Jimmy Butler offered baskets to every teammate20 April 2020 / Miguel Coelho
The 30-year-old didn't want his teammates to remain rusty... So he gifted them baskets
As the decade comes to an end, the debate grows about who are the top players that ever step foot on NBA arenas from 2010-2019. From a statistical standpoint to multiple achievements during the course of these ten years, numerous players had a pretty good resumé to be able to make this list. However, even though the selection process was pretty hard, only a few are worthy of having this honor.
Arguably the most difficult selection was the number five spot. James Harden is ringless during this decade, and a case could be made for either Russell Westbrook or Dwyane Wade. However, “The Beard” was one of the main reasons the Oklahoma City Thunder stormed through Dallas in the Western Conference Finals in 2012, to give the franchise their first Finals appearance. They went on to lose 4-1 to LeBron James and company, in what followed a decisive offseason for the Thunder and James Harden himself. He signed with the Houston Rockets later on, becoming the face of the team for years to come, and probably leading to one of the biggest mistakes ever made by Sam Presti, as he chose to keep Ibaka instead of Harden in what could have become a dynasty to rule the league. His impact in H-Town was immediately felt, leading the team to the playoffs after a 3-year drought, crumbling against his former team in six games. As the decade passed by, he went on to break multiple scoring records, creating a signature move with his stepback three-point shot, won a MVP trophy in 2018, and almost dethroned the invincible Golden State Warriors, something that if it were to happen, it would elevate him to a higher pedestal in the All-time list. To finish the decade in style, he’s averaging a cool 38 Points per game, more than Kobe Bryant’s 35.4 in 2005-2006.
Kawhi Leonard started the decade by being an unknown player for everyone. He was drafted by the Indiana Pacers, but was involved in a trade that would send him to the San Antonio Spurs for George Hill. Coming in as a defensive-minded player, he had one of the biggest evolutions someone has seen in the game of basketball. During his second year at the Spurs, he was already playing the NBA Finals with the task of guarding LeBron James, undoubtedly the best player in the World at the time. They’ve lost in a heartbreaking seven-game series that year, but the story was far from finished. Kawhi and his team came back looking for revenge the year after, beating the same Miami team, as Kawhi defined himself as one of the best players in the league, earning Finals MVP honors on the way. When it looked like Gregg Popovich and his squad were the biggest threat to the Larry O’Brien trophy again in 2017, Leonard suffered a severe injury that kept him out of the playoffs and almost the entirety of the upcoming season. Problems started to mount between him and the Spurs organization, and a deal was made with the Toronto Raptors for his acquisition. Looked by many as an injury-prone player, Leonard shut down all the critics by having his best year ever, leading the Raptors to an historic first championship title, tearing to parts the Warriors and their chance at a three-peat feat. “The Fun Guy” as he’s known now, has moved to California to try to do the same with the Los Angeles Clippers. If he’s able to do it he might go down as one of the best players to ever do it at a basketball court.
Standing at 6’10, Kevin Durant is one of a kind generational talent. His ability to shoot over defenders and get to the foul line is almost unparalleled. If it wasn’t for LeBron James he would definitely be the greatest player of his generation, hands down. He started his career at the Seattle Supersonics, an historic franchise that no longer exists as they’ve relocated to Oklahoma, but it was in a Thunder uniform where he started to perform as one of the best in the NBA. His first Finals appearance came in 2012, where he fell short to the Miami Heat, an already established team, but the future looked bright for him and his Thunder squad. However, year after year their shortcomings were more noticed than their success, as he failed to deliver on the big stage due to poor play or injuries. On the way, he collected multiple scoring champion titles and a MVP trophy in 2014. A well likeable player by everyone, everything changed in 2016 when he blew a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals to the Golden State Warriors. In that summer he decided to leave his team to join forces with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, players who were on the team that eliminated him from a possible NBA trophy. The backlash was so big that he went from being an idol to one of the most hated players ever in the league’s history, creating arguably the best team of all time at the Bay Area. They went on to completely dominate the league for the next years, winning two championships on the way, with the Slim Reaper earning two Finals MVPs. However, Durant’s time with the Warriors weren’t always pleasant. Before making his way to Brooklyn this offseason, his will to comeback ahead of schedule to help his team win another title, cost him a little too much. He suffered an achilles injury in Game 6 of the NBA finals, an occurrence that could provide to be a big blow for the rest of his career, as almost no one has completely recovered their previous level of play. Anyway, Kevin Durant will surely be remembered as one of the best basketball players ever, even after one of the most controversial moves ever in NBA history.
The best shooter of all time comes 2nd in this list. It was a hard choice between Curry and Durant, but his ability to carry a team to a NBA championship and his unanimous MVP trophy in 2016 played a part in this decision. He was selected by the Warriors with the 7th pick overall, after the Timberwolves wasted the 5th and 6th pick in Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. However, it was hard to imagine Steph would turn out like this. He didn’t start the decade the right way, as he suffered multiple injuries that required surgery on his right ankle, leaving the Warriors organization worried that he could become a liability for years to come. However, that was far from the truth, and since 2013 he’s been tearing the league and every team’s in it. Known by his incredible shooting, the player from Davidson changed the league completely, creating the small-ball play style which caused havoc come playoff time for everyone who was on the opposite side. On the way he broke the record for most three-pointers in a single season (402), as well as the leading scorer, assist leader, and three-point leader for the Warriors franchise. His rivalry against LeBron James during 2014-2015 until 2018-2019 will always be remembered as one of the best the league has ever seen, collecting three NBA championships during that span. It’s safe to say that LeBron was the better overall player this decade, but Curry with his distinguished type of playing the game, is probably the most influential.
We come down to the last pick and the best player of the decade. LeBron James. If we exclude last season where the Toronto Raptors were crowned NBA champions against the Warriors, James has been in every possible NBA final to start the decade, an incredible feat. Obviously there’s some low points during this journey, including his first Miami year to start it off. But maybe, that was the defining moment that James needed to dominate the next years. He added to his catalogue in 2012 and 2013, two MVP trophies, two Finals MVP and two championship rings, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs for back-to-back titles. When it seemed that the Heat dynasty was slowing fading away, he let everybody know through Sports Illustrated that he was returning home to Cleveland, in order to deliver a much promised Larry O’Brien trophy. Joining forces with Kyrie Irving, the Cavs traded their 1st pick in the NBA draft for Kevin Love to form a Big 3 in Ohio, but fortune was not on their side as Love went down in the 1st round of the playoffs and Irving injured himself in the 1st game of the NBA Finals, as they’ve lost to Stephen Curry and company. In his next season with the Cavs, the Warriors broke all the records in the regular season, finishing 73-9, and were looking poised to another NBA title as they looked almost unbeatable during their run. Doubts started to hover if James could bring a title to his beloved hometown team, and for a time it looked almost impossible, as a rematch of last season Finals had Golden State a win away from the promised land. However, in probably the biggest comeback in all sports history, the Cavs made an incredible run led by LeBron and Kyrie heroics, to win it all in an emotional Game 7 at Oracle Arena. Lebron’s legacy was cemented as a Top 5 player of all-time and the best of the decade. He’s now wearing a Lakers uniform and like Kawhi, he’ll try to bring glory again to California, in an attempt to dethrone Jordan’s heir as the best basketball player ever.
2020 Copyrights © All Rights Reserved.