A lot happens in a decade. As the 2010s come to a close, looking back at the NBA 10 years ago feels like looking into a different world.
That’s the frame in which the New York Times chose its NBA player of the decade. The newspaper honored Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry earlier this week for what he’s done to change the game, even acknowledging who he beat out in the headline.
It was the great LeBron James, who on Sunday was named the Associated Press male athlete of the decade. He beat out Tom Brady, Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi and Michael Phelps via an editor and beat writer vote for, per the AP’s Tim Reynolds, “reigning over all others — with no signs of slowing down.” (Serena Williams was named the AP female athlete of the decade on Saturday.)
Case for AP’s ‘The King reigns’
James was the AP’s runaway winner and was named for scoring the most points in the 10-year stretch that moved him from 124th on the all-time list to No. 4. He had “The Decision,” two championships with the Miami Heat, a return home to Cleveland, another title there, and then a split for Los Angeles to play for the Lakers and film “Space Jam 2.”
He is involved in social justice issues and hosts “The Shop” for more in-depth conversations on societal concerns. His I Promise School, launched in 2018 in Akron, Ohio, found immediate success.
''You add another 10 years of learning and adversity, pitfalls, good, great, bad, and any smart person who wants to grow will learn from all those experiences,'' James, who turns 35 Monday, told the AP. ''A decade ago, I just turned 25. I'm about to be 35 and I'm just in a better (place) in my life and have a better understanding of what I want to get out of life.''
The Associated Press gave out its award for the entire body of work, from sport to person. James has three NBA titles, three MVPs and three Finals MVPs as well as the most points, field goals and more advanced stats through the decade.
The New York Times acknowledged all these things, specifically James’ record-breaking numbers, but went with Curry as the game’s best player this decade.
NYT ‘landslide’ for Curry as NBA’s best
The New York Times published blurbs from sports writers and editors to explain their decision. While many wrote that James was the best player, they described Curry as the one to change the game. And that has the most impact on a decade.
Hall of Fame sportswriter Harvey Araton called Curry’s impact “profound” and dubbed him the “breathtaking long-distance dialer of a far-out decade.” He continued to break his own record for 3-pointers this decade and “mastered the art” of long-distance shots late in the shot clock, wrote Benjamin Hoffman.
No one changed basketball the way he did, and no one captivated the world as he did. Suddenly, here was a player for whom there was no such thing as a bad shot. That’s not true for anyone besides Curry. He’s the one.
Curry won three titles — all against James and his Cleveland Cavaliers — two MVPs and led the Warriors to the franchise’s best record ever in 2015-16.
Yahoo Sports named an all-decade team and — spoiler! — both Curry and James were on the first team, with writer Ben Rohrbach writing that James’ place on the team was the easiest decision. That there is no consensus now on the best NBA player of the past 10 years, though, means the Curry vs. James battle will continue for generations to come. And what we use to determined our “bests” can always change.
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