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NBA COAST TO COAST

Lakers, Spurs top the decade

Even David Stern deserves credit for the job he has done the last 10 years.

December 27, 2009|By Mark Heisler
  • Kobe Bryant's Lakers and Tim Duncan's Spurs share the honors for team of the decade even though L.A. has the edge in NBA titles, 4-3, in the last 10 years.
Kobe Bryant's Lakers and Tim Duncan's Spurs share the honors… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

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

Teams of the decade -- Lakers and San Antonio.

History isn't remembered by decades, but eras, which may 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 goes ahead to stay in the next year or two, it'll be their era fair and square, a proposition Lakers fans can live with.

MVP -- David Stern, commissioner.

While getting torched roundly, and occasionally ticking me off personally with his Judge Dredd style -- if that was a lot less than I ticked him off -- 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 the players out in 1999 but has had labor peace since.

In his real magic trick, his controversial move to cable TV kept network revenue coming, to the tune of $930 million annually, leaving baseball, which gets $700 million, in its wake.

Players of the decade -- Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan.

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

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

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

Best moment -- Robert Horry's game-winning three-point basket at the buzzer in Game 4 in the incredible 2002 West finals.

With Sacramento leading the series, 2-1, and the game, 99-97, and nine players jumping on each other to rebound O'Neal's miss as time ran down, Vlade Divac batted the ball out to Horry, spotted up on the arc, as if stationed there by the gods.

The rest is Lakers history.

Second best moment -- Dwyane Wade weaving through all five Dallas Mavericks, getting the call and making the free throws that gave Miami a 100-99 overtime win in the pivotal Game 5 of the 2006 Finals, perhaps the greatest move in NBA history that didn't lead to a basket.

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 -- San Antonio.

In its tiny market, Coach Gregg Popovich made the most out of everything, turning late picks into Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, George Hill and Luis Scola (oops).

Even better, the Spurs never bragged, complained about referees or uttered the word "conspiracy." In an NBA dictionary, their photo would be next to the word "grown-ups."

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