NBA Top Ten Players of the last decade and why from GiveMeSport

Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana Pacers

GiveMeSport has spent the past few weeks carefully dissecting the NBA players of the decade to bring you their top 10 list of All-Stars, MVP's and Championship collectors.

1. LeBron James

Here at GiveMeSport, we have racked our brains trying to put together out Top 10 NBA players of the decade and there was just no perspective we could channel that would knock the King off his throne. LeBron James wished in 2010 along with his 25th birthday and, turning 35 yesterday, there is simply an endless list of reasons why he is deserving of the top spot. 

Putting the past ten years into context, the NFL’s Tom Brady won three Super Bowls, US swimmer Michael Phelps won nine Olympic gold medals and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won six, Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi won the Champions League twice, was a six-time La Liga champion and a five-time Ballon d'Or recipient. But despite this mountain of medals, nobody has revolutionised the world of sport and basketball like James.

The six-foot-eight powerhouse crashed into 2010 on a mission of destruction and domination, initially signing with the Miami Heat (2010-14), then moving to the Cleveland Cavaliers (2014-18) and settling at the LA Lakers in 2018. James has been credited with leading the era of superteams that have taken the league by storm. 

King James has reached eight consecutive Finals, three of which he scooped the Championship trophy, but the 2016 win over Golden State will forever remain in the hearts of Cavs fans who experienced their first victory.

Player of the decade is not a term we like to use lightly but it has been thrown around so much recently by all manner of media outlets and NBA experts that it simply rolls off the tongue when combined with James. If the playoff titles aren’t enough to sway your decision, then perhaps being named both regular-season MVP and Finals MVP three times might attest to his ability to lead a roster like no other. 

Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana Pacers

In our opinion, there is simply no argument, LeBron James is hands down the most skilled, versatile and capable player the NBA has seen this decade and probably ever will see.

2. Dirk Nowitzki

The competition was tough for the second and third spaces in our Top 10 with the collision course of Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade stretching back almost two decades. Wade’s Miami Heat nudged past Dirk’s Dallas Mavericks in 2006 to win their first Championship in franchise history, with Wade also being crowned Finals MVP.

Despite Wade’s domination, the fact that Dirk wasn’t able to win a ring that time shouldn’t take away from the incredible individual success he began to achieve.

The Mavericks put on one hell of a show in 2011 with a second chance at the play-offs, coasting through the Western Conference and toppling the Blazers, sweeping two-time defending champs, the LA Lakers, under the rug, and burying Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant with the Thunder in just five games. Nowitzki wrapped up the game one of the Western Conference with 48 points, one of the best games of his career, and a 24 consecutive free throw record. 

Dallas Mavericks  v San Antonio Spurs

The highly anticipated matchup with Wade’s Heat only served to accentuate Nowitzki’s individual strength after he stole games two and four. Dallas would go on to steal the next two fixtures and Nowitzki finally received his first Championship, ironically winning the Finals MVP too.

With 2012, Nowitzki played in his 11th consecutive All-Star game but the Mavericks couldn’t hold out against the Thunder.

Dirk spent the remaining years of his career smashing records laid out by the greats that came before him. These included passing Hakeem Olajuwon for most points (23) scored by a player born outside of the United States and most seasons played with the same franchise (21).

The German native also made waves outside of the NBA, winning FIBA Europe Men's Player of the Year for the second time in 2011 and the All-Europeans Power Forward of the Year in 2011, 2013 and 2014, making that a total of nine times.

Although Dirk had passed his peak by 2017 and suffered several injuries, he continued to help the Mavericks before announcing his retirement one day before the 2018-19 season ended.

3. Dwyane Wade

Wade came crashing into the decade with force, making four consecutive visits to the NBA Finals with the Miami Heat, alongside new teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh. He won two-of-four and despite losing out to Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavericks in 2011, Wade became the lone shining star for Miami after a disappointing performance from James.

Some will argue that Wade was just past his peak this decade as he took a backseat during the 2012 and 2013 championships whilst LeBron rose to the position of the world’s best at that time. However, he still made the last of his three All-Defence teams, four of his eight All-NBA rosters and was shooting at an unprecedented pace. 

