The mid-2000’s era of the NBA was one that saw a transition from the old-school plodding post big men to the high octane pace and space offense that is prevalent today. Many players during the era were also prolific isolation scorers in which they could score at will but with a decreased efficiency. Below are some of the top players that defined the mid-2000’s era of NBA basketball.
Steve Nash is considered to be one of the greatest passers and shooters of all-time. Despite being 30 years old, the best years of Nash’s career came when he rejoined the Phoenix Suns, the team that drafted him 15th overall in 1996. In Phoenix, Nash was partnered with Mike D’Antoni, the coach that innovated the “Seven seconds or less” offense. During the 2004-05 season, Nash averaged 15.5 points per game (ppg) and 11.5 assists per game in route to his first MVP award. He followed up his MVP season with 18.8 ppg and 10.5 apg in 2005-06, giving Nash his second straight MVP. Although Nash never won an NBA championship, he will be remembered as one of the greatest point guards that defined the 2000’s era.
The seven-foot German was one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. In an era where big men wanted to muscle their way to the basket, Nowitzki took a different method. Nowitzki launched jumpers from outside the paint and he was even considered “soft” early into his career. But as the NBA rules began to change, it paved the way for Nowitzki to launch more and more shots from beyond the arc. His best individual season came in 2006-07 when he was named the NBA MVP. During that season, he averaged 24.6 ppg and 8.9 rebounds per game (rpg). Nowitzki even popularized the one-legged fadeaway, a move that helped him score over 30,000 points in his NBA career. Although he never won a championship until 2011, Nowitzki will be remembered as the pioneer that popularized floor-spacing big men that we see in today’s NBA.
Larger than life both literally and figuratively, Yao Ming was one of the tallest players to ever play in the NBA. Standing at a towering 7 feet 5 inches, Yao dominated the paint whenever he was healthy on the court. However, his skills weren’t just limited to inside the paint as he had a touch of finesse alongside his brute length. Yao could knock down the midrange jump shot with ease and had solid handles for a center. His best statistical season was in 2006 to 2007, where he averaged 25 ppg, 9.5 rpg and around two blocks per game. Although Yao’s career was cut short due to various injuries, the Hall of Fame center will be remembered for his larger than life stature and his ability to bridge two different cultures on the basketball court.
Although “Big Ben” was undersized for a center, he didn’t let his stature hinder his ability of becoming a defensive force in the paint. Wallace accumulated defensive awards one after another, as he won a total for four Defensive of the Year awards during his career. His statistical highs came during the 2004 to 2005 season in which he averaged a career high 9.7 ppg and 12.2 rpg. That same season, he anchored the defensive scheme the Pistons used to contain Shaq inside in route to his first championship. Although Big Ben was never a prolific scorer in the NBA, he was one of the greatest defensive players to ever play the game.
Also known as “T-Mac,” Tracy McGrady was one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA. T-Mac could score at will and even challenged the late great Kobe Bryant as one of the greatest scorers during the era. As a young star on the Orlando Magic, T-Mac led the league in scoring twice during the 2002-03 season and the 2003-04 season with 32.1 ppg and 28.0 ppg. After he was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2004, his scoring averages dropped slightly as he was paired up with Yao Ming. One of the defining moments of his Rockets tenure was when he dropped 13 points in the final 35 seconds of the game, as he led the Rockets to victory in a divisive comeback. T-Mac never quite reached the highs of his contemporaries due to various injuries throughout his career but he defined the era with his show-stopping abilities to score the basketball.