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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19) Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace ranking this high may surprise many fans, but not those who remember his impact. Wallace started his career by going undrafted in 1996 out of Virginia Union and bounced around the NBA. He started with the Washington Bullets and Wizards, then played for the Orlando Magic before being traded to the Detroit Pistons in the Grant Hill sign-and-trade.

That turned out to be a surprisingly underrated deal in NBA history since Wallace became the backbone of one of the most dominant teams of the 2000s while Hill failed to live up to expectations in Orlando. During his first stint in Detroit, Wallace helped lead the Pistons to five straight Eastern Conference Finals, back-to-back NBA Finals, and a championship in 2004.

While Wallace only averaged 7.9 points per game over those six seasons, he was a dominant rebounder and defender during that span. He averaged a stellar 12.9 rebounds and led the league in rebounding in consecutive seasons.

Wallace also won four Defensive Player of the Year awards in a five-year span from 2001–02 to 2005–06 by averaging 2.8 blocks and 1.6 steals. He also made four straight all-star teams from 2002–03 to 2005–06. He later signed with the Chicago Bulls, which was great for Wallace, who made $60 million over four seasons but not so much for the Bulls.

They pawned him off on the Cleveland Cavaliers. After it was clear that he wasn't the same player, he was again traded to the Phoenix Suns, where he was bought out. He then re-signed in Detroit in 2009 and finished out the decade there.

All told, Wallace won a major award four times, made four all-star teams, was a key part of a dominant team, and won a championship. There are better players on this list but few have had a better decade than him.