NBA History: 50 best NBA players of the 21st century

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Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin – Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Blake Griffin. 50. player. 77. . PF. Los Angeles Clippers

50 greatest NBA players from the 21st century: 50. Blake Griffin

For too long, Blake Griffin was discounted as nothing more than a stylized dunker — a bastion of entertainment whose impact on the game was disproportionate to the frequency of his highlights. That was never fair, and as his career progressed, Griffin only became further removed from the one-dimensional talent so many claimed him to be.

At his peak, Griffin was one of the most gifted and versatile offensive forwards in basketball. He became an efficient 3-point shooter, a dominant post threat, and a tantalizing passer, using his combination of strength, athleticism, and I.Q. to shred ill-prepared defenses.

Griffin could body his way to points at the rim against almost anyone. He could also hit step-back jumpers, spot up along the 3-point line, or run point forward. He became much more than the center of Lob City in LA — he became the Clippers‘ offensive focal point.

While injuries have derailed his career, Griffin made six All-Star appearances and has been named to five All-NBA teams. Even in Detroit, where he only made one All-Star appearance on the smallest stage of his career, Griffin compiled his best statistical season He averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists in 2018-19. To doubt Griffin’s talent and wide-ranging impact is to doubt one of the most electric and flexible players of his generation. Griffin changed with the times and earned his spot on this list as a result.

PG. Toronto Raptors. Kyle Lowry. 49. player. 81.

50 greatest NBA players from the 21st century: 49. Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry has a championship under his belt and is widely considered the best player in Raptors history. He made six consecutive All-Star appearances in Toronto, putting the Raptors back on the map after the years of Chris Bosh and Vince Carter faded away. Lowry’s stats have never leapt off the screen, but his impact goes well beyond the box score.

Few true star talents have been as unselfish as Lowry. Sometimes to a fault. He has never been one to force his way into possessions. He doesn’t seek to take over games or lead the team in scoring. He is much more concerned with the right play. Swing passes, cuts, and locating the open man.

That’s not to say Lowry hasn’t had his moments in the limelight, coming up with crucial plays on both sides of the ball. The Raptors had a rather rotten postseason reputation before the one-season renaissance of Kawhi Leonard in 2018-19, but even so, the Raptors’ constant presence atop the East was in large part due to Lowry.

Both a tremendous defender and a brilliant lead ball-handler, Lowry has done little to dissuade me from his inclusion on this list. While Leonard gets much of the credit, Lowry was essential to Toronto’s championship run. In the years before that, he was the best player on a team with perennial home-court advantage in the playoffs. He is etched eternally into Raptors lore.