What The Most Famous NBA Players From The 2000s Look Like Today

Every decade is filled with those moments that define it in sports history. Take the 2000s: the NBA had highlights like the NBA Slam Dunk Contest and the dominance of the LA Lakers — and remember when they announced there was going to be a dress code for players when they were off the court? Not to mention the impressive Olympic appearances by U.S. athletes (via USA Today).

All that played out against the background of catastrophic events like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 — so it's easy to see why the country just needed something to root for. Fortunately, some of the biggest names in the NBA were there, ready and waiting to deliver. As impossible as it might seem, decades have passed since then. So, what are some of the NBA's biggest names of the 2000s doing today? Many have retired, some have moved on to their lucrative second careers, and shockingly, some are still on the court.

Vince Carter

The word "legendary" gets tossed around a lot, but when it comes to Vince Carter, it's absolutely deserved — several times over, starting with the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. Carter's incredible dunking skills still wow decades later because honestly? It's the sort of thing that doesn't even seem physically possible.

The rest of Carter's career was legendary, too, and it wasn't until 2020 that he confirmed his time on the court was at an end. According to ESPN, that official announcement came in 2019, but when the coronavirus pandemic derailed everyday life worldwide, that included Carter's plans for retirement. He explained: "If there was any disappointment because of the season — any of that — it was kind of easier to put it aside and handle it that way. ... It's unfortunate, but with the coronavirus taking people's lives rapidly, that's the big picture in my mind."

Still, it made Carter the only person to play a whopping 22 seasons with the NBA, and he didn't entirely turn his back on the sport. Not long after his retirement from the game, he joined ESPN as an NBA and college analyst.

Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson helped kick the decade into high gear by not only grabbing the 2001 regular season MVP award for the 76ers but helping to take them to the finals. He was, says the Basketball Hall of Fame, a divisive figure on the court and off, but not even his naysayers couldn't deny that he had talent.

Iverson announced his retirement in 2013, saying (via ESPN), "I gave everything I had to basketball. The passion is still there, but the desire to play is not. It was a great ride." At the time, he also addressed the news reports about him, which included rumors of his struggles with gambling and alcohol — much to his chagrin. "It does bother me, I have a heart just like everybody else. ... Nobody wants to talk about what I do for [charities]. That's how this world is."

In 2022, Iverson became one of the 75th Anniversary Team members, but behind the scenes, things have been a little more difficult. According to ClutchPoints, most of the $200 million Iverson made over the course of his career is gone, spent by the tens of thousands dropped on everything from groceries and clothes to — infamously — buying a new car when he couldn't find his at an airport. He declared bankruptcy in 2012, but brighter times are ahead: In 2030, he'll get $32 million set aside for him as a part of a trust fund deal made with Reebok.

LeBron James

When it comes to big, there's big... and then, there's the LeBron James sort of big. He kicked off his NBA career in 2003, when he was named Rookie of the Year and then quickly snagged a few of his many MVPs. He finished out the decade with the Cavs and ended up in Miami to kick off the 2010s. Ten years later, his career had taken him to the Lakers, and shockingly, he was still on the court several years later.

That's not to say that he considers himself a spring chicken, and CBS reported in 2021 that he was viewing retirement as an inevitable thing — even though he was still averaging 27.6 points per game. He explained, "I know I'm on the other side of the hill ... But I'm in year 19, and I'm not gonna do another 19. ... I've put in enough hours and punched enough clocks where, when that time comes, I'll be OK with it."

By 2022, it seemed as though he had made some more concrete plans: "My last year will be played with my son. Wherever Bronny is at, that's where I'll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It's not about the money at that point," he told The Athletic (via Fox). LeBron "Bronny" James, Jr. was a high school junior at the time, so what the future held was still up in the air.

Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan was Rookie of the Year in 1998, spent the 2000s heading to championships, and in 2020, he was finally enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. That wasn't long after he announced his retirement in a typically understated fashion: ESPN notes that he simply bid the league farewell after 19 seasons, without any of the fanfare that might be expected of a player of his caliber. Instead, it was those who played with and against him who were left to make the comments about the player described as steadfast, dependable, and — according to Kobe Bryant — "More cutthroat than people give him credit for."

While some of the NBA's biggest names have continued to make a name for themselves post-retirement, Duncan has been a little more elusive. A year after his goodbye to basketball, ESPN featured him in another story — when he had been on the winning side of a lawsuit brought against his financial advisor for fraud.

After an interview where Giannis Antetokounmpo asked, "Where the hell is Tim Duncan? I don't know where Tim Duncan is?" Basketball Network tried to figure it out. They surmised that he had retired to the quiet life, where he could nerd out and play D&D to his heart's content. He did, however, reappear in the public eye in 2022 to welcome former teammate Manu Ginobili into the Hall of Fame (pictured).

Steve Nash

Steve Nash went from being ignored by all the big universities to being one of the reasons the Dallas Mavericks picked themselves up by their bootstrings and headed to the playoffs (via the Basketball Hall of Fame). 

He took home the NBA's MVP twice, was an eight-time all-star, and that's not even getting into his assists and his on-the-court style, which honestly made the game exciting even for people who might not have been the biggest basketball fans of the time. While his tempo play might have made him seem perpetually young, he only retired in 2015 — and when he did, Sports Illustrated noted that he had been in the NBA for 18 seasons. (For anyone counting, that means he was in 1,217 games.)

Nash was quickly back on the court, but as a coach instead of a player. It hasn't been all smooth sailing, though, and in 2022, The New York Times reported that he had been fired by the Nets after a dismal start to the season left them sitting among the teams with the worst records in the NBA. Hired in 2020, he'd been in the middle of a lot of controversies that included questions about why Black coaches were consistently passed over for jobs and promotions, players promoting antisemitic agendas, and outspoken anti-vaxxers. Still, Nash left the Nets saying, "I wish the Nets all the success in the world, and the Nash's will be rooting for our team as they turn this season around."

Shaquille O'Neal

Wait, was there a time before Shaquille O'Neal played basketball? There was — but that was way back in the early '90s. As Yardbarker recalls, a team with O'Neal on it was a winning team, starting with his high school (which went 68-1 over his two seasons there), and by the time the 2000s rolled around, he was leading the Lakers to the playoffs.

O'Neal announced his retirement in 2011 via the now-defunct social media platform Tout (says ESPN), where he shared: "We did it. Nineteen years baby. I want to thank you very much, that's why I'm telling you first, I'm about to retire. Love you, talk to you soon." Since then, he's been just as busy off the court as he had been on it. As The Guardian reported in 2022, he was the proud owner of 155 Five Guys and 17 Auntie Anne's, collaborated with scores of endeavors from tech to fashion, and had recently sold his stake in the Sacramento Kings. From there, it was on to TNT as a basketball analyst, and somehow, he still finds time to perform as a DJ.

O'Neil said he knew when he started in basketball that he wasn't going to be able to play forever. His parents had always stressed the importance of saving money, and more than that, he says, "I'm just passionate about having the opportunity to do things to touch people, make people smile, have a good time."

Yao Ming

Yao Ming's career path in the NBA was a little different: According to the Basketball Hall of Fame, he wasn't a rookie when he took the court alongside the Houston Rockets in 2002 — he'd already taken the Shanghai Sharks to championship levels. Accolades followed, but according to ESPN, injuries shortened his career and led to his retirement in 2011. Six years later, the Rockets officially retired his No. 11, making him one of just six of the franchise's players to have received the honor.

Two years prior to his retirement, Yao was out of the action while he was recovering from one of those injuries. Clearly not only to sit around for some R&R, Time reported that the then 28-year-old had decided to buy the team he took to the championships years before — the Shanghai Sharks.

It was risky: The Chinese Basketball Association was a $17-million-a-year loser, but fast forward a bit. In 2017, ESPN reported that Yao had relinquished the Sharks in order to become the president of the CBA. He was still president in 2022, when he spoke at a press conference (via CNN) and shared that he had been chatting with Peng Shuai — the tennis player who disappeared from public view after stepping forward with allegations of sexual misconduct — and saying that she really was free and fine.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, says Lakers Nation, stood out from the very beginning — he was drafted right out of high school. That said, when he finally headed to the court, he found himself sitting on the sidelines more often than not. It didn't stay that way for long. As a testament to his popularity, consider that, in 2022, an auction house sold one of his game-worn rookie-year jerseys for a cool $2.73 million (via NBA) — less than one of his signed jerseys, which had sold for $3.69 million the previous year (via Fan Nation).

Bryant had an undeniably good run throughout his career, which makes it even more tragic that his career was ultimately brought to an end by injuries — including a torn Achilles in 2013, followed by a broken knee and a torn rotator cuff. He retired in 2016 (via USA Today), and just four years later, Bryant was killed in a fatal helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others that were traveling with them (via History).

Tributes came from all over the day Bryant died and thereafter — and not only on the basketball court. Billboards in major cities were changed to messages of grief, sports professionals from all different fields teared up as they spoke on the loss of one of their own, memorials — from the professionally designed to chalk messages written on sidewalks — popped up, stadiums changed their colors, and moments of silence were held (via NBC).

