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

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Chris Webber
Chris Webber, Mandatory Credit: Tom Hauck /Allsport /

Chris Webber. 44. player. 84. . PF. Sacramento Kings

50 greatest NBA players from 21st century: 44. Chris Webber

Chris Webber, of Fab Five fame, was a big man ahead of his time. The 6-foot-9 power forward had the blend of skill and athleticism that is more commonly associated with modern bigs. He could face-up and handle on the perimeter. He could slide his feet defensively. In 2002-03, he averaged 5.4 assists per game. He was both a ferocious scorer and a deft playmaker.

With five All-Star appearances under his belt, not to mention the 1994 Rookie of the Year award, Webber’s resume is well fleshed out. He seemingly did it all for Sacramento with impressive numbers in every major statistical category. He scored efficiently, rebounded prolifically, passed intelligently, and made every manner of impact play on defense.

The Kings never ascended to the mountaintop during Webber’s reign, and he is seldom remembered for his early-career stint in Washington, but he remains one of the century’s most important players. He was not only impactful, but a sign of things to come at his position.

Some of the most competitive and enthralling postseason basketball of the early 2000s featured Webber and the Kings. While he was never able to topple the Kobe and Shaq-era of the Los Angeles Lakers, very few could. One can’t hold that against him.

player. 211. . C. Memphis Grizzlies. Marc Gasol. 43

50 greatest NBA players from 21st century: 43. Marc Gasol

Few players were as central to the Grit n’ Grind era of Memphis basketball as Marc Gasol. While he never accumulated the accolades of his Los Angeles-based brother, Marc was — for stretches — the best player in the family. To this day, he is a useful contributor on contending teams.

Gasol has made three All-Star appearances, garnered two All-NBA nods, and in 2013, he won Defensive Player of the Year. A hulking but skilled offensive center who has been one of the best at his position for the better part of this decade, Gasol deserves immense credit. At his peak, very few centers could sway the game on both ends the way he could.

Though not explosive athletically, nor a big standout in the box score, Gasol’s game-changing talent has long been evident to those who watch. His unselfishness and basketball I.Q. were paramount to the Grizzlies’ strong culture. He moved the basketball, made all the small effort plays, and was the anchor of a notoriously relentless defense.

In his later years, Gasol only cemented his legacy. He won the title with Toronto in 2019 and now has the chance to add a second ring with Los Angeles in 2021. While he is no longer the infallible two-way force he once was, Gasol has aged gracefully due to his expanded shooting range and aforementioned unselfish nature. He just makes teammates better.