Since 2000, the NBA has been jampacked with superstars in the post-Michael Jordan era. Here are the 15 greatest NBA players from 2000-2018:
15. Paul Pierce
In the 2008 Finals, it was Paul Pierce who was truly responsible for defeating Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Pierce does not make this list due to stats or achievements, it was what he did when the lights shined the brightest. Pierce is without question one of the most clutch players of the past 18 years. In addition, he was a savvy defender that became the annoyance for both Kobe and LeBron.
14. Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd led the Nets to the Finals twice and did so by displaying excellence in a variety of ways. We all understand Kidd’s basketball vision but he remains the best rebounder to ever play a position that is not supposed to be good at rebounding. Kidd finished his career as a legitimate 3-point shooting weapon. That topped off a career with 12,091 assists, second only to John Stockton.
13. Russell Westbrook
Love him or hate him, Russell Westbrook does it all. Literally. Westbrook has averaged a triple-double in a season twice, do not forget that. Westbrook is some combination of Kobe, LeBron, and A.I. Of course, that comes with concerns, but in the process, Westbrook has inserted himself with LeBron in the discussion of the greatest mixture of a scorer, passer, and rebounder.
12. Steve Nash
Steve Nash was the quintessential point guard and was Steph Curry before Steph Curry. Nash did not make his teammates better, he made them significantly better. Along with being one of the games greatest passers, Nash was a deadly shooter with nearly a 43 percent 3-point shooting percentage. While it caused plenty of arguments, Nash did win the league MVP award twice.
11. James Harden
In the past 18 years, there has not been a better combination of scoring and ball-handling than James Harden. Harden runs the show like Chris Paul and takes over games like Dwyane Wade. Harden has led the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals twice, and make no mistake about it, there is a reason the Thunder never returned to the Finals with Durant and Westbrook after Harden was traded. As a Rocket (primary focus), Harden has averaged 27.9 ppg, which would be third best all-time.
10. Chris Paul
Chris Paul’s legacy is going to be diminished if he cannot win a title to top it off. That moment would have taken place, however, if he did not go down last season to injury in Western Conference Finals. The Rockers were in a position to finish off a dream season due to Paul’s addition. Paul has been the heart and soul of three different franchises now. CP3’s impact on a team is truly astonishing. Chris Paul’s career PER is sixth all-time.
9. Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett would have been Bill Russell in Russell’s era. Garnett’s impact on the defensive end is not matched and is not going to be matched. Garnett’s leadership on the court was parallel to Ray Lewis’s on the field. Every successful team needs a KG-type, but they are not going to get one as great as KG was.
8. Dirk Nowitzki
A seven-footer who can shoot like that has become normal, but it was not normal until the world met Dirk. While his prime never got the recognition as the others of his time, it stacked up well. Finally winning a championship in 2011 did wonders for Dirk’s legacy, with the Mavericks defeating Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James along the way. With his career coming to an end – we think – everyone will be searching for the next Dirk Nowitzki.
7. Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade won a championship virtually by himself. What he did in the 2006 postseason remains as impressive as anything before it, or after it. LeBron gets all the credit, but Wade’s influence on him, teaching him how to win, is a story that needs its own chapter. Injuries robbed the world of witnessing what Wade could have been and was about to become.
6. Shaquille O’Neal
At his peak, Shaq was the most unstoppable force of a basketball player there ever was. There was not a player, duo, or team equipped to handle the three-time Finals MVP. Unfortunately, he did not take care of himself enough to extend his career into challenging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for center supremacy. He could have, yes.
5. Steph Curry
Nobody would have believed you if you said coming out of Davidson that Steph Curry would be one of the five best players since 2000. It is not just the three championships, the two MVPs, or becoming the first-ever unanimous MVP, it is that his three-point game looks like it was created in a lab in Westworld. Curry’s marksmanship has become so dominant, so unguardable he is now in the same conversation as the greatest basketball players of all-time.
4. Tim Duncan
Yawn. The most boring, uninteresting superstar in NBA history spent 19 seasons ending any power forward debate amongst logical people. Tim Duncan played a large part in all five of the Spurs championships and was the primary reason they won three of them. Even late in his career, Duncan willed the Spurs late in multiple big games to victory. Duncan’s excellence on both ends resulted in the Spurs being at or near the top of the NBA’s pantheon year after year.
3. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant was one of the most lethal players the game has ever seen early in his career, and has now transitioned into one of the best players the game has ever seen. Durant has outplayed LeBron for two straight NBA Finals and has begun to narrow the gap. Kobe gets the edge based on longevity and accomplishments, but Durant right now is a better scorer, is longer, more efficient, and a better teammate. The now two-time NBA Champion – and Finals MVP – will finish off the decade as the best player in the NBA.
2. Kobe Bryant
The NBA’s new admiration for numbers and efficiency has not been kind to Kobe Bryant, yet there have not been two players better in the last 18 years. Winning five championships, spending several years as the best player in the NBA, Kobe gave those who did not see Michael Jordan a genuine replicant. Kobe outworked those around him and answered any questions that surrounded him in his last two championship victories. Kobe proved: mentality > talent.
1. LeBron James
Was there ever a doubt? LeBron James over the past 15 seasons has made a legitimate case that he is the greatest player of all-time. LeBron has made the Finals every single season from 2010-2018 and has been far and away the best player in the game since that time. The combination of size, strength, and athleticism is nothing short of ridiculous. There has never been a player that does this many things so well. Never forget, it took Durant joining a 73-win to beat him. There is nobody on this list that compares to LeBron.
From the time the sport was created, only one player does.