Jason Kidd

Jason Kidd was a point guard, officially, but according to the Basketball Hall of Fame, his strength lay in the fact that he could pretty much do it all. That was reflected not only in his popularity but in his accolades: from Rookie of the Year to being named All-Star 10 times, to his Olympic medals in 2000 and 2008, Kidd was one of those super versatile players.

He also had an incredibly long career — by the time he retired in 2013, he'd been in the game for a whopping 19 seasons. His time as a player ended with the Knicks, and he said (via USA Today), "As I reflect on my time with the four teams I represented in the NBA, I look back fondly at every season and thank each [and] every one of my teammates and coaches that joined me on the court."

Kidd had gotten his start with the Mavericks, before — amid conflict with other players — he was traded away. He very nearly ended it with them, too, before he backed out of an agreement to play his last season there. But, his time in Dallas wasn't over: In 2021, the NBA announced him as the Mavs' new head coach. He brought years of experience — transitioning into being a head coach immediately after retiring — and by the end of the season, Sports Illustrated described him as exceeding all expectations.

Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki, says Britannica, was originally drafted by the Bucks. He didn't get to play for them, though, and was traded on to the Mavs. That was 1998, and they knew a good thing when they saw it. Sports Illustrated says that he holds the record for the longest time spent with a single franchise, and when he retired in 2019, it was at the end of 21 seasons. For a little more perspective, his number (41) was not only retired by the Mavs, but in September 2022, Nowitzki attended another retirement ceremony. There, ESPN reports that he became the first player to have his number (14) retired by the German Basketball Federation.

Several members of the Mavs club were on hand in Germany, including coach Jason Kidd and owner Mark Cuban, who Nowitzki thanked personally for not only his time with the team but for allowing him the opportunity to go to the Olympics and represent his home country of Germany.

Not long after his retirement, DW talked to him about his plans. They were the stuff dreams are made of: spending holidays with his family, hitting the slopes to go skiing and snowboarding, attending Oktoberfest, definitely not working out, and eating too much. He summed it up simply: "I'm happy to do things now that I didn't do before."

Dwayne Wade

Dwayne Wade, says Forbes, remembered the moment basketball became a lifelong passion. He was 9 years old, and the Chicago Bulls won the championship. His entire career was detailed in a book he released in 2012 called "Dwayne," and writing the 300-plus page tome is just one project on a very, very long list of projects that — as he told Ellen DeGeneres (via People) — didn't include basketball, aside from the time he spent on "NBA on TNT."

What else has he been up to? He and his wife Gabrielle Union launched a baby care line called Proudly. He co-founded Budweiser Zero, hosts a show on TBS called "The Cube," and bought stakes in the Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake (via CNBC). In 2022, Wade returned to his alma mater — Marquette University — to give the commencement speech. In it, he focused on the importance of solitude and self-awareness, saying (via NBC), "We all look in the mirror every day. ... This is an opportunity to acknowledge ourselves again, without judgment. This is self-awareness."

It's not the only time he was in the news in 2022, either. In November, CNN reported on a petition to change his 15-year-old transgender daughter's name to Zaya. After protests from Zaya's mother, Wade responded on social media: "No one in our house would ever force Zaya or any of our children to do anything against their will... This isn't a game for my family and definitely not for Zaya. This is her life!"

Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen took the court for the Chicago Bulls in 1987. It was a time, says The New York Times, when Michael Jordan was already the elder statesman, but Jordan and Pippen were unstoppable together — and Pippen knew that. When he announced his retirement in 2004, he explained, "As I stand here and as I look back, I don't think Michael had any championship trophies without me."

That's some serious brag, but Pippen could always back things up. The NBA's 50th-anniversary celebrations named him as one of the 50 greatest players, and it turned out that he wasn't quite finished yet. He wouldn't actually retire until 2008 — after Pippen left the Chicago Bulls — and throughout those intervening years, he would do some serious negotiations. His 5-year, $18 million contract became a 5-year, $67 million contract (via CNBC).

What's he been up to since? In addition to founding a popcorn company called Husk Organics and a bourbon called Digits, he's also been incredibly active in giving what he can back to the city of Chicago. Between 2020 and 2022, he and DICK'S handed out 65,000 pieces of sporting equipment to kids across the city. Pippen said (via NBC), "I'm happy to get involved and give my two cents to the community." Also in 2022, he saw his son, Scotty Pippen, Jr., follow in his footsteps and sign with the LA Lakers (via Lakers Nation).