Mark Heisler's NBA decade awards

Inside the NBA

Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs tied as team of decade

December 27, 2009|By Mark Heisler

Now, for our eagerly awaited NBA Decade Awards, or at least they might be eagerly awaited if they came around more often than once in 10 years.

Of course, the most glamorous award goes to the Team of the Decade, so here goes:

Tie: Lakers and Spurs.

History isn't remembered by decades but eras, which might not fit neatly into decades.

The Lakers' 4-3 edge in titles over the Spurs this decade hardly demonstrates that they ruled, since it's 4-4 over 11 years counting the Spurs' title in 1999.

Of course, if either team goes ahead to stay in the next year or two, it will be that team's era fair and square, a proposition Lakers fans can live with.

MVP: David Stern, commissioner.

While getting torched roundly, his decisive moves set the stage for the amazing turnaround of the last two-plus seasons.

With the big agents spoiling for a fight, Stern locked out the players in 1999 but has had labor peace since with both sides largely agreeing on the basics of a fair deal.

In his real magic trick - his controversial move to cable TV - his league makes more than $900 million annually from the networks, to baseball's $700 million.

Player of the decade: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan (tie).

Same deal as the teams. All have four titles in 11 years, so whoever breaks through next wins the era.

Most amazing moment, even for Bryant: The season-ending victory in Portland in the spring of 2004, when he leaned under Ruben Patterson's armpit to knock down a 3-pointer, tying it at the end of regulation, then hit a 3-point moon ball over fast-closing Theo Ratliff at the end of the second overtime to give the Lakers a 105-104 win.

It came three days after a teammate criticized Bryant for not shooting in a loss in Sacramento, leading to a full-blown controversy, a furious meeting in which Kobe demanded that the teammate identify himself and accusations of "tanking" in the press.

Lakers history: You had to see it to believe it.

Best moment: Robert Horry's winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in Game 4, the high point of the incredible 2002 Lakers-Kings Western Conference finals.

With the Kings leading the series 2-1 and the game 99-97, and with nine players jumping on each other pursuing a rebound of O'Neal's miss as time ran out, Vlade Divac batted the ball out - right to Horry, spotted up on the arc, as if waiting for destiny to anoint him.

The rest was history.

Worst moment: The 2004 Auburn Hills Riot.

It's not good when your players punch out the customers on camera.

It's worse when Ron Artest hurtles into the stands to unload on the wrong fan and Jermaine O'Neal drops another in his tracks with a roundhouse right.

Best organization: Spurs.

In a tiny market with limited revenue, coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford made the most out of everything, turning late first-round and second-round picks into Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, George Hill and Luis Scola (oops).

The best part is they never bragged, made excuses or mentioned referees or conspiracies. In an NBA dictionary, their picture would be next to the word "grown-ups."

Mark Heisler covers the NBA for the Los Angeles Times. mheisler@tribune.com

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