NBA: 5 most culturally impactful players of the last 20 years

NBA Michael Jordan Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport
NBA Michael Jordan Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport /
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NBA Los Angeles Lakers
NBA Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images) /

Exploring the five most culturally impactful players in the NBA over the last 20 years

There are certain global icons who come along once in a generation that everyone knows about. There are also certain players whose influence permeates the NBA long after their retirement and unsung heroes whose influence is there, but hard to remember that they are the reason for specific trends.

Cultural impact is impossible to quantify so rather than a top 5 list, this list will simply mention five players who had the largest and longest impact over the last 20 years without ranking.

This means that although Stephen Curry changed the game in the last five years, his tenure isn’t long enough to be mentioned if we start from 1999. While Vince Carter changed the game with his incredible dunks and inspiring Canada, along with Steve Nash, he won’t be featured on this list. If this list was made 10 years ago, Shaquille O’Neal would be included, but much of Shaq’s influence came in the ‘90s as well as a young player starring in movies, rapping on tracks with Biggie and changing the game.

Kevin Garnett changed the game by being one of the first players to grab his own rebound at nearly 7-feet, speed down the floor and beat everyone to score on the other end at the rim or with a jump shot breaking the stereotype of larger players being slow and unable to shoot.

He paved the way for players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant who are simply victims of timing in being left off this list. Ten years from now they will definitely be a part of this list, but this list focuses on the five most culturally impactful players from 1999-2019 without ranking.

Let’s begin.