Monday morning it was announced by the San Antonio Spurs that power forward Tim Duncan has decided to retire after 19 seasons with the franchise. Drafted first overall in the 1997 NBA Draft, Duncan leaves the game as one of its all-time greats. But amongst power forwards who have played in the NBA, where does Duncan rank?
The numbers and accolades served as an emphatic statement for one of the game’s most understated players, as Duncan appeared in 15 All-Star games, won five NBA titles, three NBA Finals MVP awards and two NBA Most Valuable Player awards. Duncan leaves the game as San Antonio’s all-time leader in points (26,496), rebounds (15,091), blocked shots (3,020), minutes (47,368) and games played (1,392), ranking fifth in NBA history in double-double (841) and blocks, sixth in rebounds and 14th in scoring.
And as the only player in NBA history to play more than 9,000 minutes in the postseason, his 164 postseason double-doubles and 568 blocks are the most in NBA history. More than a few would argue that he is the greatest power forward to have ever played in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other players with an argument of their own.
Among those also in the discussion are Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, two players whose lack of a championship ring should not overshadow their individual production. Barkley, named NBA MVP in 1993, retired with averages of 22.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game despite being considered to be undersized for the position at 6-foot-6. Malone won NBA MVP awards in 1997 and 1999 with the Utah Jazz, earning 14 All-NBA selections and averaging 25.0 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game for his career.
As for players who are still active, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett are all deserving of being in the conversation as well. Nowitzki, who has an NBA MVP and one NBA championship to his credit, is one of the best shooting big men in the history of the NBA. Nowitzki’s arrival signaled a change of sorts for the power forward position, leading to more teams at all levels of the game looking for that “stretch forward” who can step out and hit perimeter shots in addition to being able to score with their back to the basket.
Gasol and Garnett have also displayed the ability to step away from the basket and be productive, with Gasol winning two NBA titles with the Lakers and Garnett getting one with the Celtics. As was the case with Barkley and Malone, and will be the case with Duncan, none of the three active players mentioned will have to wait long to enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts after they decide to retire.
There are certainly other players who deserve mention, including Kevin McHale, James Worthy, Bob Pettit and Elvin Hayes to name a few. So who do you think is the greatest power forward in NBA history? Vote below.