Best of the ’00s


I’m reading a lot of lists of the best NBA-related things from the first decade of the 2000s. ESPN has their list. The Painted Area has a team of the 2000s. is counting down the best plays, the best games, the best playoff series, the best dressed wives that have been hit on by Karl Malone in a giant cowboy hat. It’s been a fantastic decade!

I’ve been making a lot of lists of my own, going back to 1980 and looking at the best players by year, in increments of 3 years and 5 years, so I have the tools to check out one little 10 year period. I did some basic research into a decade’s worth of regular season and playoff stats. I used my classic PER + Win Share per 82 Games for the regular season rankings. I did the same for the playoffs but added extra points for making the finals (+1 win or lose), making multiple finals (+2), winning finals MVP (+2), and winning multiple finals MVPs (+3). Rationale? Winning the finals is the point, and being the MVP is (usually) a decent indication that a player is lifting most of the load for his team.

Quick recap of the decade. Laker, Lakers, Lakers (Shaq crushes all opposition when healthy), Spurs (Duncan has his finest playoffs), Pistons (Kobe and Shaq disintegrate before our eyes), Spurs (Horry saves another series), Heat (Wade has best PER for a Finals series), Spurs (LeBron can’t make a jumper. Tony Parker can), Celtics (Ubuntu!), Lakers (Kobe Bryant graduates to Finals MVP).

Now when I look at that and let my mind drift back here’s what I see:

We are the greatest! We are going to win a half a dozen of these things!

But really that’s not the right call for the whole decade. Check out the numbers:

Regular Season


Look at them a little closer than that. Yeah. It’s like that. Groundhog Day. Tim Duncan. The Big Fundamental. I figured it would be Tim before I started looking, but I thought the production drop off might have been too big. I figured I’d be building an argument around decision-making and defense (I will too), but he doesn’t really need it. I mean Kobe keeps getting slower, losing range on his jumper, elevating a little lower, and becoming a better basketball player. He’s incredible. But he’s never been that efficient. And of course there’s Shaq, who completely owned the first 3 playoffs of the decade, put up one of the best seasons ever in 2000, made the finals 5 times, and won 4 titles with 3 Finals MVPs. But O’Neal really did suffer a pretty drastic drop off in production in the second half of the decade, mostly due to health.

Then of course there’s the new breed. King Bron and Chris Paul have the best regular season averages, but of course they haven’t had any time for their skills to deteriorate yet and haven’t been around that long. Chris Paul hasn’t even played half the decade. LeBron has, and he made an NBA Finals as the best player on his team along with several incredible playoff series. But Timmy’s got 4 seasons on him and beat him head to head in a Finals. Garnett might have an even better argument than LeBron. His regular season stats are impeccable, and he brought the defensive intensity and accountability to Beantown with him. Title time!

The best player from 2000-09 and an Olympic bronze medalist!

Tim Duncan’s got the stats. He’s top five in the regular season and number two in the playoffs (#1 with his multiple MVP extra points). He’s legit on pure production and accomplishments, but just in case that’s not good enough, he’s also the best defender of the decade (pure opinion), possibly the best leader of the decade, and one of the top 2 or 3 decision-makers of the decade. Tim Duncan has that Larry Bird-esque understanding of when to pass to whom and when to look for his own offense. He’s got great range and versatility in his game but is disciplined enough to fight for position on the block and get the Spurs the tough post points they needed without demanding touches or getting in the way of his creative perimeter teammates.

Longevity. Consistency. Leadership. Sacrifice. Playoff dominance. That’s what makes a decade’s best player. In the words of Matt and Trey, “TIIIMMMMYY!”


5 Responses to “Best of the ’00s”

  1. pmadavi Says:

    Great stuff, J. I used to think it was kind of a toss up between Timmy and Shaqtus. That was until last night, when I read the second chapter of The Book of Basketball. Simmons talks about The Secret. He effectively swayed me with his argument. Shaq and Kobe could be sitting around with a Russellesque pile of rings. In fact, they should be. But neither could sublimate their own ego for team. Duncan never worried about getting the assist, just make the right pass. He didn’t worry about his scoring average, just getting a bucket when his team needed it. He played team defense like fat guys attacking fettuccine alfredo. Even now, he is leading a team consisting of a broken down Tim Duncan, a broken down Tony Parker, and a broken down Manu Ginobli into the playoffs in the tough, tough West. Kobe seems to get The Secret now. And I don’t buy Simmons argument that Kobe understands The Secret and uses it, but does not embrace or embody it. I believe Kobe’s conversion is legit. Still, too little to late to call him the best of 00s. Definitely TD. All the way.

  2. Hi Above Courtside Says:

    Whenever you mention the 00 to me all I can think of is the Chief, Robert Parish. I think, in his prime, he could have given Tim and Shaq a good game.

    I can only dream how Celtic history would have changed if they could have had Duncan.

    Let’s give honorable mention to Steve Nash ( 2 mvp) and KG

  3. Jake Jump higher Says:

    If Kobe and Shaq stayed together, they could have won more than 3 championships … too bad it didn’t happen. Timmy has always been a very consistent player, not very fancy but he gets the job done.

    00 also reminds me of Iverson with Philli, he and his team was great too.

  4. All 2000s Teams « Double Dribble Says:

    […] All 2000s Teams By jpalumbo After the All-Star Game (please tune into our All-Star game wrap-up podcast for results and reactions), the TNT studio crew unveiled the winner of their fan vote for the player of the decade 2000-09. The winner in a blow-out: Kobe Bryant. Not a shock since Kobe is so popular. Second place? LeBron James. Okay now we’re a little off as James did not play in the first 5 years of the decade. The studio team universally disagreed with the fans’ choice. Out of a pool of candidates of Kobe, LeBron, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Steve Nash, the TNT crew gave 4 votes for Shaq and one vote for Duncan (Ernie Johnson). You may remember Double Dribble chose Tim Duncan in this post. […]

  5. It Only Gets More Fundamental « Double Dribble Says:

    […] at this point in their career, Duncan’s current output is truly amazing.  It appears that the best player of the previous decade has plenty left to show us in this new one. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

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