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NBA All-Decade Team: From Kobe Bryant to LeBron James, the best of the 2010s

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We’re here, the end of the 2010s, a decade that saw the NBA rise in popularity unseen since Michael Jordan. The game changed many times over. We have lived the player empowerment and small-ball eras. Three-point attempts have doubled. Chris Kaman was a 2010 All-Star, and it is hard to imagine how he would fit in today’s NBA. Super teams came and went, and Kawhi Leonard ended almost all of them. We saw the decline of several all-time greats and the rise of several more. Here they are, the All-Decade Team.

(Yahoo Sports illustration)

First Team

G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Credentials: 2x MVP, 3x champion, 6x All-NBA (3x First Team)

Curry was the most important contributor to a pair of the NBA’s biggest plot lines over the past 10 years — the 3-point boon and the Warriors dynasty — both interwoven to define the second half of this decade.

Curry set the single-season record for 3-pointers made with 272 in 2012-13, and then broke it twice more, becoming the only player ever to make 400 threes in a season (at a 45 percent clip, no less). At 31 years old, he is already the greatest shooter to ever live, and he has done 99 percent of his damage since 2010, a run that includes a 73-win seasonback-to-back MVPsthree titles and six straight All-NBA appearances.

G: James Harden, Houston Rockets

Credentials: MVP, 6MOY, 6x All-NBA (5x First Team)

If Curry is the babyface of the 3-point era, James Harden is the bearded face of its natural evolution, for better or worse. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey took simple math (three is greater than two) and expanded it to eliminate the midrange, mandating more efficient shots either beyond the arc or at the rim, where fouls are more frequent. And Harden has proven the perfect player to carry out Moreyball’s mission.

Harden’s 3-point attempts per game have steadily risen from six in 2012-13, his first season in Houston, to 14 this season, and his free-throw attempts have found the same level. His is an isolation-heavy and foul-hungry brand of basketball that can be difficult to watch at times, but there is no denying the results. He is scoring at levels unseen since Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain, now approaching 40 points per game, and it has yielded one MVP honor, three more second-place finishes and six straight All-NBA nods.

F: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Credentials: 3x MVP, 3x champion, 3x Finals MVP, 10-time All-NBA (9x First Team), 5x All-Defense

LeBron has been the face of the NBA for the entire decade, save for Kobe Bryant’s run to a fifth ring in 2010. LeBron made The Decision that summer, and henceforth we have watched with great interest his transformation from goat to G.O.A.T. He has built a school and a media empire, and his comments on everything from domestic politics to foreign policy are met with international intrigue. He is a global icon.

He is also likely one of the two greatest players ever to walk the planet. Much of his assault on the record books has come this decade, and he is every bit as good exiting it as he was entering it. We could go on, but LeBron was the easiest choice for this roster in a stretch that includes three MVPs, three titles, five All-Defensive selections, eight straight Finals appearances, an All-NBA nod in each of the 10 years and a bajillion people wondering when, if ever, he will stop physically and mentally dominating their favorite teams.

F: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Credentials: MVP, 2x champion, 2x Finals MVP, 9x All-NBA (6x First Team)

Durant won four scoring titles in the first five years of the decade, and then came within a Splash Brothers barrage and an Achilles rupture of potentially ending it with four consecutive championships. In between, he became the league’s most bewildering superstar. Durant’s seismic free-agency move from Oklahoma City to Golden State lifted the super-team era to new heights, engendering endless debates about pride and loyalty, all fueled by burner accounts and beefs with teammates on both sides of that decision.

All the while, Durant has scolded the media and fans for focusing on the drama of the sport rather than his mastering of it, so let’s lay it bare: He grew into an all-time great this decade, earning an All-Star showing every year, nine All-NBA nods, and a pair of Finals MVPs en route to back-to-back titles and the real MVP.

C: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Credentials: 3x All-NBA (3x First Team), 3x All-Defense

Center is the weakest position of the decade, so in a 10-year span that all but rendered traditional big men extinct, who better to honor than Davis. He was a unicorn before the term became passé and has long preferred to play power forward despite a set of skills that makes him uniquely suited to be the modern center ideal. In the player empowerment era, Davis became the biggest power player, arguably forcing the most consequential trade since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar pressured Milwaukee to send him to Los Angeles.

Davis did not enjoy the playoff success you might expect at this spot, but it was hardly his fault. Drafted first overall in 2012, he has been the game’s most talented big for the better part of the decade, despite never having played alongside a teammate in any of his six All-Star Games. A mainstay on the All-NBA and All-Defensive rosters, Davis respectively made the top teams for each in 2017 and 2018 as a center and a power forward, a premier example of the all-purpose talent that could be on full display in L.A. for the next decade.

(Yahoo Sports illustration)

Second Team

G: Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets

Credentials: MVP, 8x All-NBA (2x First Team)

Westbrook was the fulcrum of the analytics versus eye test debate that engulfed the decade. He plays like a house afire, raging both to the rim and at anyone who crosses him, including Durant and inquiring media. On one hand, his passion led to ill-conceived shots and inefficient shooting percentages. On the other, it generated the first yearlong triple-double campaign since Oscar Robertson in a remarkable MVP effort, followed by two more such seasons, all punctuating a string of eight All-NBA bids in nine years.

G: Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder

Credentials: 8x All-NBA (4x First Team), 9x All-Defense

Paul’s quest for a ring fell short time and again on the Clippers and Rockets, due to circumstances both self-inflicted and out of his control. Eventually, his maniacal pursuit wore thin with his star partners, and he will end this decade in OKC exile, without a Finals appearance to show for it. For all his complaining, let us not forget he was the NBA’s best traditional point guard for most of the 2010s, a visionary on one end, a plunderer on the other and tough all the way through, good for six All-NBA and seven All-Defensive bids.

F: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

Credentials: 2x DPOY, 2x champion, 2x Finals MVP, 3x All-NBA (2x First Team), 5x All-Defense

Leonard may well end the decade as the league’s best active player. A defensive specialist who has added to his offensive arsenal every year, he announced himself as a staple of the San Antonio Spurs with a Finals MVP performance opposite LeBron James in 2014, riding that wave to two straight Defensive Player of the Year awards and a pair of top-three MVP finishes. Leonard then staked his reputation to a trade request, landed on the Toronto Raptors, and cemented his legacy with another historic Finals MVP effort. His résumé may not be as long as some of the others on this list, but his peaks are practically incomparable.

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Credentials: MVP, MIP, 3x All-NBA (1x First Team), 2x All-Defense

We are still waiting for Antetokounmpo’s first title run, which seems inevitable at some point, given his freakish ability as, essentially, a 7-foot point guard. He is a Most Improved Player and MVP already, and there is room for improvement. He just turned 25 years old, which we forget, because he is in his seventh season, built like a Greek god and posting numbers better than any Shaquille O’Neal season. Giannis may well rule the next decade, but he was special enough in the second half of this one to earn his spot here.

C: Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers

Credentials: 2x DPOY, 5x All-NBA (3x First Team), 3x All-Defense

You could make a case that Howard deserves the First Team center spot, but he lost his way for half the decade, until finding redemption to start this season as a productive reserve. We forget, though, that Howard had already built a Hall of Fame résumé before a handful of teams tired of his antics. He captured two of his three straight Defensive Player of the Year honors and five of his eight All-NBA nods this decade.

(Yahoo Sports illustration)

Third Team

G: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Credentials: Champion, Finals MVP, 4x All-NBA (4x First Team), 3x All-Defense

Kobe stans, hear me out: This decade marked the golden age of point guards, and Bryant was in decline from the moment he won his fifth ring to cap the 2009-10 season. He was a First Teamer last decade, for sure, but just did not give us enough peak Kobe to merit consideration over the backcourt beasts above. He did give us three more solid seasons before his Achilles gave out, and the 60-point, 50-shot farewell three years later. In between, Kobe was the league’s most inefficient high-volume shooter for 107 games.

G: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

Credentials: 2x champion, 4x All-NBA (1x First Team), 1x All-Defense

Wade, too, was just past his peak this decade, which still meant he was the second-best player behind LeBron on a team that made four straight Finals and won two of them. Wade made the last of his three All-Defense teams and four of his eight All-NBA rosters to start this decade, but all those careening attacks of the basket caught up to him. He played through a series of leg injuries on his post-prime tour from Miami to Chicago and Cleveland before landing home again, where he retired a South Beach legend last season.

F: Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers

Credentials: MIP, 5x All-NBA (1x First Team), 4x All-Defense

It’s been a wild ride for George these past 10 years. He came off the Indiana Pacers’ bench as a rookie in 2010, before blossoming into a two-way wing dynamo and LeBron’s biggest threat in the East. George snapped his leg the summer after his second straight conference finals appearance, and then reemerged as a top-three MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Two trade requests later, he is home in L.A., alongside Leonard, on a team that gives him his best title chance yet.

F: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Credentials: DPOY, 3x champion, 2x All-NBA, 5x All-Defense, 3x All-Star

Green deserves this spot as much for being a position-less paragon in the small-ball era as he does for his production on the dynasty that defined it. At his peak, he was the game’s best defender and best passing big man, a triple-double with an unparalleled understanding of angles and schemes. He is the unsung hero and villain behind five straight Finals showings, three titles and arguably the two best shooters ever to live.

C: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

Credentials: Champion, 3x All-NBA (1x First Team), 3x All-Defense

Again, Duncan was a First Teamer in the 2000s, but he was on the back end of a two-decade run as the backbone of the Spurs’ dynasty from 2010-16. He was still an All-Star in four of those seasons, deserving of recognition in all six, and either the most important or second-most vital player on a team that reached consecutive Finals and beat the big bad Heat. His absence is so stark now, reinforcing his contributions to a team that played some of the most beautiful basketball you will ever see, even as he entered his late 30s.

Also receiving votes ...

GUARDS

Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat (MIP, 2x All-NBA, 4x All-Defense)

Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets (ROY, champion, 2x All-NBA)

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (ROY, 4x All-NBA)

Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs (champion, 3x All-NBA)

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors (3x champion, 2x All-NBA, 2019 All-Defense)

FORWARDS

LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs (5x All-NBA)

Carmelo Anthony, Portland Trail Blazers (6x All-NBA)

Chris Bosh, Miami Heat (2x champion, 2007 All-NBA)

Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons (ROY, 5x All-NBA)

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (champion, 3x All-NBA)

CENTERS

DeMarcus Cousins, Los Angeles Lakers (2x All-NBA)

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (2x All-NBA, 2x All-Defense)

Marc Gasol, Toronto Raptors (DPOY, champion, 2x All-NBA, 1x All-Defense)

Pau Gasol (champion, 3x All-NBA)

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (2x DPOY, 2x All-NBA, 3x All-Defense)

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach