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

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Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson, AFP PHOTO/Jeff HAYNES /

player. 93. . PG. Philadelphia 76ers. Allen Iverson. 14

50 greatest NBA players from 21st century: 14. Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson left a bigger mark on the NBA culture than perhaps any other player on this list. On the court, he was electric. A supreme shot-maker who left viewers entranced with his unrivaled dribble package. Off the court, his style and influence percolated throughout the entire NBA. He changed dress codes, brought headbands and shooting sleeves into style, and gave the most famous practice-adjacent interview in league history.

A great number of smart NBA minds have debated Iverson’s true impact on winning. He was a small guard, and yes, his style was often self-revolving. He was a bucket-getter first and foremost, with a proclivity for contested jump shots and some undeniable fluctuations in shooting percentage. That said, Iverson dragged Philadelphia to the NBA Finals in 2001 with a roster that — to put it frankly — should not have made the NBA Finals. That season stands today as a testament to Iverson’s impact on winning.

Iverson led the NBA in scoring four times, doing so thrice after the turn of the century. He was heliocentric in his playstyle, but still had five seasons in which he averaged over seven assists per game. He also led the NBA in steals three consecutive years from 2001 to 2003. He may have been undersized, but his effort and quick hands were never in doubt.

The magic of Iverson in Philly was never replicated upon his departure in 2006, but he still managed a solid stretch in Denver before his career tapered out. Iverson made 10 All-Star appearances, winning the game MVP twice, and was nominated to seven All-NBA squads. The accolades and the narrative are too strong to ignore.

Los Angeles Clippers. Chris Paul. 13. player. 77. . PG

50 greatest NBA players from 21st century: 13. Chris Paul

The Point God. Chris Paul is one of the greatest floor generals in NBA history — a playmaker of staggering talent who has performed admirably on both sides of the ball ever since his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2005-06. Even now, in his 16th season, Paul is fresh off his 11th All-Star bid. His consistency and longevity place him in rare territory.

Paul is notably short in the ring department — he has never won a championship, nor appeared in the NBA Finals. To discount him for that reason alone, however, would be to ignore his brilliant body of work. Paul is a four-time assists champ and six-time steals champ. He has been named to nine (going on 10) All-NBA squads, and nine All-Defensive teams.

Whether you look at his early flourishes in New Orleans (he averaged 22.8 points, 11.0 assists, and 2.8 steals on 50.3 percent shooting in 2008-09), his steadfast presence as mayor of Lob City in LA, or his myriad contributions in Houston, OKC, and now Phoenix, there’s no dip on Paul’s résumé. He has been consistently elite from day one.

Basketball I.Q. oozes out of every aspect of Paul’s game. His cleverness as a passer, his creativity as a scorer. Even his ability to make a consistently positive impact on defense despite listed at a plain 6-foot-zero. The Wake Forest alum has earned his spot in the Hall of Fame as soon as it opens for him.