By Chris Le
ESPN.com’s top five:
- Tim Duncan
- Karl Malone
- Charles Barkley
- Kevin McHale
- Bob Pettit
Check out the rest of their list here.
- Tim Duncan – No power forward has ever had the overall impact of Duncan on both ends of the floor. Since drafting “The Big Fundamental” (which has to be the worst nickname in league history—thanks, Shaq!), the Spurs have been near or at the top of every defensive category. A 9-time member of the All-Defensive First or Second Team, Duncan is a blanket in the paint, allowing for perimeter defenders to gamble and be more aggressive since they know they have Timmy to back them up. His post-moves rival that of Kevin McHale and Hakeem Olajuwon and are almost impossible to defend one-on-one. Add all this up and you have two MVPs, nine All-NBA selections, three championships, three Finals MVPs and counting. A true model of consistent excellence.
- Bob Pettit – In the era before Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, there was Bob Pettit and there was everybody else. At the time of his retirement in 1965, he held the all-time record for career points (20,880) and was second in rebounds (12,849). Of course, those numbers are no longer tops in history, but they effectively show how dominant Pettit was in the late 50’s and earl 60’s. Right off the bat, he reeled off 10 consecutive All-NBA First Team selections (a record, I believe), MVPs in 1956 and 1959, and most importantly, a title in 1958, when in the sixth and final game of the Finals, Pettit dropped 50 points against Bill Russell’s Celtics.
- Elgin Baylor – The best scoring power forward there ever was with a career average of 27.4 points. No player outside of Wilt Chamberlain has ever matched Baylor’s 1962 season, when he dropped 38.3 a night. But it wasn’t the number of points that was impressed; it was how he did it. Elgin revolutionized the sport with his one-handed shots, acrobatic drives to the hoop and remarkable hang time. Without Elgin Baylor, there is no Julius Erving or Michael Jordan. And despite being only 6’5”, he was a monster on the boards, averaging 13.5 for his career, with a peak of 19.8 in 1961.
- Karl Malone – “The Mailman” played 19 remarkable seasons in the NBA, garnering 2 MVPs and 11 All-NBA First Team selections (the most all-time for any position). Not many players can even withstand that many years in the league, let alone excel. But like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Malone found success late in age, and his longevity is a major part of his greatness. For almost a decade and a half, you could mark down 25 and 10 for Karl each night. However, what hurts Malone in my rankings is (surprise, surprise) his postseason performances. I just can’t shake the images of him missing crucial shots and free throws in the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals.
- Charles Barkley – In spite of being generously listed as 6’6” (some say he was closer to 6’4”), “The Round Mound of Rebound” (possibly the most awesome moniker in all of sports) made his living among the giants. Fairly quick and agile for a player as…um…rotund as he was, Barkley was an extremely effective scorer in the paint and even on a fast break. And you might be shocked to know that he was one of the most accurate scorers of all-time with a career .541 percentage, and highlight of .600 in 1990. If only he played a modicum of defense.
Honorable Mentions: Kevin McHale, Dolph Schayes, Elvin Hayes, and Kevin Garnett.
Check back tomorrow for The Greatest Small Forwards of All-Time