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The thirteen-time All-Star averaged 30 points per game at the start of the decade and finished up as the third player in NBA history to record 20,000 points, 5,000 assists, 4,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals, 800 blocks, and 500 three-pointers.

Wade’s relentless attacks at the basket saw him battle a series of injuries from 2015 and eventually signed a two-year deal with the Chicago Bulls before moving to the Cavs and back to Miami again.
Wades incredible journey with the NBA ended in 2019 with his “One Last Dance” tour. Although Miami missed out on the playoffs, the season was marked by improbable game-winners and some unforgettable moments for a true South-Beach Legend and top five shooting guards.

4. Kevin Durant

Dubbed ‘Franchise of the Decade’, the Warriors demonstrated innovation and have led the NBA when they won three championships. Despite only being signed by Golden State in 2016, Kevin Durant has quickly risen to prominence as a guiding face of the franchise – particularly as two of those titles were won under his watch and he achieved finals MVP in both.

Had his Achilles not given out, the 2019 playoffs may have been Durant’s third title with the Warriors.

But KD didn’t reserve his best for the Championships as he always brought a stellar performance to the regular season and was crowned MVP in 2014 after averaging 32 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. These point averages attest to one thing, Durant is an all-time scorer. Inside, outside, post or midrange, it doesn’t matter, the four-time scoring champ of this decade will score in all situations. 

Brooklyn Nets Media Day

Durant made it to the 50-40-90 club in 2013 and revels in 49% shooting from the field, 38% from beyond the arc and 88% at the free-throw line. Could this be the decade’s greatest scorer?

But KD’s trophy train didn’t end there, Durant was an All-Star every damn season the past ten years, a six-time All-NBA First team and a three-time All-NBA Second team. Finally, the fact that Durant took home the All-Star game MVP twice leaves any more reasoning null and void.

5. Steph Curry

Legacy leader. Game Changer. Record scorer. These are just a few of the features that spring to mind when hearing the name Steph Curry, and rightly so, the back-to-back MVP revolutionised basketball.

Now, Curry wasn’t the most unstoppable player year-in-year-out for the entire decade, but the NBA has never witnessed a performance like his in the Warriors 2015-16 season. Golden State walked away with an incredible 73-9 win and Curry walked away with a unanimous MVP title after averaging 30.1 points.

The public has often called Curry robotic due to the accuracy and volume with which he sinks threes and no team that season proved to be anywhere near a match for the sharp-shooter. Nobody had the ability or roster to stop Curry and keep on top of the rest of Golden State until the finals and the fact that they couldn’t take the Playoff title took the shine off the guard. 

Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans

Nevertheless, Curry came back each season and continued to drain three after three, but this is only half of the story. He changed the game. The NY Times has even argued that the 31-year-old’s impact ‘has been more profound than [LeBron] James’’.

Curry won three Championships this decade, just like James, was a two-time MVP and was the star of his team. Furthermore, he redefined the limits acceptable for three-point shooting and used this as his preferred weapon knowing he was almost unguardable.

Steph led the Warriors to five consecutive finals and took home three trophies as the world looked on at one of the most impressive three-point shooters of the decade.

6. James Harden

Rockets’ star James Harden only became a starter in the 2012-13 season but is now closing the decade as the NBA’s top scorer. Currently, the guard has totalled 19,543 points this decade, compared to the 19,372 achieved by second-place LeBron James, a tally that could continue to grow should Harden play on New Year’s Eve against Denver. 

Toronto Raptors v Houston Rockets

Harden quickly climbed the ranks of NBA greats at an astronomical pace and his 36.1-point average in the 2018/19 season was the most of any player in the last 31 years and his current 38.3 this season is set to be the highest in 56 years.

At 30-years-old, Harden has racked up seven All-Star titles and shows no signs of slowing down, he has never missed more than 10 games a season in his eleven NBA seasons, which begs the question, what’s next for the 2018 MVP?

7. Kawhi Leonard

Google unveiled their Year In Search data earlier in December, giving an insight into the year’s trending searches and popular topics, but who dominated? Well, in Canada, the Toronto Raptors became the #1 a household search term in 2019 and it’s no surprise with them being led to the Championship title by the legacy destroyer, Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard brought home the trophy for Toronto this year, as well as Finals MVP for the second time, as Steph Curry’s Golden State missed out. But the memorable moment came with one of the most hair-raising buzzer-beaters in history against the Philadelphia 76ers which saw a stadium silenced as the ball bounced around the rim and finally dropped. 

