The 75 greatest NBA players of the 2000s, ranked

The 2000s were an important decade for the NBA, with new stars emerging to carry the league into a new era. But which players were the best of the decade?
Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal
Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal / Jed Jacobsohn/GettyImages
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39) Dikembe Mutombo

NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo was known as a defensive force during his 18-year career, which spanned nearly 1200 games. Actually, Mutombo is one of the few players on this list who can say that they played more than 550 games in both the 1990s and 2000s and were among the best players in each decade. 

Between the 1999-00 and 2008-09 seasons, Mutombo averaged a solid 6.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks in 593 games for the Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, and Houston Rockets.

Playing for six teams in 10 years is usually a bad thing. Nevertheless, Mutombo's rebounding and rim protection were very much in demand, with the Sixers and Nets acquiring him in the hopes of deep playoff runs. He even played in two NBA finals in 2001 and 2003 against the Lakers and Spurs, though he failed to win a championship.

To his credit, he made three straight all-star teams at the beginning of the decade, despite being over 30. His game aged surprisingly well too, with his last all-star appearance coming at 35 and him playing into his early 40s with the Rockets.

In fact, Houston was forced to lean on the aging Mutombo, with Yao Ming often missing extended time and he was a more than worthy fill-in with his shot blocking and rebounding. His career concluded abruptly during the 2008–09 season, but he was a shoo-in for the Basketball Hall of Fame as an eight-time all-star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year winner.