Teams in the Finals
Five different teams managed to win titles in the 2000s, but two teams in specific certainly towered above the rest. The Los Angeles Lakers won a decade-best four championships thanks to a three-peat and a 2009 title that book-ended the 10 years, and the San Antonio Spurs won three championships to establish a dynasty of their own.
Three other teams won a title in the decade. The Detroit Pistons shocked the world by beating the Lakers in 2004, the Miami Heat pulled off a magnificent comeback during their championship in 2006, and the Boston Celtics returned to contention with their title during the 2008 season when they again beat Los Angeles.
Among the teams that lost in the NBA Finals, the sting of defeat was strongest for the New Jersey Nets, a franchise that made it to consecutive championship series in 2002 and 2003 but failed to win both times. For the Pistons, a bitter seven-game defeat in 2005 slightly dampened their title from the year before.
Teams that reached the championship series but failed to win in the decade include the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Orlando Magic. Heading into the following decade, there was much uncertainty hanging over the head of each of these franchises.
Teams on the Rise
A wealth of young talent resided on a few different rosters around the league. The Chicago Bulls and Denver Nuggets had both been battle-tested in tough playoff series, and the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trailblazers had star talent that was hungry to lead their teams into contention.
Other teams that announced their arrival on the grand stage with notable playoff runs include the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, and the New Orleans Hornets. All-Stars like Joe Johnson, Yao Ming, and Chris Paul had arrived as the faces of their respective franchises and hungered for the first NBA championships.
Teams that Missed their Shot
Of the teams that found success in the decade, none was more disappointed than the Phoenix Suns, a team that lost in consecutive Western Conference Finals series. The Sacramento Kings also knew the shame of defeat after losing in a seven-game Western Conference Finals in which they led 3-2.
Other teams that failed to make their mark in the decade include the Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, and Washington Wizards. All of these teams made deep runs in the playoffs but came up short of reaching the championship series and fell out of contention as the decade progressed.
Players of Recognition
There are three players that stood out the most in the 2000s, two of them having played together at one stretch. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were arguably the best tandem in NBA history, and Tim Duncan was a dominant force that won the Spurs multiple titles in the decade as well.
Players whose greatness appeared to fade in the late 2000s include Tracy McGrady, Chris Webber, and Allen Iverson. Reggie Miller retired during the middle of the decade, as did Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Patrick Ewing at the beginning of the 2000s. Gary Payton and Karl Malone also retired in the decade after playing for contenders.
Players that looked to be the future of the NBA included Boston’s Rajon Rondo, Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Cleveland’s LeBron James, Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, Miami’s Dwyane Wade, New Orleans’ Chris Paul, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Orlando’s Dwight Howard, Portland’s Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, Toronto’s Chris Bosh, and Utah’s Deron Williams.
Other players of note in the 2000s include Boston’s Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Detroit’s Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace, Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal, Los Angeles’ Pau Gasol, New Jersey’s Jason Kidd, Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala, Phoenix’s Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion, Sacramento’s Peja Stojakovic, San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, Toronto’s Vince Carter, and Washington’s Gilbert Arenas.
The league saw the Lakers win titles at both ends of the decade as well as the Celtics return to prominence. Scrutiny surrounded several young players, however, who made deep playoff runs but failed to win championships. The style of play was still progressing to feature more three-point shooting, but certain athletes in the league kept basketball a finesse game. In terms of comparison, team play was still mainly predicated around talented inside play and skilled perimeter scorers.