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.
I think the long time fan’s instinct is to jump on the bandwagon with the studio analysts and scoff at the fans who overwhelmingly voted in Bryant and James. Of course voters in these types of polls tend to be young, and their memories may be a little fuzzy before 2005. To me though, there is a very distinct cut off in 2005 anyway. That’s the year Shaq left the Lakers and LeBron James and entered the league. The Spurs, who lost David Robinson the previous year, had Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker step up as the championship core with Tim Duncan. Steve Nash left the Mavs and won back to back MVPs in Phoenix.
I’d like to break the decade in half and pick All-Half-Decade teams for 2000-04 and 2005-09. I think that would be more telling of the dominance of the players at the time. Shaquille was pretty clearly the best player from 2000-04, but I don’t think he was top 5 (maybe not top 10) for the rest of the decade. Lebron was IMO the best of 2005-09, but he didn’t even join the league until 2005. There were two significant rule changes enacted in 2004 that altered the power of the league, one allowing zone defense with the exception that no defender could occupy the paint for more than 3 seconds and one disallowing any perimeter contact on a dribbler facing the basket.
I’m not going to use specific stats or metric measurements to make these picks. These are subjective, but I’ll explain them.
PG – Jason Kidd: Best player on 2 Nets teams that made the Finals.
SG – Kobe Bryant: Terrific team play as the second best player on 3 champs.
SF – Kevin Garnett: Reg season MVP, Crazy great stats on a very weak team (he was a 3 until they tradEd Smith).
PF – Tim Duncan: 2 Finals MVPS, 2 reg season MVPs (he was 4 as long as Robinson and Rasho played).
C – Shaquille O’Neal: 3 Finals MVPS, 1 reg season MVP, incredible stats
PG – Gary Payton: Great numbers, great defense
SG – Allen Iverson: MVP, scoring titles, best player on a finals team
SF – Tracy McGrady: Great stats particularly in 2003
PF – Dirk Nowitzki: Great numbers and playoff success (Webber has an argument)
C – Ben Wallace: Weak position for this time period (Zo has an argument)
PG – Steve Nash: 2 MVPS, made the Suns relevant again, tremendous shooting and passing numbers
SG – Kobe Bryant: Finals MVP, Reg Season MVP, 81 point game, great overall numbers
SF – LeBron James: MVP, scoring title, best player on a finals team
PF – Kevin Garnett: DPoY, best player on a champion, great overall stats
C – Tim Duncan: Finals MVP, best player on 2 champions, great defender / leader
PG – Chauncey Billups: Best player on a finals team, made conference finals every year
SG – Dwyane Wade: Finals MVP, great overall stats
SF – Paul Pierce: Finals MVP, consistently strong overall stats
PF – Dirk Nowitzki: Reg Season MVP, tremendous efficiency and scoring
C – Dwight Howard: DPoY, Dunk contest winner, great rebounding and shot block stats