The power forward position in basketball has evolved over the years. Where at one point the position was defined by defense, rebounding, and points in the paint, in more recent years players who stand out in this position have been able to spread the floor with outside shooting. So, who are the greatest power forwards to lace up in the NBA? We break the contenders down for you. See if your favorites made the list.
10) Maurice Lucas – A brutish power forward, Maurice Lucas excelled in both the ABA and the NBA. He was nicknamed “The Enforcer” for his dominate playing style. After playing college ball for Marquette, Lucas played two years in the ABA and 12 seasons in the NBA. He won a championship in 1977 with the Portland Trailblazers. He was also a four-time NBA All Star and was named to the ABA All-Tim Team. The Blazers retired Lucas’ number 20 in 1988. Following his playing career, he had two stints as an assistant coach for the Blazers.
9) Dennis Rodman – Nicknamed “The Worm” for his defense and rebounding, Dennis Rodman played small forward early in his career with the Detroit Pistons, but later moved to power forward. He earned NBA All-Defensive First Team honors on seven occasions. He was also named NBA All Defensive Player of the Year twice. After moving to power forward, Rodman led the NBA in rebounds per game for seven consecutive years. He won a total of five NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls and the Pistons.
8) Giannis Antetokounmpo – Coming into the NBA in 2013, Giannis Antetokounmpo played small forward for the Milwaukee Bucks. However, as his career has progressed, he has shifted to power forward. In the 2016-17 season he became the first player in NBA history to finish a regular season in the top 20 in all five statistics of total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He received the Most Improved Player award in 2017. He won back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player awards in 2019 and 2020. He was also named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2020. Still in his prime, Antetokounmpo is a five-time NBA All-Star.
7) Charles Barkley – Known as “The Round Mound of Rebound”, Charles Barkley played college ball at Auburn University before joining the NBA in 1984. He was taken with the 5th pick overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. After making the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1985, the following season he led the league with the highest rebounding average, earning his first NBA rebounding title. He won two Olympic gold medals (1992 and 1996). Over the course of his career, he was and 11-time NBA All-Star and an 11-time member of the All-NBA Team. He won the Most Valuable Player award in 1993. Since retiring as a player Barkley has worked as an NBA analyst.
6) Kevin Garnett – With a career spanning 21 seasons in the NBA, Kevin Garnett is known for his versatility. In particular, is recognized as a great defensive player. Coming into the NBA directly from high school in 1995, Garnett led the Minnesota Timberwolves to eight consecutive playoff appearances. In 2004, he led the team to the Western Conference Finals and won the NBA MVP award. He played in 15 All-Star Games, winning the All-Star MVP in 2003. He was selected to nine All-NBA Teams and 12 All-Defensive Teams. He earned the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2007-08. He won an NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics.
5) Dirk Nowitzki- Hailing from Germany, Dirk Nowitzki played his entire 21-year NBA career for the Dallas Mavericks. Nowitzki was a prolific scorer with a deadly outside shot. He was a 14-time All-Star, and was the first European player to start in an All-Star Game. He was also a 12-time All-NBA Team member and was the first European player to win the NBA MVP Award (2007). He also won the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in 2011 for leading the Mavericks to their only NBA Championship.
4) Elvin Hayes – In his 1968 rookie season, Elvin Hayes led the NBA in scoring with 28.4 points per game. He also averaged 17.1 rebounds per game. In his second season, Hayes led the NBA in rebounding. He also led the league in rebounding in 1974. Hayes won an NBA title with the Baltimore Bullets in 1978 while averaging 21.8 points and 12.1 rebounds per game in the playoffs. He set an NBA Finals record for most offensive rebounds in a game (11). Hayes never missed more than two games in any of his 16 seasons in the NBA. He played in 12 straight NBA All-Star Games from 1969-1980.
3) Kevin McHale – Standing 6’10, Kevin McHale played his college ball for the University of Minnesota where he was named All-Big Ten in 1979 and 1980. In his rookie season with the Boston Celtics, McHale was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. