- Advertisement -
HomeBasketballNBANBA All-Time Greats: The King reigns supreme in the 2010s

NBA All-Time Greats: The King reigns supreme in the 2010s

- Advertisement -

We’re at the end of our study on the best basketball players ever.

We’ve come to the first decade to be dominated by guards and wings. 

The 2010s resembled the 70s in terms of parity, as seven NBA teams won titles in the decade. 

Player movement ramped up, making it almost pointless for fans to buy jerseys.

The 3-point revolution began. In 2012, the Orlando Magic led the league with 670 made 3s. Seven seasons later, the Houston Rockets as a team led the NBA with 1,323 made 3s.

The “specialist” became a bit of an afterthought too. It became vital for every player in a rotation to have a diverse skillset. 

The best of those types of players were the best of the decade.

The top four for the 2010s were fairly simple. The last spot was tough to settle on.

LeBron James

Strength. Power. Speed. High IQ. LeBron James is one of the most advanced basketball players the league has ever seen. James for me ranks as the third-best player of all time. He’s won everywhere he’s played, leading three teams to championships, including back-to-back title wins with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013. James’ crowning achievement has to be leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2016 title, where the team overcame a 3-1 deficit to the 73-win Golden State Warriors to take the crown. James-led teams advanced to eight straight Finals in the decade. The East wasn’t very strong, but James’ rosters on some of those runs left a lot to be desired. James can do it all. He’s always been a willing passer. He’s underrated as a rebounder and defender. James’ per game average of 27.2 points per game puts him fifth all time. James this past season would set the all-time scoring record. Not bad for a guy who’s not seen as an elite scorer. James in the decade earned three MVP awards: 2010, 2012, and 2013. Through all of his individual brilliance and team success, it’s surprising that James hasn’t won an MVP in 10 years. James in the decade earned All-NBA honors every season, including nine straight first-team honors. He made five All-Defense teams to start the decade. James’ success in the 2010s can only be matched by Bill Russell in the 1960s, Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the 1970s, Magic Johnson in the 1980s and Michael Jordan in the 1990s. James place at the table with those greats is secure.


Kevin Durant

The phrase “unicorn” gets thrown out a lot these days when talking about players with unique skill sets. Kevin Durant is the reason the phrase even exists. At a legit 7-feet-tall, Durant has one of the coldest handles ever. He has unlimited range. Durant is a true three-level scorer who can put the ball in the basket from anywhere on the floor. LeBron is the best player of the decade, but Durant stayed on his heels all 10 years of the 2010s. James’ Heat rolled over Durant’s Thunder in the 2012 Finals. Individually, though, Durant was able to show his name should be mentioned among the greats. Durant in that five-game series put up 30.6 points and 6 rebounds a game, with a lot of the scoring coming in head-up matchups with James. A healthy Durant raises any team’s ceiling. Teams featuring Durant seven times in the decade advanced to at least the Western Conference Finals. Durant won the 2014 MVP in a lopsided vote. In nine years with the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant-led teams won 10 playoff series. The team missed the playoffs in 2015, when an achilles injury limited Durant to just 27 games. A spike in the salary cap led Durant to Golden State, in a move that has been unfairly criticized for seven years. The 2017 Warriors won 67 games and went 16-1 en route to the title. That team, with Durant and Steph Curry at the helm, is one of the best of all time. Golden State would add another ring in 2018, and Durant would add his second straight Finals MVP award. In two Finals series going head to head with James, Durant was the best player on either team. Durant in the decade earned nine All-NBA nods, one for each year he stayed healthy. That included six first-team awards. KD finished in the top five of the MVP voting five times. He won four scoring titles in five years. Only Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain have more. Durant’s 27.27 points per game career scoring average is fourth all time, trailing only Elgin Baylor, Chamberlain and Jordan. An argument could be made that Durant is the best pure scorer in NBA history. He’s also one of the very best players in history.

Steph Curry

There are generations of basketball fans who growing up wanted to cross somebody up or dunk on someone. This generation of kids wants to take and make 30 footers on a semi-regular basis. Curry is the reason for that. At 6-foot-3 Steph Curry changed the game. A deep Curry 3 can energize his home crowd or take the air out of an opposing team’s gym. Curry is so scary that teams sometimes faceguard him right as he crosses halfcourt. Curry is also on the short list of best ballhandlers ever. A case can be made to put Curry over Durant, given that Curry has one more MVP and in 2016 became the first-ever unanimous winner of the award. But Durant was better longer. Steph, though, racked up his fair share of accolades in the decade: six All-Star nods, six All-NBA honors. His team’s also beat James-led squads in three out of four Finals meetings. Ironically, Durant led the way on two of those. Curry’s impact on the game can’t be understated, though. His 402 made 3-pointers in the 2015-16 are the most ever in a season. No one else has ever made that many 3s. Curry has four of the five best individual seasons in terms of made 3s in history. Everybody wants to shoot like Steph.


