Top 10 NBA Power Forwards of All-Time



Do you have the NBA Lockout blues?  We feel your pain and have a cure for you.  The Hoops Manifesto has gathered together Bloguin’s best basketball writers to rummage through the annals of NBA (and ABA) history (sounds dirty, but it’s not – honest) to bring you rankings of the best players to have ever laced them up.  Next up: Top Ten NBA (or ABA) Power Forwards of All-Time.

Voting panel: Jeff Fox from The Hoops Manifesto, College Wolf and Dan Bonk from the TWolves Blog, Philip from Orlando Magic Daily, Don and brumbygg from With Malice and Ezra from the Purple and Gold Blog.

10) Dolph Schayes – Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers – 1949 – 1964

Career accomplishments:

– basketball Hall of Fame
– member of one NBA championship team
– eighth all-time in free throws made in NBA history
– 12-time NBA All-Star
– 12-time All-NBA selection

“One of the first great big men in the NBA (when 6’7″, 195 lbs was considered big), it is amazing that over 50 years since his retirement he’s still eighth all-time in free throws made.” – Jeff Fox

9) Dennis Rodman – Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, L.A. Lakers, Dallas Mavericks – 1986 – 2000


Career accomplishments:

– basketball Hall of Fame
– member of five NBA championship team
– fourth all-time in offensive rebounds in NBA history
– tenth all-time in rebounds per game in NBA history
– two-time NBA All-Star
– two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year
– eight-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection
– two-time All-NBA selection

“A winner, plain and simple, whose unselfish (almost to a fault) style of play on the court was totally at odds with his attention craving ways off of it.” – Jeff Fox

“No player before or after played the position of power forward quite like Dennis Rodman.  Both as far as actual “playing” goes, and the way he went about being an NBA player.  The guy was OUT there. Way out there.  But damn, he sure took the pressure off the Bulls having a bit of a weak spot at center…” – Don

“Rodman was a character no doubt, but he was also a superb defender, one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history and a guy you want on a winning team (so long as you can control his antics). You knew exactly what Rodman would do every time he stepped on the floor, but there was no way to stop it. He had too much drive and determination. What might often be forgotten about Rodman is that he never complained about his role. He truly enjoyed rebounding and playing defense, it made him happy.” – Philip

“The Worm was a defensive beast and a rebounding freak. His 6 titles with 3 teams is a testament to his results overshadowing his weirdness.” – brumbygg

“At only 6′ 6”, 220 pounds, Rodman was arguably the game’s best pound-for-pound defender and rebounder. He was also hot-headed and extremely physical, which made him a perfect “Bad Boy” for Detroit. No doubt the Pistons and the Bulls would never have won their titles without his presence.” – Ezra

8) Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks – 1998 – present

Career accomplishments

– member of one NBA championship team
– one-time NBA MVP
– one-time NBA Finals MVP
– 10-time NBA All-Star
– 11-time All-NBA selection

“Before last season, it’s questionable as to whether I’d even have Dirk on this list.  Don’t get me wrong: very few players at this position are as offensively talented as Dirk… but prior to the 2011 Finals, there were times when he was found wanting.  2011 wasn’t one of them. He flat-out put the Mavs on his back, and they rode him to a championship.  Simply awe-inspiring.” – Don

“Dirk gained his redemption and validation in the 2011 Finals when he took over and stepped up on a big stage. That was always the knock on Nowitzki because there simply is not much to hate. Dirk can hit jumpers seemingly from anywhere and very few players could contest his shots. There has never been a 7-footer that plays like he does. Nowitzki is likely the best player ever to emigrate from Europe to the NBA.” – Philip

7) Elvin Hayes – San Diego/Houston Rockets, Baltimore/Capitol/Washington Bullets – 1968 – 1984

Career accomplishments:

– basketball Hall of Fame
– member of the one NBA championship team
– third all-time in minutes played in NBA history
– sixth all-time in field goals made in NBA history
– fourth all-time in total rebounds in NBA history
– eighth all-time in points in NBA history
– 12-time NBA All-Star
– six-time All-NBA selection
– two-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection
– NBA All-Rookie Team

“The Big E.  Quite possibly the most talented scorer on this list.  The Big E took the NBA by storm as a rookie, and was the last rook to top the scoring average list.  In his first season, he lead the NBA with 28.4 points per game, and averaged 17.1 rebounds per game.  As a rookie.  Yet, he didn’t win the Rookie of the Year: future teammate Wes Unseld did.” – Don

“A fantastic scorer and rebounder throughout the 1970s for the Washington Bullets. Hayes is often forgotten in the pantheon of great post players. Alongside Wes Unseld, he helped lead the Bullets to the 1978 championship, bolstering the team with incredible scoring and rebounding for his time.” – Philip

“His turnaround jumper from the baseline was as much of a certainty as death and taxes.” – brumbygg

6) Kevin McHale – Boston Celtics – 1980-1993

Career accomplishments:

– NBA Hall of Fame member
– member of three NBA championship teams
– seven-time NBA All-Star
– two-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year
– NBA All-Rookie Team
– six-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection
– one-time All-NBA selection

“If you are looking for directions on how to play in the post, McHale might be the guy to watch. As Bill Simmons put it in his Book of Basketball, McHale had three or four post moves and simply perfected them. He was the perfect foil to Larry Bird, a guy who was more laid back and not so serious about basketball, but with the same willingness to give his all for the team and, most importantly, win.” – Philip

“One of the original Big 3 and the man who gave away KG. Boston has a lot to thank Kevin McHale for! His agility and freakishly long arms made him almost impossible to stop in the paint. Twice led the league in field goal percentage with over 60%! Even more impressive were his two appearances in Cheers as himself!” – brumbygg

“Career was tragically cut short, otherwise he could have been much higher on this list.” – College Wolf

“When it comes to scoring down low, no one did it better than the Minnesota native. McHale was incredibly effective in the post against even the best defenders due to his broad shoulders and long, dangly arms. But it was his accuracy and long list of moves that made him a highly dangerous post player. Add to that his ability on defense and career accomplishments, not a whole lot of power forwards can compete with this Celtic legend.” – Ezra

“My favorite player in my early childhood.  Love the way he played, the way he yakked, and how he reps Minnesnowta.” – Dan Bonk

5) Bob Pettit – Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks – 1954-1965

Career accomplishments:

– basketball Hall of Fame member
– member of one NBA championship team
– ninth all-time in minutes per game in NBA history
– seventh all-time in points per game in NBA history
– third all-time in rebounds per game in NBA history
– 11-time NBA All-Star
– NBA Rookie of the Year
– two-time MVP
– 11-time All-NBA selection

“One could argue that Pettit was the first ever power forward.  A beast of a player – the guy was the first to get 20,000 points, and his average of 16.2 rpg is behind only Chamberlain and Russell.  Beat Russell for a championship, and scored 50 in Game Six.  How you like THEM apples (said in my best Matt Damon Boston accent)?” – Don

“Before Bob Pettit the term Power Forward didn’t exist. The first player to reach 20,000 points and the third highest career rebounding average.” – brumbygg

“Pettit was one of the pioneers of the post and the NBA’s second great big man (after the foundation George Mikan laid). Pettit retired as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and was the first player in league history to top 10,000 points. He was able to battle toe-to-toe with Bill Russell on several occasions, even besting him once and interrupting Boston’s decade of dominance. Grainy black and white footage likely makes modern viewers forget what Pettit did for the game.” – Philip

“Has all the accolades and even won a championship, but he gets (unfairly?) penalized for playing in an entirely different era.  He was good, and it’s not his fault when he was born, but let’s be realistic here.” – College Wolf

“”Dutch” combined scoring and rebounding to get him the first MVP award in NBA history. He was also one of the game’s most dynamic scoring big man who could put up points near and away from the basket.” – Ezra

4) Charles Barkley – Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets – 1984 – 2000


Career accomplishments:

– basketball Hall of Fame
– ninth all-time in free throws attempted in NBA history
– fifth all-time in offensive rebounds in NBA history
– one-time NBA MVP
– 11-time NBA All-Star
– NBA All-Rookie Team
– 11-time All-NBA selection

“One of the most unique players to ever play the game.  Greatly undersized (I’m 6’6” and was taller than him when I stood beside him in person) and not in particularly great shape, Charles Barkley was the personification of heart and toughness.  But he was also incredibly skilled and became more of a “hybrid forward” as his career progressed, dribbling the ball up the court, isolating players on the wing and knocking down three-pointers.” – Jeff Fox

“How could a guy who is listed at 6-foot-6 (really he was closer to 6-foot-4) become a dominant post player and rebounder? Really think about that. Barkley was undersized and did not care. He played with a chip on his shoulder early on in Philadelphia and developed into one of the most unique and incredible players in the league’s history. He slowly expanded his game to include three-pointers, winning the MVP in 1993 (some would say undeservedly). Barkley was just good all-around and only his vices, perhaps, held him back.” – Philip

“Chuck was every bit a board crasher as Rodman but a better offensive player. Barkley never backed down from anybody, including Shaq, even at 6′ 5″. That’s because he was also one of the strongest and one of the most physical player the game has ever seen. He was a force to be reckoned with by anybody, but his poor work ethics and attitude kept him from winning a single title.” – Ezra

3) Kevin Garnett– Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics – 1995 – present

Career accomplishments:

– member of one NBA championship team
– third all-time in defensive rebounds in NBA history
– 14-time NBA All-Star
– one-time NBA MVP
– one-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year
– NBA All-Rookie Team
– nine-time All-NBA selection
– 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection

Kevin Garnett will probably go to the Hall of Fame as a Celtic, which when you consider his career in full, and where he was at his best – it’s kind of a pity.  He was a much better player as a Timber Wolf, but it was as a Celtic that he came into his own.  My opinion is that Ray Allen was the best player of the 2008 Finals, Pierce a close second.  But KG was the most important player on that team, and it’s not even close.  I scoff at anyone who tells me that Boston is “Paul Pierce‘s team”.” – Don

“Garnett is going to likely go down as another underappreciated player in league history. He has become the heart and soul of the Celtics’ rebirth recently. But his time in Minnesota should be looked at much more fondly. He did everything for the Timberwolves. He was the league’s top rebounder and a hard-driving teammate. He was extremely good, using his wiry athletic frame anyway you could imagine.” – Philip

“He clearly deserves to be ranked at #1 overall, but I don’t want to get destroyed by all the angry mob commenters.” – College Wolf

“Arguably the most versatile power forward in history. He can score from anywhere, defend any frontcourt position, rebound, block shots, run the floor, anchor the defense, and has one of the best smarts ever. KG is as tenacious as they come who gets a kick out of big defensive plays…and, of course, talking some trash.” – Ezra

“If KG grabs one more title being the team’s top three player, I put him above Mailman.  P.S. – STUD.  My favorite athlete of all-time. Ever.  I could gush for pages & pages, but I’ll contain myself.” – Dan Bonk

2) Karl Malone – Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers – 1985 – 2004

Career accomplishments:

– basketball Hall of Fame
– fourth all-time in games played in NBA history
– second all-time in minutes played in NBA history
– second all-time in field goals made in NBA history
– all-time leader in free throws made & attempted in NBA history
– all-time leader in defensive rebounds in NBA history
– sixth all-time in total rebounds in NBA history
– tenth all-time in steals in NBA history
– second all-time in points in NBA history

“But for a knee injury, Malone may have gotten that elusive ring in 2004.  But history’s done, and we’ll remember him as one of the best players to never win a championship.” – Don

“The NBA’s second all-time leading scorer had a long career playing alongside John Stockton and perfecting the pick and roll. The only thing he missed in his career was a title, something he just could not achieve. Malone though was the complete package. A big and strong guy who could battle in the post and for rebounds. But also a supremely athletic guy who could explode his way to the rim and step out and hit the jumper. It made him an amazing player and a perfect complement to Stockton.” – Philip

“The Mailman delivered everything but an NBA title. Malone and Stockton was one of the great double acts in the history of the league. Played in the league 19 years and played in the post-season 19 times. No championships, but that kind of longevity and results counts for a lot.” – brumbygg

“With arms the size of battleship guns, The Mailman was one of the game’s most durable and physical player. He was a consistent rebounder and scorer, who’s got a sweet stroke from 15 feet and from the stripe. But making smart plays was one of his biggest enemies as a basketball player by having the most career turnovers in history at 4,524. Some say John Stockton made his career, but couldn’t you say the same about Stockton?” – Ezra

1) Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs – 1997 – present

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Career accomplishments:

– member of four Spurs NBA championship teams
– three-time NBA Finals MVP
– two-time NBA MVP
– 13-time All-NBA selection
– 13-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection
– 13-time NBA All-Star
– NBA Rookie of the Year
– NBA All-Rookie Team
– ninth all-time in defensive rebounds in NBA history
– ninth all-time in blocks in NBA history

“I actually argued that he had a better career than Shaquille O’Neal over at the Timmy vs Shaq debate at With Malice.  That is how good Tim Duncan was (is?).” – Jeff Fox

“He is not flashy. He is underappreciated. And he always seemed willing to defer. But Duncan quietly dominated and did everything for his team he could do. If a post player ever could have been a point guard in a half court offense, Duncan might be it. He had the complete package: Extremely patient in the post, an incredible passer, a superb defender and a consummate teammate. His titles might be forgotten as time goes by as somewhere between the Shaq/Kobe titles and whatever era comes next. But the Spurs were consistent and Duncan was the head of it.” – Philip

“Can play the pivot, post up, hit the mid-range jumper and kill you in so many methodical, almost boring ways. Does everything well and has four championships to back it up. The best PF of all-time and one of the best players of a generation of greats.” – brumbygg

“The Admiral didn’t win his first title until The Big Fundamental came to town. Duncan may not be as emotionally charged as Garnett or as physically imposing as most of the players on this list, but this guy can score, rebound, pass, block shots, and dominate games as well as anyone. So why is he at #1? Well, he’s probably the most intelligent on this list who rarely makes mistakes or miss a crucial defensive assignment. Plus, he’s got more rings than any power forwards in the game so far.” – Ezra

Previous Top Tens of All-Time: Point Guards, Shooting Guards, Small Forwards.

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