The New York Times is reflecting on the past decade in the N.B.A., which has evolved perhaps more than any other major sports league.
The choice for the N.B.A.’s player of the decade came down to just two superstars — Stephen Curry and LeBron James. Which of the two should it be?
After all, if it wasn’t Curry holding a championship trophy in recent years, the expectation was that it would be James instead. Nine of the decade’s N.B.A. finals featured at least one of them, and their teams claimed six of the championships. They won half of the past decade’s Most Valuable Player Awards. If one of them wasn’t on national television on a given night, then the other one was. With the previous generation’s biggest stars fading, they boldly staked their claim to the spotlight.
But when it came to picking the player of the decade, our writers’ decisions were pretty clear.
The Case for LeBron James
Senior staff editor and reporter
Let’s see: the most points in the decade, the most field goals, the top rating in most advanced stats, the most Most Valuable Player awards (three), the most finals M.V.P. awards (three). LeBron James even led the decade in minutes played.
Or you could be a contrarian and choose, maybe, the blocks-per-minute leader, JaVale McGee. Probably not the right pick, though.
Three N.B.A. championships, including the first for the city of Cleveland. Three more M.V.P.s to go with the one he won last decade. More highlight-reel dunks and chase-down blocks and signature moments than any of his peers (no offense, Steph).
But beyond merely being the most dominant player of the decade, James was the figure around whom the rest of the league orbited. For potential title contenders, his presence — in Miami, in Cleveland, in Los Angeles — figured into every calculation other teams made. Which players could they acquire to help vanquish the King? Which picks could they package to trade for more depth, more star power, more scoring and defense?
Now in his 17th season, and on the cusp of a new decade, James is still going strong, positioning the Lakers for their first deep playoff run since the days of Kobe Bryant. Staggering but true: James’s greatest feat may still be ahead of him.