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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29) Gary Payton

Despite being 31 years old during the 1999–2000 season, Hall of Famer Gary Payton cracks this list. Payton played a total of seven years in the 2000s for the Seattle Supersonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and finally the Miami Heat.

After spending the first 11 seasons of his career with the Supersonics, he was traded to the Bucks and later signed with the Lakers. There, he formed a super team with Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Karl Malone with the goal of winning a championship.

They managed to make the NBA Finals but lost to the Pistons. Fortunately, Payton won a championship with the Heat in 2006, even playing a big role in their Game 3 comeback that kept them from going down 0-3.

Payton managed to log 631 games over the decade and average an impressive 16.3 points and 6.6 assists per game. In keeping with his reputation as being durable, he missed just 23 games over his final seven seasons of his career while playing more than 35 minutes per game.

With a relatively limited sample size of a decade, playing more than 600 games helps him rank higher. As does his making six consecutive all-star appearances, rivaling even the best players of the decade, even though he was drafted in 1990. Based on his strong resume, Payton is the 29th-best player of the 2000s.