The final grouping of the forgotten stars of yesteryear will examine the LeBron James era from 2003 to the present. This list skews towards players who were stars in the 2000s and early-2010s because many of the players who were stars during the mid-to-late 2010s are still playing at a star level and, therefore, may play their way out of potentially "forgotten stars" status. The list also does not include many players who were internationally famous, like Yao Ming or superstars on all-time famous teams like Chris Bosh. Finally, players who were superstars in very recent memory, like John Wall, were also left off the list. Enjoy!
Resume: 2x All-NBA, 1x Champion, 4x All Star
Pretty much everyone would agree that the "7 Seconds of Less" Suns of the late-2000s changed the NBA for the better by speeding up the pace of the game and playing a more spread-out, three-point-centric style. Most people remember Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire as the two main catalysts of that high-powered offense, but the real engine that made it go was Shawn "Matrix" Marion. And that's because Marion, a small forward by nature, was athletic enough, strong enough and diligent enough to "play up" a position and regularly battle with power forwards so that Phoenix could play faster. During his best seven seasons with the Suns, Marion averaged 19.3 PPG and 10.4 RPG.
Resume: 1x All-Star, 2008-09 MIP, All-Rookie Team
Danny Granger had one of the more precipitous rises and falls you'll see in the NBA. His scoring averages by season went as follows: 7.5; 13.9; 19.6; 25.8; 24.1; 20.5; 18.7; 5.4; 8.2; 6.3. What happened, you ask? Granger, unfortunately, had bad knees. They hampered him for a few seasons during his prime, then completely betrayed him by the 2012-13 season. It was too bad because when Granger started to fall off, his team and in particular, the other starting wing, Paul George, started to take off and would go on to battle the LeBron James-led Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy. Had Granger stayed healthy the whole time, the Pacers might have made the Finals or even won a title during the early-2010s.
Resume: 3x All-NBA, 1x Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 5x All Star, 2x All-Defense
Chauncey Billups is probably a little too recognizable for this list given that he won the 2003-04 Finals MVP. However, the man has been a Hall of Fame candidate since 2018 and still hasn't been inducted, so he deserves some love here. Billups had an interesting journey - somewhat similar to Kyle Lowry in that he initially struggled to find his footing in the league, but then had an extended prime as one of the top point guards in the NBA. From 2003 to 2012 (26 to 35 years old), Billups was a stud, averaging 17.3 PPG and 6.1 APG with 42-40-90 shooting splits. Moreover, he always played stellar defense as seen by his two All-Defensive Team selections.
Resume: Hall of Fame, 5x All-NBA, 1x Champion, 4x DPOY, 6x All-Defense
From 2002-03 to 2007-08, the Detroit Pistons made the Eastern Conference Finals six times in a row. They were a top-five-rated defense in five of those years (and seventh in the other year). And the anchor behind that elite defense was Ben Wallace. During that span, Wallace won a record four Defensive Player of the Year awards (Dikembe Mutombo also won four) and made five All-NBA teams. He also led the NBA in rebounding twice and blocks once during those years. That all resulted in him being elected to the Hall of Fame despite averaging only 5.7 PPG for his career.
Resume: 3x All Star, 1x Champion
The last member of the mid-2000s Pistons on this list is Richard Hamilton (apologies to Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince). Hamilton often gets overlooked because Chauncey Billups took home the Finals MVP honors and the Wallace bros headlined such a forceful defense. That's fine and all, but Hamilton deserves a lot of love too, because the offense revolved around his nonstop movement, running opponents into the ground through hundreds of screens and never running out of energy. If they didn't have Hamilton scoring his 19-20 points every night, this team would have never been able to get away with playing so many offensively-challenged, defensive-minded players like Ben Wallace and Prince. Time to give Rip his flowers!
Resume: 3x All-NBA, 2001-02 MIP, 6x All Star
Jermaine O'Neal had a very interesting career that began as a teenager when he was selected out of high school with the 17th overall pick in the 1996 Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. Despite flashing some potential, O'Neal rarely got playing time on a veteran-ladened team with numerous big men and only played 11.5 MPG during his first four seasons. He was then traded to the Pacers and, after a solid first season, absolutely exploded, winning himself the 2001-02 Most Improved Player, and going on to average 20.4 PPG, 9.9 RPG and 2.4 BPG from 2002 to 2007, and making the All-Star team all six seasons. Had the Malice in the Palace never happened, we'd probably be looking back at O'Neal as a surefire Hall of Famer and NBA Champion - he was that good.
