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

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Michael Redd
Michael Redd (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Michael Redd. 46. player. 89. . SG. Milwaukee Bucks

50 greatest NBA players from the 21st century: 46. Michael Redd

An integral piece of the early-2000s Bucks, Michael Redd is one of this century’s more overlooked players. He only has one All-Star to his name, but for a long stretch, Redd stood among the league’s most prolific scorers. In six seasons from 2003 to 2009, he averaged 23.5 points and 4.2 rebounds on 44.7 percent shooting.

Redd started his career behind Ray Allen on the depth chart but quickly elevated himself to franchise centerpiece. In the years after Allen’s departure to Seattle, Redd was the lifeblood of Milwaukee’s offense. The Bucks were never able to put a good enough team around him to make noise in the playoffs, but Redd set several franchise records during his time.

To this day, Redd holds the Milwaukee franchise record for points scored in a game with 57. He also made eight 3s in a single quarter, which held the all-time record until Klay Thompson broke it in 2015.

A modern scorer with shooting range and dynamic athleticism, Redd’s one All-Star appearance and one All-NBA nomination fail to do him justice. A knee injury in 2009 derailed his career and put a slight damper on his reputation, but Redd was one of the pivotal players of the early 2000s — even if fans at the time failed to properly recognize it.

player. 169. . C. Houston Rockets. Yao Ming. 45

50 greatest NBA players from the 21st century: 45. Yao Ming

Inextricably tied to his towering frame, Yao Ming was one of the century’s most unique forces. He dominated the interior for nearly a decade, playing eight seasons and making eight All-Star appearances (the validity of his 2011 appearance, on just five games played, is up for debate).

Listed at 7-foot-6, 310 pounds, it’s no wonder opposing centers struggled to work around Yao on either side of the ball. He was an imposing defender, forcing point guards to constantly rethink plans of driving to the hoop. On offense, he needn’t jump or shoot — he could merely score over the top of any and every competitor.

In 2006-07, at the height of his powers, Yao averaged 25.0 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. Injuries were a persistent issue for Yao — he only played 48 games that very season — but when healthy, he elevated the Rockets in unmistakable ways.

It’s fair to question whether Yao would have similar success in the modern NBA, but he entered the league at just the right moment. At a time when defenses and offenses were still built in a way he, and every the bruiser, could take advantage of. He was skilled too, not incapable of incorporating finesse in the post. His five All-NBA appearances speak for themselves.