The team here at Taylor Teamwear created a poll of the best NBA players since the year 2000, and the results are in. As a maker of custom basketball uniforms for teams around Melbourne & Australia playing in their respective midweek comps, we took an entertainingly nostalgic look at the best professional basketball players over the past decade-and-a-half:
Honourable mention: Jason Kidd
One of the greatest triple-double threats in NBA history, Jason Kidd's ability to pass and rebound, while still contributing in the scoring column, made him one of the most prolific point guards of the past couple of decades. The 10-time All Star led the NBA in assists five different times, for two different teams. His lost of accolades is as rich as any player in NBA history; he was the 1995 Co-Rookie of the year, a five-time All-NBA First Team selection, and named to the All-Defensive First or Second team nine different times.
10 (tie). Tracy McGrady
Tracy McGrady was a magnificently gifted offensive player who would've absolutely thrived in today's pace-and-space NBA. His length, speed, and athleticism for a guy who stood six-foot-eight would have made him a highly coveted "stretch four" that teams employ these days. He and his cousin Vince Carter were almost singlehandedly responsible for bringing the first true league-wide spotlight to the Toronto Raptors. McGrady made seven straight All Star appearances between 2001 and 2007, when he played for the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets, and led the NBA in scoring in 2003 and 2004.
10 (tie). Vince Carter
Between 1999 and 2001, Vince Carter might've been the most electrifying player in the NBA. After bursting on the NBA scene in 1999 and winning the rookie of the year, his popularity truly exploded in his second season. His performance in the 2000 Dunk Contest still might be the greatest ever effort in said contest. Carter was a seven-time All Star between 2000 and 2007, making the All-NBA third team in 2000 and second team in 2001; he averaged over 26 points per game during those two seasons. He and McGrady formed one of the most promising 1-2 punches in the NBA as members of the Toronto Raptors, before McGrady left town via free agency.
9. Steve Nash
In the illustrious history of the NBA, only 11 players in history have won the league MVP award in back-to-back seasons. Steve Nash is one of those 11 players, winning the award in 2005 and 2006 as a member of the famous "seven seconds or less" Phoenix Suns. In those two seasons, Nash averaged over 18 points per game and 10 assists per game (leading the NBA in the latter category both years). Few players in NBA history were able to impact the game offensively, with or without the basketball, the way Nash did. He led the league in assists five different times, and converted 50% of his field goals, 40% of his three point attempts, and 90% of his free throws in four different seasons.
8. Dwyane Wade
If it weren't for Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade might've been the best shooting guard in the NBA since the turn of the century. In fact, there was a time, when the Lakers were struggling in the post-Shaq era, that many thought Wade might actually have been the best scoring guard in the NBA. That theory was amplified by Wade's performance in the 2006 NBA finals, when he averaged over 39 points and eight rebounds per game. Of course, Wade's other major career accomplishment might have been convincing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join forces with him in Miami, helping the Heat win two more NBA titles. As he plays in the twilight of his career with the Chicago Bulls, we'll still remember him as being the 12-time All Star for the Heat.
7. Kevin Garnett
One of the most breathtakingly skilled basketball players of this generation. Standing at 6'11, Kevin Garnett was so good at the game of basketball that he could've played any of the five positions on the basketball court, and been an All Star at that position. His combination of scoring touch, rebounding, defensive prowess, and legendary competitiveness made him one of the very best players in the NBA throughout the 2000's, even while he floundered on numerous underperforming Minnesota Timberwolves teams. Even then, he was named to the All Star team in nine of the 11 seasons he spent in Minnesota, and won the MVP award in 2004 when he averaged 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.5 steals per game for the season.
6. Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki brought such an incredibly special skillset to the NBA that he singlehandedly sparked a massive wave of front offices searching for "the next Dirk Nowitzki." Nowitzki changed the fortunes of the entire Dallas Mavericks franchise, leading them to 15 NBA Playoffs appearances: from 2001 through 2012, and then 2014 through 2016. He was the league MVP in 2007 -- the season after he led the Mavericks to their first NBA Finals appearance -- and finally won a league championship in 2011. He's a 13-time All-Star, a 12-time All-NBA Team member, and the first European player to start in an All-Star Game. The battles in the Western Conference between him, Garnett, and Tim Duncan, were absolutely legendary.
5. Tim Duncan
You could easily make an argument that Tim Duncan could be ranked ahead of any other player on this list. When you look at the big picture, he might be the most decorated NBA player since the turn of the century. Since the year 2000, he's won four NBA championships (and five total), two league MVP awards, two NBA Finals MVP awards (three total), eight first-team All NBA selections (10 total), six NBA All-Defensive First Team selections (eight total), and a gold medal in the 2004 summer Olympics. His 19+ points per game and 10+ rebounds per game were a given between 2000 and 2010. He should go down as the greatest power forward to ever play in the NBA.
4. Allen Iverson
We use the term "pound for pound" when describing the toughest professional fighters in world, but Allen Iverson might have been the toughest pound for pound player in the history of the NBA. The man had a legendary first step to help him blow past defenders, the vision of an NFL running back to attack the rim, and the ability of a circus acrobat to contort his body and get off layup attempts at impossible angles. He was among a select few players where you believed that every game-defining shot would go in. He finished his career as the 1997 rookie of the year, 11 All Star appearances, and six selections to the NBA First or Second team.
3. LeBron James
LeBron James has now fulfilled his destiny as "The Chosen One," having brought an NBA Championship to the tortured sports city of Cleveland. He's tied the legendary Larry Bird with three NBA titles, perhaps cementing his legacy as the greatest small forward of all time. He’s tied Magic Johnson, with three Bill Russell awards: given to the MVP of the NBA Finals. In Game 7 of the 2015-2016 NBA Finals, he had 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds, becoming the first player to record a triple-double in Game 7 of the NBA Finals since James Worthy did it for the Showtime Lakers in 1988.
2. Shaquille O’Neal
With the influx of superstars the NBA has seen since 2003, it's become increasingly easy to forget what a true freak of nature Shaquille O’Neal really was. As the centerpiece of the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty of the early 2000's, he helped the Lakers "three-peat" in 2000, 2001, and 2002; if it weren't for the feuds between him and Kobe Bryant, or his wavering interest in general conditioning, the Lakers could've easily had more. Still, he's one of only three players in the entire history of the NBA to win the league MVP, All-Star game MVP, and NBA Finals MVP in the same year (2000). When his career ended in 2011, he ranked third all-time in field goal percentage (58.2%) fifth in total field goals, seventh all-time in points scored, seventh in blocks, and 13th in rebounds.
1. Kobe Bryant
We've perpetually been in search of "the next Michael Jordan," but in reality, Kobe Bryant might be the closest thing to Jordan that we'll see for quite some time. Their size, shooting ability, defensive intensity, and pathological competitiveness were eerily identical, especially given how much Bryant worked to emulate Jordan (even adopting the turnaround fall-away jump-shot, one of Jordan's signature moves). Like Jordan, Bryant's list of accomplishments in the NBA goes on an on. He's the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points, and the all-time leading scorer in the illustrious history of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was chosen to start every All-Star Game until his retirement, spanning 18 consecutive appearances; his four All-Star MVP Awards are tied for the most in NBA history. He also won two gold medals in the summer Olympics (2008 and 2012).
So, what do you think? Did we rank someone too low for your liking? Is someone too high on this list? We'd love to get your feedback. Give us your thoughts on Facebook.