Resume: 1x All-NBA, 2x All Star
At his peak, Baron "Boom Dizzle" Davis was one of the most entertaining and unstoppable point guards in the NBA. From 2002 to 2008, he averaged 19.8 PPG, dished out 7.9 APG and swiped 2.1 SPG and made two All Star teams and was selected to the All-NBA team in 2003-04. And while he struggled to stay healthy later in his career, he was the architect of one of the most memorable playoff upsets in NBA history when he led the "We Believe" Warriors to a shocking upset over the 67-win, top-seeded Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. In the series, Davis was excellent and put up a 25 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.7 APG and shot 54 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three.
Resume: Hall of Fame, 2x All-NBA, 4x Champion, 1x Sixth Man, 2x All Star
Outside of maybe Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili sacrificed more than anyone during the Spurs' two-decade run of excellence. Skilled enough to be a star, maybe even a superstar - as seen by his two All-NBA team selections - Ginobili came off the bench for the majority of his career. While he didn't get to shine as much as other two-guards in the league, Ginobili always turned it on in the playoffs and averaged 16.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 4.1 APG in 156 games over 10 years.
Resume: 4x All-NBA, 4x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 6x All Star
Though he probably isn't forgotten just yet, I suspect that, because Tim Duncan was a fairly "boring" player who shied away from the limelight, the Spurs semi-dynasty (five titles in 16 seasons) will eventually be forgotten to history to the casual fan. If that occurs, then there probably won't be a ton of Tony Parker discourse in the future, so even though he's probably a little too good for this list, let's recognize his immense accomplishments. In addition to the four championships, the Finals MVP and the other accolades, Parker was an elite point guard from 2003 to 2015, averaging 17.5 PPG and 6.1 APG over that time and dominating in the paint despite only standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 185 pounds.
Resume: 1x All-NBA, 1x Champion, 1x DPOY, 1x All Star, 4x All-Defense
Though he was sometimes detrimental to his team, and often detrimental to himself, Metta World Peace (formerly, Ron Artest) was a star in his day. In fact, for the entirety of the 2000s, he was the league's best perimeter defender - as seen by his Defensive Player of the Year in 2003-04 and his four All-Defensive Team selections. He was also a very good offensive player and averaged 18 PPG from 2003 to 2009. Those who watched his career in real-time will always feel that he left something on the table because of the fallout from the Malice in the Palace, but that doesn't take away from his star-like production and impact.
Resume: 1x All-NBA, 4x All Star
If it weren't for his crummy knees, Kemba Walker would still be an impactful player in today's NBA. From 2016 to 2021, "Cardiac" Kemba was selected to four All Star teams and even named to an All-NBA team in 2018-19. And during the nine-year span from 2013 to 2021, he averaged 20.7 PPG and 5.5 APG while shooting 36.3 percent from three on high volume (6.6 attempts per game). He wasn't on the Stephen Curry-Damian Lillard tier of scoring guards and he didn't have the same ceiling as Kyrie Irving, but he was good enough to battle with them nonetheless and give his team about 85-90 percent of what those guys did for their respective teams. Put simply, he was a star - just not quite a superstar.
Resume: 1x All-NBA; 2x All Star; All-Rookie Team
Speaking of undersized players with huge hearts, Isaiah Thomas was one of the faces of the NBA before the Danny Ainge and the Celtics ran him into the ground, convinced him to play through a major hip injury and concealed his injury from the Cavs in the Kyrie Irving deal. Back in 2016-17, Thomas not only averaged 28.9 PPG (third in the NBA) and averaged 5.9 APG with 46-38-91 shooting splits, made Second-Team All-NBA and even finished fifth in MVP voting. Unfortunately, after playing 441 games from between 2012 and 2017, he only played 109 games from 2018 to 2022 and is out of the NBA due to injuries and bad luck.
Resume: 2x All-NBA; 3x All Star; 2006-07 ROY
Brandon Roy was another player who, if he had the requisite knee cartilage, would probably be heading to the Hall of Fame given the early trajectory of his career. Roy's career was only six seasons long, and he was a shell of his former self for the final two seasons. So, why is he on this list? Because he was the Rookie of the Year his first season and an All-NBA-caliber player the next three seasons. During his three All Star seasons, he averaged 21.1 PPG, 5.2 APG and 4.6 RPG with 47-35-80 shooting splits. The Blazers were a team on the rise when Roy's knees gave out. In an alternate reality, Roy and Greg Oden would have had the Blazers battling for championships in Portland for the past decade.