James Harden

Who’s right behind Curry on the list of most made 3s in a season? James Harden in the 2018-19 season hit 378 shots from deep. Harden is a brilliant offensive player. Embellishments aside. Harden’s ascent began after an October 2012 trade sent him to Houston from Oklahoma City. Harden put up no lower than 25.4 points per game the last seven seasons of the decade. He peaked in 2018, winning league MVP with averages of 30.4 points and 8.8 assists per game for a Rockets team that won a league- and franchise-best 65 games. Harden is one of the more crafty players the league has ever seen. He’s a master of the Eurostep. Harden can hit defenders with stepback and sidestep jumpers. He lulls opposing players to sleep with his handle. Harden in the decade finished in the top-2 of the MVP vote four times. He earned six All-NBA honors, including five first-team nods. Harden’s rise came at a tough time. If not for Curry and Durant’s Warriors, The Beard would almost certainly have led a team to a title in the 2010s. Harden’s teams, though, lost to the Warriors four times in the playoffs.


Kawhi Leonard

Leonard didn’t hit his peak until the last half of the decade. Still, Leonard in the 2010s made five All-Defense teams, including three firsts. Kawhi earned All-NBA first-team honors twice. Leonard also won two Finals MVP awards for two different teams. Everyone says Kobe Bryant is a Jordan clone. You could argue Kawhi imitates Jordan even better: the ball palming, wasting no movements or dribbles, the strength. Leonard in the decade finished top-3 in the MVP vote in 2016 and 2017. His 2017 Spurs held a 25-point lead on the Warriors in Game 1 of the West Finals before an injury ended Leonard’s season and any hopes San Antonio had to beating that great Golden State team. Leonard would get his revenge, though. Leonard was dealt to the Toronto Raptors in 2018. Toronto, after years of being tormented by James, overcame a 0-2 deficit to beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the East Finals. Leonard would lead the Raptors to a 4-2 series win over the Warriors in the 2019 Finals. Leonard in those playoffs was at the top of his game, averaged 30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds in 24 games. 

Honorable mention

Chris Paul: The last great true point guard, Paul turned all three of the teams he played with in the decade into legitimate contenders.

Russell Westbrook: Westbrook is the most relentless player of his generation. In the era of load management, he never took a night off. Even with a broken face.

Draymond Green: Green’s development is a major reason for the Golden State Warriors coming close to reaching dynasty status over the last half of the decade. The forward joins Leonard as the two best defensive players of the decade. He guards 1-5 on defense, and often serves as the Warriors primary playmaker on offense. Green surprisingly won just one Defensive Player of the Year award in the decade. The three rings more than make up for that, though, I’m sure.

Marc Gasol: Gasol was the anchor for the Grit and Grind Memphis Grizzlies teams, winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He earned two All-NBA nods, and helped lead the Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals in 2013.

Anthony Davis: A versatile player on both ends of the floor, Davis in the decade the league in blocks three times in his first six years as a pro. Offensively, he improved every year and averaged between 24.3 points per game and 28.1 points per game each season for the last half of the decade.

Dwight Howard: the best defensive center of his generation, Howard won three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards from 2009 to 2011. 

Kobe Bryant: Bryant’s teams didn’t have much postseason success in the decade, but Kobe remained a draw. Bryant made seven All-Star teams in the 2010s, four All-NBA teams, and three All-Defense teams.

Tim Duncan: Duncan continued to rack up accolades over the last part of his career. The early part of the 2010s saw him earn three All-NBA nods and make three All-Defense teams. Duncan won his fifth title in 2014. And was a shot away from a sixth a year earlier.

Dirk Nowitzki: Dirk cemented his place as one of the 20 best players ever with a run to a title and Finals MVP in 2011. The image of Nowitzki being so overcome with emotion in the title-clinching game that he left the court early is etched in my head.

Dwyane Wade: James’ running mate on two Miami Heat title teams, Wade over the first part of the decade earned All-NBA honors in four straight seasons.


- Advertisement -
- Advertisment -

Most Popular