmelo Anthony. Draft classes helped struggling teams get gems like Dwight Howard for the Orlando Magic and Chris Paul for the New Orleans Hornets.
Superteams weren’t really an official thing up until KG went to Boston to team up with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo for his first and only ring. It was a great era of balanced basketball, with stars scattered around the league putting on a show every night.
Even with its flaws, it’s hard not to love this decade of NBA basketball. It deserves a bigger spotlight.