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers

Both Leonard’s defensive and offensive abilities have brought him significant attention and accolades this decade, beginning with his rookie season with the San Antonio Spurs, for which he was voted to the NBA All-Rookie Team. He also placed fourth in Rookie of the Year voting and was considered the next face of the Spurs franchise after winning the 2014 Championship with them at age 22.

Leonard is a lockdown specialist who has consistently strives to make life difficult for the biggest names in the NBA. He defended LeBron James excellently in the 2013 and 2014 Playoffs, won back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016, and famously held Giannis Antetokounmpo to limited points for Toronto in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals.

8. Kobe Bryant

Although Kobe Bryant hung up his boots in 2016 after a 20-year career with the Lakers, we feel he is just as deserving as anyone else to snatch a spot on this list. We understand that there is a lot of controversy surrounding Bryant’s performance after he blew out his Achilles against Golden State in 2013 but there is no denying his position as one of the greatest shooting guards to set foot on the court. 

Spain v Australia: Semi-finals - FIBA World Cup 2019

Bryant’s achievements of the decade began with is fifth and final Championship ring at the end of the 2010 season, of which he was also voted Finals MVP. Although he did experience a decline in performance after this, he still scooped four All-NBA First Team and three All-Defense recognitions.

Despite the Lakers wrapped up their 2015-16 season with a 17-65 record, the worst record in franchise history, Bryant closed his final game on an NBA season-high 60 points against the Utah Jazz. He outscored the entire Jazz team 23-21 in the final quarter and reminded fans why he is one of the greatest of all time.

9. Anthony Davis

Now it wouldn’t be a Top 10 of the decade without Anthony Davis occupying one of our spots, would it? The Lakers’ new acquisition has slipped into the roster effortlessly, claiming a place as LeBron James’ second-hand man as the two work to bring an almost undefeatable duo to the opposition.

Davis redefined how versatile a centre should be, before him centres were just the big men, a presence dominating the paint and nothing more. The six-foot-ten power forward showed us that the big guys on the court can shoot, handle and be floor general. 

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers

If we're talking about basketball skills, I've never seen a power forward/centre with AD's type of combination of skills except for maybe Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. The fact is, a comparison with two of the greatest name in basketball history is reason enough already. Davis is also becoming a force to be reckoned with on the perimeter as his name is being heard consistently for defensive player of the year.

AD may not occupy a Top 10 of all time but if we’re talking post-2010, then his space in that list is secured and the fact that he may have no Championship titles under his belt yet does not demerit his skill as a player.

10. Alex Caruso

We took a bit of a gamble with spot number ten on our roundup of the decade with Alex Caruso but believe me, our reasons are justified and might just point towards a bright future for the Lakers guard.

Caruso came to public attention during his college years at Texas A&M in which he earned the title All-time leader in assists, with 649, and steals, with 276. In his senior year, the Texas native earned SEC All-Defensive Team and second-team All-SEC honours.

But one of the major motives behind our choice has to be Caruso’s determination to grow as a player and work his way up the ranks. After going undrafted in 2016 NBA Draft, he joined the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2016 Summer League and eventually signed with OKC for the 2016/17 season only to be waved weeks later. 

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers

Back again in the 2017 Summer League, this time in a Lakers jersey, Caruso enjoyed one of the best moments of his career when he stepped up in place of an injured Lonzo Ball and led LA to victory. The Lakers later signed him and he became the first player to jump from directly from the D-League (now G League) to the NBA via a two-way contract.

But Caruso’s climb didn’t end there, after another successful Summer League in 2018 and some impressive performances in the regular season, he hit a new career-high against the Clippers on April 5 2019. His 32 points meant he became the only other Laker that season, other than LeBron James, to record a 30+ point, 10+ rebound and 5+ assist game.

On July 6, 2019, Caruso finally signed a two-year contract with the Lakers worth $5.5 million as he explodes onto screens as a regular feature for the team.

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