Tim Duncan: Why One More Title Would Make Him the Best Power Forward Ever

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2012

Tim Duncan: Why One More Title Would Make Him the Best Power Forward Ever

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    If you don't think another title would cement Tim Duncan as the greatest power forward of all time, chances are that's because you think he already is.

    While no other 4 in the game makes a demonstrably better case than the Big Fundamental, you could make the case that a few others were at least as good.

    Kevin Garnett revolutionized the position's versatility while Karl Malone's sheer production stands out among players at any position.

    Meanwhile, Charles Barkley brought unmatched heart to the position despite playing in the paint severely undersized (at least vertically speaking).

    Another championship would put to rest any doubts—if, in fact, there are any more doubts. Here's why. 

Karl Malone

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    The Mailman never won a championship thanks to the Chicago Bulls, but he did ensure that the Utah Jazz remained relevant for the better part of the 1990s.

    Malone's real claim to fame was his relentless production and unmatched consistency. Malone could score inside with authority while hitting mid-range jumpers with finesse.

    He is second all-time in points scored and averaged an astounding 25 points per game over the course of his 19-year career. Malone is also the NBA's all-time leader in free throws made and attempted. He scored from just about everywhere but beyond the arc.

    His rebounding ability was equally dominant, and while Malone didn't have the length to block many shots, he became one the game's all-time great pick-pockets and had the strength to defend the post.

    Duncan may never match Malone's across-the-board statistical accomplishments, but the championships are evidence of his ability to do what his team needed him to do at any given time.

    Like Malone, Duncan has uncanny passing ability for a big man. Duncan also defends the paint with the very best of them (even now).

    Another ring would leave no doubt: Whatever the individual numbers indicate, Duncan's leadership has amounted to far superior team accomplishments. 

Kevin Garnett

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    Garnett's career numbers are actually remarkably close to Duncan and unlike Malone, KG did get a ring.

    Some will maintain that Garnett was more athletic than Duncan—that he possessed a versatility ever at odds with Duncan's fundamentally sound play.

    Those who find Timmy boring and all-too conventional typically see Garnett as the anecdote.

    Garnett's reputation for trash-talking has tarnished his reputation, though. The same ferocity that makes Garnett arguably the games most competitive power forward of all time has also made him one of its most polarizing.

    Duncan, meanwhile, has epitomized class and sportsmanship before and after his four championships.

    He might not need a fifth to outshine Garnett, but it would be a welcome reminder nonetheless.

Charles Barkley

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    The Round Mound has almost certainly become one of the game's all-time great analysts, but he won't beat Duncan as the all-time greatest power forward.

    Barkley was arguably the most tenacious 4 in league history, an explosive competitor whose offensive rebounding ranks among the elite. At only 6'6'', Chuck still played above the rim and used his center of gravity skillfully. 

    An 11-time All-Star and one-time MVP, Barkley never got a championship, but it wasn't for lack of individual effort.

    He averaged double-digit rebounds in all but the first of his 16 seasons and carried his teams on his back with the best of them.

    Like Malone, you could make a strong case that—by the numbers—Barkley tops Duncan.

    Again, however, Duncan's skill, defensive prowess and leadership translated into four championships whereas Malone and Barkley's singular dominance did not.

    If greatness is defined by statistics alone, Duncan may fall short. By any success-based metric, however, it's impossible to ignore Duncan's dominance.

    Before writing off the numerous titles to better supporting casts, remember that Duncan was willing to defer to those supporting casts even when it wasn't necessary for him to do so.

    He's sacrificed personal accolades for the betterment of his team, and any statistical comparison should take that into account.

    The best of the best do their work in the playoffs—where regular season averages don't count for much.