Photo Credits: KATHERINE FRANKS / AGGIE
Looking back at the best players from the 2010s
When looking back at the 2010s, there have been many amazing performances, series and seasons by some truly talented NBA players. It was a decade with advanced athletes, as we saw a shift in how the game of basketball is played from the beginning to the end of the decade.
So, in the process of creating a team of the best players of this decade, one must look at more than just the numbers. Championships, playoff success and individual accolades are just some of the many focal points out there to narrow down a crowded field. It was a task not easily done, but here is The California Aggie’s NBA all-decade team:
Guard: Steph Curry
Although the early years of his career were clouded by injuries, Golden State Warriors superstar guard Steph Curry arguably had the greatest impact on the league this decade. Curry first began coming into his own during the 2012-2013 NBA season, when he and his Warriors squad ushered in a new era of basketball driven by an even greater emphasis on the three-point shot.
It took years for the rest of the league to adapt to the Warriors’ system, but in between that time, Curry flexed his dominance, winning two league MVPs and three NBA championships, while also making six all-star All-NBA appearances. His best season came while being apart of the historic 73-9 Warriors in 2015-2016, when he became the first unanimous MVP in NBA history by averaging 30.1 points, 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game. Curry ended the decade averaging 23.5 points, 6.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds a game.
Although he never won a Finals MVP, his presence was felt this decade as his way of playing the game began a new era that focused on shooting and speed rather than natural athleticism and, for that, he is a staple in the team of the decade.
Guard: James Harden
Having started the decade as the third-best player on his team, his prowess during the early 2010s was somewhat limited. But that did not stop him from becoming one of the most dominant isolation players of all time or from putting up truly historic numbers.
Following his departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder after the 2012 season, where he won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award, Harden became the number-one player on the Houston Rockets. Almost immediately he dominated, jumping from 17 points to 26 points per game after joining his new team, which earned him his first of seven all-star appearances during the decade. He also ended the decade with six All-NBA appearances, two scoring titles, a league MVP and a 24.3 points/6.3 assists/5.2 rebounds per game average.
For the second half of the decade, Harden has been a legitimate contender for MVP every season and is on pace to be again in 2020. Although an NBA championship still eludes him, he is no doubt up there for having one of the most dominant decades.
Guard: Russell Westbrook
This next spot is the one that is most open for debate, as one could make a legitimate case for a number of players. But if you look at the historical and big-picture context, Russell Westbrook is the player who takes over.
His decade has been nothing less than incredible. Westbrook’s athleticism and energy from the guard position is something we have never seen before and may never see again for quite some time. Although he is not the prototypical point guard in terms of efficiency, the numbers and performances he put up were extraordinary.
Early in the decade, he shared the spotlight with Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, but still managed to make the all-star team five times while he was there. He totaled eight all-star appearances and notched eight All-NBA honors during the decade. Westbrook was a two-time scoring and assist leader, and the league’s MVP in 2017. But his most impressive feat by far has been averaging a triple-double not only in one single season, but three. While he may not have had the greatest team success over the past 10 years, Westbrook is going to go down as one of the best point guards ever and one of the best players of this generation.
Forward: Kevin Durant
Not only will Kevin Durant go down as one of the best players of this decade, but he will also go down in history as one of the greatest scorers of all time.
His seven-foot frame combined with his ability to get buckets is something never before seen in the NBA, making him nearly impossible to guard. Durant had a decade-best 10 all-star appearances and won MVP in two of those games. His nine All-NBA selections is second to only one player, and it was only because of an injury during the 2014-2015 season that he didn’t get ten.
After winning four scoring titles in five years and an MVP as a member of the Thunder, Durant decided to take his talents to the Golden State Warriors, where he won two championships and Finals MVPs in both. Although the move was heavily criticized, achieving the elusive championship further advanced his legacy and cemented him as one of the decade’s best, finishing with a decade-high 28 point average, along with 4.4 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game.
Forward: LeBron James
When future generations look back at this decade and try to decide who was the best player, the numbers, success and overall dominance point to LeBron James. Arguably the greatest player of all time, James has left his mark on the NBA this decade, solidifying himself as one of the best to have ever played the game.
No one came into the league with more pressure than James did back in 2003, and it is likely that no one will ever surpass those expectations as he did. After his heavily scrutinized “decision” to start the decade by joining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat, he captured his first and second NBA Championships and won Finals MVP both years. He then solidified his legacy by going back to his home state and joining the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he beat the historic 73-9 Warriors after being down 3-1 in the series.
James won a decade-best three league MVPs, 10 all-star appearances and 10 All-NBA nods. He led his teams to eight-straight finals this decade and although he only won three of them, his team was the underdog in six of those eight. He led the decade in points scored and made four All-Defense teams.
Although his legacy of dominance on the court is unquestioned, his legacy off it is just as great, as James set the example for a new generation of players to become more charitable and active in their communities. James has been the best player of the decade by far, and his historic dominance will be hard to match by any future player.
As mentioned before, the Russell Westbrook addition can be questioned, as many believe someone like Kawhi Leonard is more worthy of that spot. Although Leonard has undoubtedly had two great Finals runs and many accolades, his debate has more to do with recency bias than anything else. The first half of the decade was spent with Spurs teams and a system that hindered his ability to become a huge star. He eventually won two Finals MVPs, but aside from that, he was not a player that dominated the decade as much as Westbrook did. He is in the top 10 of the decade, but looking at his whole body of work would not lead you to believe he is among the best five.
Regardless, these five players have shown greatness all throughout the past ten years and will each go down in their own right as some of the best to ever play in the NBA. When looking at the list, there is a clear omission of a true center, which is telling of the way the NBA has changed and moved away from a player like that. This decade of NBA basketball gave fans a tremendous amount of excitement and possibly the peaks of some of the all-time greats. As time goes on, the 2010s should no question be debated as one of the best decades for basketball in history.
Written by: Omar Navarro — firstname.lastname@example.org