NBA basketball of the 2000s was a special time. The defensive three second rule was instituted, illegal defense guidelines were eliminated, and Vince Carter was still flying high above NBA arenas. This era of NBA basketball was also home to some of the most electrifying guards in NBA history. That they were all combo guards (or tweeners as they were called at the time) was yet another interesting coincidence.
The Answer remains one of the most influential players regardless of position that has ever graced an NBA arena. Fans came for the cornrows and tattoos but stayed for the electrifying crossovers and dizzying speed. Unafraid to mix it up with the monsters living in the paint, AI developed an unrivaled reputation as one of the most fearless players in league history. Though, sadly, his legacy seems to be that of under-achieving talent, his accomplishments on the court speaks for itself to this day.
Stevie Franchise embodied the type of ferocious and athletic guard play that Russell Westbrook is known for today. Revered for his impressive vertical leap, Francis was a participant in the immortal 2000 Dunk contest that saw Vinsanity take home the crown. Unfortunately for Francis and his fans, his career was marred with injuries and personal issues. Consequently, we were not able to enjoy a full career of Francis at his best.
Unlike the other guards on this list, Arenas was not expected to make a splash in the NBA at all. Drafted with the 31st pick in the 2nd round, Arenas worked on his craft, ready to capitalize on his opportunity should it ever come. In his sophomore season, Arenas increased his scoring by almost 8 PPG and won the Most Improved Player Award. “Agent Zero” – he would eventually become known as – cultivated a reputation as a gun-slinging (literally and metaphorically) guard that could shoot from deep or take the defense off the dribble. Arenas ensured his legacy was cemented by scoring 60 points on Kobe Bryant’s before injuries would begin to derail his career.
Almost as much as Iverson himself, “Starbury” personified the hip-hop swag of that era. Confident and possessing the skills to back it up, Marbury was everything New York stood for. With a crossover that could rival Iverson’s and playmaking skills that would make Jason Kidd blush, he was a substantive player that was a true difference maker in his prime. Much like Steve Francis however, personal issues interfered with his career until he found new life in China.
Davis made his mark embarrassing larger post players with brutal dunks. Most notably, his assassination of Andrei Kirilenko’s ego with a thunderous jam. B-Diddy had the size to bully smaller point guards and an explosive first step to leave larger wings in the dust. As a member of the “We Believe Warriors”, he was a part of NBA history, defeating the top seeded Dallas Mavericks as a number 8 seed – becoming jus the third team in NBA history to do so.
The 2000s era of basketball was freshly post Michael Jordan and still finding its identity. Unusual nicknames aside, these guards were some of the most exhilarating to watch at time. Their presence and abilities on the court brought a fresh excitement to the game. Undoubtedly an era that millennials will cherish will into senescence.
Clint is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, and contributed to various sports publications prior to his work with Upside Hoops.