Resume: 2x All-NBA; 3x All Star; All-Rookie Team
It ultimately was a short blip, but there was about a five-year stretch where there was a real debate as to whether Chris Paul or Deron Williams was the best point guard in the NBA. From 2008 to 2012, Williams averaged 19.5 PPG and 10.2 APG and guided the Jazz on some decent playoff runs. Williams was even a major contributor to the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Gold Medal teams. For whatever reason, Williams career really fell off once he turned 29 and he was out of the NBA before he turned 33 years old. So, while he clearly lost the battle with Chris Paul for Point God, he was still a star in the league for half a decade.
Resume: 1x All-NBA; 7x All Star; All-Rookie
Deron Williams' teammate in New Jersey and Brooklyn, Joe Johnson, is next on the forgotten stars list. "Iso Joe", who played for 18 seasons, was a stud from 2004 to 2014 as he averaged 19.2 PPG, 4.6 APG and 4.2 RPG with 45-38-80 shooting splits. Johnson was a smooth-operating, 6-foot-7 wing with point guard skills who could be a go-to guy down the stretch of games even into his later years due to his excellent isolation scoring ability (as his nickname suggests). The "problem" with Johnson was that he was always an All Star-caliber player who was paid like an All-NBA player - he amassed over $220M during his career! Thus, his teams were usually missing the superstar who could get them over the top.
Resume: 5x All-NBA; 6x All Star; 2010-11 ROY
Because his athleticism fell off a cliff once he turned 30 (and had been declining rapidly during his late-20s due to numerous injuries), people may not remember how great Blake Griffin was during his prime. In addition to being one of the NBA's greatest in-game dunkers, Griffin averaged 21.9 PPG, 9 RPG and 4.5 APG from 2011 to 2019. In the 2013-14 season, he finished third in MVP voting behind Kevin Durant (first) and LeBron James (second). He also deserves some recognition for developing his all-around skills as his career went on. After never attempting more than 1.9 three-point attempts per game during his first seven seasons, he went onto averaged 2.0 three-point makes per season from 2018 to 2021.
Resume: 2x All-NBA; 4x All Star; All-Rookie Team
DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins was a star, if not at times, a superstar, before he ruptured his Achilles in 2018. Between 2014 to 2018, Cousins averaged huge numbers: 25.2 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.5 SPG and 1.4 BPG. He was easily one of the most talented big men to pass through the NBA during this era, but failed to reach his true potential due to his malcontent on-court behavior and the aforementioned traumatic, career-altering injury. He was actually still decent post-Achilles - he averaged 16.3 PPG and 8.2 RPG the following season with Golden State - but as luck would have it, tore his ACL the following offseason and has never been the same.
Resume: 1x All-NBA; 1x DPOY; 2x All Star; 3x All-Defense
On the surface, Joakim Noah's career numbers - 8.8 PPG, 9 RPG, 1.3 BPG - look pretty paltry. However, during his prime with the Bulls, he was a two-way star, especially on the defensive end of the court. The 2013-14 season was his absolute apex. That season, he made First-Team All-NBA, he finished fourth in MVP voting and won the Defensive Player of the Year honor. Unfortunately, after playing 543 total games from 2008 to 2015, he struggled to stay healthy thereafter (thanks Coach Thibs!) and only played 129 games from 2016 to 2020.
Resume: 1x All-NBA; 2x Champion; 4x All Star; 4x All-Defense; All-Rookie Team
Rajon Rondo's career was a bit of a roller coaster. He was an intriguing rookie for the rebuilding Celtics. Then, that offseason, the team acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, so Rondo suddenly had to be ready to be the point guard for a championship team. He played very well that year and was an excellent two-way player from 2008 to 2014, averaging 11.9 PPG, 9.2 APG and 1.9 SPG (and twice leading the NBA in assists and once leading it in steals). Then, he became a journeyman who was oftentimes viewed as a malcontent who didn't try hard on defense in the regular season and hunted assists often to his team's own detriment. Then, as a 33-year-old, during the Lakers' championship run during the Bubble, he was easily the team's third-best player (behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis), randomly shooting 40 percent from three and playing the lockdown defense he was known for early in his career.
Resume: 1x All-NBA; 5x All Star; 1x All-Defense; All-Rookie Team
Al Horford is obviously still in the NBA lexicon because...he's still really good despite turning 37 in June 2023. Earlier in his career, from 2010 to 2016, he was a star for the Hawks, averaging 15.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 3 APG, and playing excellent defense on a balanced team that routinely made the playoffs. In his Boston years, he's still be a star...in his role, and has averaged 12.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 4 APG and 1.1 BPG with 48-38-80 shooting splits. His ability to retain his lateral athleticism and become a knockdown three-point shooter has been admirable and explains why he's still a good player in year 16.