);
Golden State Warriors

Defining the decade: The best team, player and moments of the 2010s

It's decades week here on NBA.com and each day we're paying our dues to the defining players, teams and moments of every decade.

"You can't tell the story of X without Y."

How many times have you heard that phrase in some way, shape or form? And how many times have you then heard anyone try to tell those stories?

Here's what defined the 2010s a decade that shaped the legacy of many.

The five moments that mattered

LeBron James joins the Miami Heat: Tom Chambers became the first unrestricted free agent to sign with a new team in the summer of 1988.

No one truly knew what that would mean at the time or how powerful play movement would become but in the 2010s we found out pretty quickly as the two most defining moments of the decade came via free agency.

The decade started off with a bang when LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers high and dry and decided to join Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat in one of the most shocking unions in NBA history. Never before had a star in the prime of his career decided to leave the team that drafted him via free agency. Never before had the best player in the game decided to join another team instead of recruiting players to his and never before had three All-Stars conspired to play together.

It was foreign territory for the NBA at the time and the mere sight of James, Wade and Bosh on a stage that resembled a rock concert claiming they would win multiple championships felt like the end of the league as many knew it. It wasn't quite the end but it did open up the door for stars to comfortably leave their teams via free agency.

Kevin Durant joins the Warriors: The decade would close without another shocking free agency move when Kevin Durant decided to join the Golden State Warriors - a team that had just won 73 games and made the NBA Finals two years in a row. Durant, like LeBron took a ton of backlash for the move, but he was able to finally stand atop the mountain twice helping the Warriors win back-to-back championships.

Durant and LeBron will no doubt go down as the best players of the decade. Both of them will also be remembered for their off-season move that changed the league as we knew it.

Drose MVP: Before the 2010-11 season, Derrick Rose was asked what's the next step for him heading into his third season in the league.

"The way I look at it within myself, why not? Why can't I be the MVP of the league," he asked. "Why can't I be the best player in the league? I don't see why [not]. Why can't I do that?"

Rose proceeded to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 62-20 record averaging a career-high 25.0 points, 7.7 assists. At age 22, Rose became the youngest MVP in league history.

"Back in training camp when I said I wanted to be MVP, I wasn't trying to be cocky at all," Rose said. "I knew that I put a lot of hard work in over the summer in the offseason, and I just wanted to push myself."

Rose ran away with the vote, well ahead of second-place Dwight Howard and third place LeBron James. Rose's win put an end to King James' two-year reign with the MVP award. LeBron and the Heat would, however, get the last laugh as they eliminated Rose's Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals in just five games.

It would be as close as Rose would get to the Finals and unfortunately as close as he would get to his peak powers as the following season he would begin a series of heartbreaking injuries that would change his career forever.

The decades started off with so much promise for the young Bull, but we're left wondering what could've been.

Russell's Triple Doubles: A record that many never thought would be touched was matched not once but three times. Oscar Robertson was the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season until Russell Westbrook came along and joined him 55 years later.

Westbrook averaged 31.6 points, 10.4 assists, 10.7 rebounds in 2016-17 helping the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 47-35 record following the abrupt departure of Kevin Durant. The feat earned him league MVP edging out his former teammate James Harden for the award.

Westbrook recorded 42 triple-doubles that season breaking Roberston's single-season record (41).

For those who thought it may have been fluke, Westbrook became the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double in back to back seasons. He finished the 2017-18 season averaging 25.4 points, 10.3 assists and 10.1 rebounds. He then went on to make the task look routine by averaging a triple-double for a third straight year in 2018-19.

73-win Warriors: The 2015-16 Warriors defended their title with a massive chip on their shoulders after whispers that they lucked into their first championship since 1975.

After starting the season 24-0 they had everyone wondering if they could eclipse what the 96 Chicago Bulls had accomplished going 72-10. They did and what a ride it was. It came down to the final game of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies but the Warriors broke the regular-season wins record by one.

Steph Curry had himself his best season to date averaging 30.1 points, 6.7 assists shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 45.4 percent from three. He also shot 90.8 percent from the free-throw line becoming the seventh player in league history to join the 50-40-90 club. That season Curry became the first player in NBA history to be named the league's MVP unanimously.

The Warriors however couldn't close the show as they let a 3-1 series lead in the Finals slip away and watched the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate their first title to close the season.

Biggest what if: What if the 73-win Warriors had won the title?

Honourable mention: Derrick Rose's health

It's the biggest what if in NBA history. If the Warriors don't let their 3-1 lead in the Finals slip away, LeBron James is maybe still stuck on two rings. Steph Curry's legacy grows from an all-time great point guard to an all-time great player. Kevin Durant likely doesn't make the move to Golden State thus potentially keeping him ringless.

The three biggest figures of the decade's legacy would've been impacted had the Warriors won just one more game in 2015-16.

Best team: 2017 Warriors

Arguably the most talented team in NBA history. They could play in any era, against anyone, in any style.

Best player: LeBron James

Honourable mention: Kevin Durant, Steph Curry

The King is still the King. Three NBA championships in the decade, coming back from being down 3-1 in the Finals to deliver the title he promised his hometown - LeBron James was the measuring stick of the decade. He'll likely be the measuring stick for many players for years to come.

Best game: Game 7 2016 NBA Finals

As was mentioned in the biggest what-if of the decade, this game may have changed the legacy of many - even some who weren't even playing in the game.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

Warren, Booker, Crawford
How Wednesday's results impacted the playoff race
NBA.com Staff
#Morant #DeRozan #Tatum
What's at stake in Thursday's games?
Benyam Kidane
#Lillard
Lillard, Anthony power Blazers past Rockets
Benyam Kidane
Bam Adebayo vs. Celtics
Adebayo leads Bulter-less Heat past Celtics
Yash Matange
#Harden/Lillard
Who's scarier on offence: Harden or Lillard?
Carlan Gay and Scott Rafferty
#Booker
NBA world reacts on Twitter to Booker's game-winner
Benyam Kidane
More News