The Five Greatest Power Forwards in NBA History
Welcome back everyone. This article relates to my favorite position in NBA Basketball, the Power Forward. I believe that it is my favorite position because to play this position, you have to be big enough to play on the inside, banging against the centers of the game, but also agile enough to step outside and knock down that 15-20 foot jumpshot.
You also have to have enough speed to occasionally fill the lane on the fast break as well as grabbing that rebound and making the outlet pass to your guards to start the fast break.
Some of the best NBA Power Forwards that did not make my top five include current and former Boston Celtic greats Kevin Garnett or Kevin McHale, who helped form the best front line on a single team in NBA history, Jerry Lucas a great outside shooter as well as a tremendous rebounder, and Dolph Schayes probably the proto-type power forward.
So without any further delay, here is my top 5 Power Forwards.
5. Charles Barkley, 16-year career
Sir Charles was to say the least an undersized power forward. Standing a generous 6’ 5” and weighing 250 pounds his average of over 11 rebounds per game for his career is simply mind-boggling given who he had to play against ever game.
Combine that with his 22 point per game career average and no one can argue that Barkley belongs on this list. His numbers also include 10 years as an All-Star, five years All-NBA, and an MVP award.
He was also a member of the 1992 Dream Team and voted one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. His only blemish on his career was his inability to win an NBA championship although he did make it to the finals once, In 1993, the season he won his MVP award only to loose to the great Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, who won their third straight title.
4. Bob Pettit, 11-year career
Bob Pettit has to be considered the prototype power forward and most all would agree that he retired at the prime of his career with several years left. He was an All-Star for each of his 11 years, all NBA for the first 10 years and a two-time MVP winner.
He was also the first player in NBA history to score 20,000 points in his career and retired as the leagues all-time leading scorer, although that only lasted part of one season, as someone by the name of Wilt Chamberlain passed Pettit the very next season.
His career numbers were 26 points and 16 rebounds per game, which still ranks as the third highest average in NBA history for those that played more than five seasons, very, very impressive numbers.
In the 1958 NBA finals In Game Six, played in St. Louis, Pettit was remarkable, setting a then NBA-Playoff record by scoring 50 points. The Hawks won by a point, 110-109, to dethrone the Boston Celtics and claim the NBA crown.
Pettit also was the all-time leader in All-Star game appearances with 11 when he retired and still holds the all star game record with 27 rebounds in the 1962 All-Star game and tone of the highest scoring average in all-star history (minimum of 60 points) of 20.4.
3. Karl Malone, 18-year career
Nicknamed "The Mailman” because he always delivered, Malone finished his career as the second leading scorer of all-time, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He also is the NBA’s all-time leader in defensive rebounds and won two Olympic gold medals.
He was only the fifth player in NBA history to surpass 20,000 points and 10,000 rebounds in a career. It is very hard (unless you look at my number two power forward) to find a more durable player, as the Mailman only missed 10 games total in his first 18 years in the league.
Malone was named to the all NBA first team for 11 straight years, was a 13 time All-Star and won two MVP awards. Teamed with John Stockton in 1985, the two played together for the next 18 years and Utah never missing the postseason.
The two were so intertwined with their infamous (to defenders) pick-and-roll that was almost impossible to stop and Stockton constantly feeding Malone for baskets that the phrase "Stockton to Malone" became a NBA maxim.
It was very hard to put Malone as number three on my list, but when you see the top two it isn't hard to understand why.
2. Elvin the Big “E” Hayes, 16-year career
When the Big “E” retired he was the second leading scorer in NBA history behind only Wilt Chamberlain at the time, even now he is still the sixth leading scorer of all time and the fourth all-time leading rebounder.
He was as deadly an outside shooter as he was inside and was an iron man, missing only nine games in his entire career and finished 3rd in total minutes played and fifth in the total number of games played. All this added up to a career scoring average of 21 points and 12 rebounds per game.
Elvin Hayes became one of the first Afro-American student athletics at the University of Houston back in 1965 and was one of 100 Afro-American students at the 20,000-student school. Elvin Hayes helped turn the University of Houston into a national powerhouse under the direction of head coach Guy V. Lewis.
In what was billed as the “game of the century," the Houston Cougars faced the undefeated and riding a 47-game winning streak UCLA Bruins, led by Lewis Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Elvin Hayes made two free throws at the end of the game to hand Alcindor and his Bruins their first lost.
This set the stage for Hayes to be drafted by the expansion San Diego Rockets, preparing for their second season, made him the first overall pick of the 1968 NBA Draft. As a rookie for the Rockets in 1968-69 he led the league in scoring with 28.4 ppg, ranked fourth in rebounding with 17.1 per game, and started at center for the West in the NBA All-Star Game.
He also set an NBA rookie record for minutes played in a season (3,695), averaging 45.1. During his second season the Rockets relocated to Houston and Hayes was coming home.
But Hayes had problems with the new Rocket coach Tex Winter and after his first season in Houston Hayes was traded to the then Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets, where Hayes played for the next nine seasons.
He was then traded back to the Houston Rockets before the 1981 season. He started at forward next to Moses Malone for the 1981/82 season playing in all 82 games he averaged 16 points and nine rebounds per game at the age of 36.
He played a reserve roll the next two seasons still only missing one game in each before retiring after his 16th NBA season.
Now can everyone guess who my number one power forward is?
1. Tim Duncan, 12 years and still active
So far Tim Duncan is the only active member of my top players in NBA history by position, but deservedly so. Through his current NBA career, Tim Duncan is the only player in NBA history to earn both All-NBA and All-Defensive honors in each of his first 11 seasons as well as a two-time league MVP winner.
His lifetime averages in points, blocks, assists, and rebounds are higher in the playoffs than in the regular season which speaks volumes as being a “Prime Time” player. In the last game of the 2003 NBA Finals, Duncan was two blocks away from a quadruple-double, finishing with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and 8 blocks against the New Jersey Nets.
For the 2006-07 season, Duncan led the Spurs to the championship in a four-game sweep against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Once again in a dominating performance, Duncan and the Spurs won their 4th title in this decade to cement his career as the greatest power forward of all-time, not to mention one of the all-time greatest players in NBA history.
Well that is my take of the Greatest Power Forwards of all time. Glad you could stop by. Drop me some comments and make sure you catch my next article. Thanks for reading.