The 2000’s era is one of the exciting periods for NBA fans, with some of the best players ever competing during that time. This was the era where some physicality was allowed, and the mental toughness and intangibles of the game were at their highest. Of course, the NBA was a global game and the most popular players had worldwide recognition for their talents.
But which player was the biggest fan favorite in the 2000’s era? We have collected the 10 most popular superstars based on their success, impact, and global recognition thanks to their unique skillsets and unbelievable physical abilities. Without further ado, here is the top-10 list of the most popular players from the 2000 season until the 2009 season.
Honorable Mentions: Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Carmelo Anthony
Jason Kidd was one of the purest point guards we have ever seen, a superstar with the ability to carry teams with his playmaking and leadership on the court. A Hall of Famer, Kidd’s ability to make pinpoint passes and play lockdown defense made him a fan favorite. His partnerships with Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson with the Nets was one of the most popular stories around the NBA during that time.
Similarly, Steve Nash was a 2-time MVP thanks to his sublime playmaking skills. You simply cannot tell the story of the 2000’s era without mentioning the architect behind the dominant Phoenix Suns teams. Seeing the long-haired Nash dribble rings around defenders only to find his teammates for dunks and three-point shots was truly a beautiful thing to behold.
Lastly, future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony was also a beloved superstar and might be the most dominant all-around scorer during his time. Blessed with size, strength, and shooting ability; Anthony was truly an unstoppable force during his time. As a member of the Denver Nuggets, Anthony helped the team reach the Western Conference Finals and created a ton of memories around the NBA.
10. Tim Duncan
Whether fans found find him boring or not, Tim Duncan was one of the most dominant players during the 2000’s era. Naturally, winning championships and carrying the spot of the greatest power forward in the game attracted a ton of fans to his game. Duncan was not flashy and played well below the rim, but he always seemed to win games and nobody hates a winner. 3 championships as a member of the Spurs in the 2000’s era makes him an easy entry in this list.
9. Dwyane Wade
Before he formed a dominant partnership with LeBron James and Chris Bosh in South Beach, Dwyane Wade was known as “Flash”. Wade was an explosive guard with leadership capabilities out of the gate and carried the Miami Heat to an NBA title in 2006. Wade’s lightning speed and explosive moves to the basket made countless highlight-reels, and he already solidified himself as one of the greatest shooting guards ever by the time he was 25 years old. Once again, everyone loves a winner and fans certainly loved “Flash” in his prime.
8. Dirk Nowitzki
Much like Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki did not need to be a high-flyer to be a dominant player in his era. The sweet-shooting German had the most unstoppable jump shot in the game with his one-legged fadeaway, and he wreaked havoc across the league for years. The 2007 MVP winner was one of the best shooters in the NBA, and he even made an NBA Finals in 2006. Dirk’s humbleness and beautiful jumper made him an attractive superstar to NBA fans around the world, especially because he was a foreign player.
7. Kevin Garnett
In terms of raw intensity and competitiveness alone, Kevin Garnett might be the most popular player during the 2000’s era. The Big Ticket played the game at a very physical level despite weighing in at a slender 240 lbs at 6’11”. Garnett was not thick, but he was unstoppable on both ends of the floor as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics. Garnett won MVP in 2004, but his stock reached another level when he won a title with the Celtics in 2008 and also the Defensive Player of the Year Award. We will never see another Kevin Garnett again, a player who made his name in the 2000s.
6. Shaquille O’Neal
How can anyone hate Shaquille O’Neal? A vicious competitor on the court, he is just as likable and fun-loving off the court. Shaq loved making people laugh and was never afraid of looking silly in front of people, naturally drawing fans of all ages to him. Whether you were a soccer mom or young fan living in an entirely different continent, everyone knew who Shaquille O’Neal was. Of course, winning 4 championships and 3 Finals MVPs during the 2000’s era makes him arguably the most dominant superstar in that time period.
5. Tracy McGrady
One of the biggest what-of stories in NBA history, Tracy McGrady was simply unstoppable on the offensive end during the 2000s. McGrady made his name with the Orlando Magic, winning 2 scoring titles and making 7 All-Star Teams. T-Mac struggled with injuries that kept him from truly challenging the top-3 players in the league, but he was a Hall of Fame talent when he was healthy. An explosive dunker early on, McGrady showed off an incredible passing game as well which made him an effective all-around star. Of course, his famed 13 points in 33 seconds happened during the 2000s era.
4. Vince Carter
Vince Carter never made an NBA Finals or won an NBA championship, but he is the greatest dunker of all time and one of the most popular superstars in the history of basketball. Often referred to as “Half-Man, Half-Amazing”, Carter would pull off almost inhuman dunks and put some of the greatest defensive players on posters from Tim Duncan to Dikembe Mutombo. Carter entered the hearts of NBA fans because he truly enjoyed playing the game and beyond being a spectacular athlete, he was a terrific scorer as well.
3. LeBron James
LeBron James entered the NBA at 19 years old with a massive target on his back. Referred to as “The Chosen One” early in his career, James loved the spotlight and was perfectly fit for it. A 6’9” man-child from a young age, LeBron immediately became one of the best players in the NBA by his second season in the league. Winning an MVP Award in 2009 and making the NBA Finals at only 22 years old is the minimum of what James did in the 2000s, and his legacy would only continue into the next decade. James had his critics and haters, but he was a global superstar and fan-favorite as soon as he stepped foot on an NBA court.
2. Allen Iverson
Few players in NBA history truly changed the game, and names such as Shaquille O’Neal and Stephen Curry come to mind. But Allen Iverson changed the game because he did it his way, and never tried to be anyone else. From his cornrows, baggy jeans, and headbands; Iverson made tons of fans around the world love NBA basketball. “The Answer” backed it up on the court as well, winning MVP in 2001 and making the NBA Finals with the entire team on his back. Many pundits feel that if Iverson was at least 6’6”, he might have been the greatest player of all time. Without a shadow of a doubt, Iverson was one of the top-2 most popular superstars of the 2000s.
1. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant was the most popular player during the 2000s because there was always a storyline attached to him whenever he played. First, he was the clear heir to Michael Jordan. He played the game the same way, never backed down against any opponent, and was one of the most competitive athletes in American sports. Bryant also had the storyline of winning 3 straight championships with Shaquille O’Neal and then having the monkey on his back of trying to win a championship without the big man. The “Black Mamba” did that in 2009, proving himself as a global superstar in his own right. Bryant had a spectacular list of achievements during the 2000s era including 4 titles, 1 Finals MVP, 1 MVP, and an 81-point performance. We will all miss Kobe Bryant playing the NBA game, but he left us a host of unforgettable memories.
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