NBA Top Moments: 2000s
NBA.com takes a look back at the top moments that define the history of the NBA.
The Kobe & LeBron Years (2000s)
Kobe Bryant-to-Shaquille O’Neal alley-oops are among the most iconic and lasting NBA images of the early 2000s. The duo’s alley-oop in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals stands above the rest, without a doubt.
When Michael Jordan retired for the second time in January of 1999, he said he was “99.9 percent certain” that he would never play in the NBA again. Less than two years later, on September 25, 2001, that 0.1 percent chance won out. Jordan announced his return to the NBA, this time as a member of the Washington Wizards.
When Pat Riley trademarked the phrase “Three-Peat” in 1988, he anticipated it would be for his two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Riley-coached Lakers were swept by the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals, however, and L.A. would have to wait 14 years for Riley’s vision to be realized.
There are a handful of NBA Drafts that could lay claim to being the greatest. In 2003, another group added themselves to that list. While LeBron James dominated the headlines on his way to being selected No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Carmelo Anthony (No. 3), Chris Bosh (4) and Dwyane Wade (5) rounded out the top five of what might be the consensus No.1 Draft class in history.
When David Robinson suffered a broken foot six games into the 1996-97 season, the San Antonio Spurs’ season quickly went down the drain and any thoughts towards postseason success were immediately replaced by thoughts of bouncing lottery balls. As luck would have it, Robinson’s injury came with a silver lining that catapulted the Spurs to a run of four NBA championships in nine seasons. That bit of luck? Being awarded the first overall selection in the 1997 Draft following the team’s 20-62 season.
When Joe Dumars was hired by the struggling Detroit Pistons to be team president after the 1999-2000 season, he couldn’t have predicted what awaited his team four seasons later. The Pistons had not advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since 1991 and had missed the playoffs in four of the previous eight seasons prior to Dumars’ hiring. Everything was about to change.
Just like the old saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. That about summed up the Spurs once again, who edged the Pistons in a physically demanding and thrillingly epic Finals, which San Antonio grabbed in seven games after a season of major NBA changes.
In front of their home fans, down 89-76 with 6:15 remaining in Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat’s season was hanging on by a thread. The Heat were already in a two game hole to the Dallas Mavericks, knowing full well that no team had ever come back from 0-3 in NBA history.
When Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962, the NBA world knew it would never see anything like it again. Since that game, the 70-point margin had been crossed six times and just twice since 1963, but that was as far as it went. It seemed David Robinson’s 71-point game in 1994 against the Clippers was as high as anyone would ever reach again. That was until Kobe Bryant lit the Toronto Raptors on fire on January 22, 2006 in the greatest single-game performance in modern NBA history.
In LeBron James’ first postseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers took a heavily-favored Detroit Pistons team the distance before falling 79-61 in Game 7 of the 2006 Eastern Conference semifinals. The following season, James and the Cavs had a chance for redemption … and this time, they didn’t squander it.
Until the Miami Heat won 27 games in a row in the 2012-13 season, the Houston Rockets’ 22-game win streak in the 2007-08 season stood as the gold standard for consecutive wins in the modern NBA era.
Before the Celtics acquired Allen and Garnett in a pair of blockbuster trades, Boston had gone 21 years without an appearance in The Finals. But coming off a 24-58 injury-plagued season, Celtics president Danny Ainge changed the franchise’s fortunes almost overnight with two bold moves.
It took 43 years, but in 2009 Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson did what was once considered the impossible. He passed Red Auerbach for the most NBA titles won as a coach when he collected his 10th championship. Jackson would go on to win another championship the following season to bring his total to 11, but the one that broke the record will always be very memorable.