If I could go back in time and experience a different era of basketball, I'd probably head back to 2000. It'd be cool to see Magic vs. Bird and Jordan's reign of dominance in the 90s, but the 2000s seem like they were just different. The commercials, the clothes, the shoes, the teams. Today it seems like new fans gravitate towards players more than teams, and that's one of the biggest differences between this decade and last. When I think of the past, I often think about the teams, and of course the players that made them up, so in honor of the 2000s, let's look back at some notable teams from the era.
Keep in my mind that I was wrapping up elementary school during a lot of these teams' "reigns", so if I'm not the most in-depth, sorry for not having a fully developed brain?
Just decided this is going to be a multiple-part "series". It won't be weekly or anything, but whenever I feel like reminiscing, I'll write one of these up.
2008-09 Chicago Bulls
Notable Players: Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller (!), John Salmons (!!!)
For a list like this, I would normally go with the 2010-11 Bulls, but I feel like the early Derrick Rose, pre-Thibs teams never get talked about. There were only two iterations and both got knocked out in the first round, but at least they were an entertaining glimpse into what was to come. (Damn, it makes sense why they never get talked about.)
Since I was 10 during this season, I really only remember their first round battle against the Boston Celtics. To this day, it's one of the best series I've ever watched, and there aren't many others that have matched the intensity and edge-of-the-seat fear that surrounded the seven-game war. It had an NBA-record four (!) games go into overtime, including the 3OT Game 6, one-point Bulls' win thriller in the United Center. (That game also gave the world Joakim's infamous steal-and-slam after picking Paul Pierce's pocket with 40 seconds left in the third OT.) The series was so back and forth, and I can only hope 2019 has a series like that in store. KG was hurt and missed the entire series, but I still remember the camera panning to him talking shit to everyone he could. His intensity would've brought a whole other layer to the series, and in retrospect, it seems almost certain that him and Joakim would've fought at least once in 35 quarters.
This team also features a lot of OG Bulls from growing up. I'm not talking about D-Rose, Luol, or Joakim, though. Guys like John Salmons (my current Twitter profile picture), Brad Miller (owner of one of the weirdest tattoos in NBA history), Kirk Hinrich (everyone got his jersey at Kohl's) and Tyrus Thomas are staples of my childhood Bulls, and they remind me of a completely different era and style of NBA basketball.
2009-10 Phoenix Suns
Notable Players: Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire, Grant Hill, Channing Frye, Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley, Leandro Barbosa
There's two reasons why this team is so memorable to me: 1) they were a fun team from top-to-bottom and 2) this was the last season of the Suns that I came to admire.
While this wasn't as fast paced of a team as Mike D'Antoni's "7 Seconds or Less" squads, they still played an enjoyable style of basketball. Steve Nash was getting old, but he was still an elite playmaker, and it was also Amar'e's last season with the Suns before hitting free agency, and he put up big numbers to get a big deal with the Knicks (23 points and 9 rebounds). The group of role players they had were what stuck out to me, and I still consider them one of my all-time favorite bench units. (Robin Lopez was on this team, and I feel like he's been on five teams for like four years each. Just Googled him, and he's only 30? I honestly feel like he's 42, at the youngest.)
It's a shame they got knocked out in the Western Conference Finals, but at least it opened up the opportunity for Kobe to grab a final ring. To me, one of the biggest all-time NBA tragedies is Steve Nash never competing in an NBA Finals or winning a ring, and the fact that he came within a few games of making his first career appearance in what would be his last real playoff run* is crushing. The Suns haven't made the playoffs since this season, and at this rate, it doesn't look like they will anytime soon.
*: this is my first ever footnote and honestly, I feel pretty sick. Anyways, the failed Lakers superteam with Kobe, Dwight, and Nash made it to the playoffs but got swept in the first round by the Spurs, mainly because Kobe was out after tearing his Achilles against the Warriors and then hitting free throws immediately after like a true warrior, so I don't really count it as Nash's final run at a championship. (Footnotes shouldn't be this long, but fuck it this is my list.)
2009-10 Utah Jazz
Notable Players: Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap, Andre Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer (for a little)
I was inspired by a video about this team to do this list, so it only feels right to include them. The DWill-Boozer Jazz were always a fun TNT watch, but they always seemed to get jammed in the playoffs. They had deep rosters and All-Star talent leading the way, but that damn Kobe Bryant always got in the way (the Lakers eliminated them in three straight playoffs!).
This team being somewhat forgotten in history goes to show how good the West was (and still is). The Lakers, Nuggets, Spurs, Suns, and Mavs were postseason staples, and with more notable, probable-Hall of Fame talents on their rosters, they take a forefront position in the memories' of fans. It's a shame, but the Jazz were kind of in a no-win situation every playoffs. At least we got to see DWill drop people and dish beautiful dimes to the Booz Cruise.
The thing I find hilarious about this team is that about 1/4 of the team jump shipped to Chicago the next offseason. Boozer, Korver, and Brewer all ended up signing with the Bulls, and yet again they would meet utter, disappointing playoff exits at the hands of a lethal generational talent (LeBron).
This team had C.J. Miles and Kostas Koufas, damn. Honestly one of the more random throwback rosters, but nonetheless a cool one.
2010-11 Miami Heat
Notable Players: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller (?), Eddie House (???)
Looking at this roster, I'm almost in awe at how top-heavy it was. Imagine trying to win a championship in 2019 with just three good players; now it seems like you need your 14th man to be able to hit big shots and become an All-Star in the wake of an injury if you even want to get to the Conference Finals.
ANYWAYS, I absolutely fucking despised this team, but they made this list because of their importance to league history and fundamentally changed how teams are organized to this day. The fiasco surrounding LeBron's first free agency was absolutely bonkers, and I'm jealous of how my younger-self got to experience it. I found out everything through SportsCenter and the car radio; that's it. I didn't have Twitter, mainly because I had a sweet Samsung phone with a slide-out keyboard. Obviously I wanted LBJ, Wade, and Bosh in Chicago, so hearing that LeBron would be taking his talents to South Beach was soul-crushing. I loved LeBron, even had his jersey. But now, I was angry, and mainly because he didn't go to the Bulls.
At the time I didn't understand or see superteams coming. Sure, there was the 2008 Celtics "Big Three", but they didn't seem overwhelmingly powerful. They still had a series against the Lakers, and were obviously beatable. The Heat were too, going 2-2 in the Finals during their own "Big Three"'s run, but their impact wasn't necessarily derived from their dominance. They set the path for stars to team up, and ultimately may have set the stage for KD to go to the Warriors.
Fuck this team for beating the Bulls in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, ending D-Rose's MVP campaign and stripping me of a chance to see them win in my lifetime. Zion better bring us a 'ship.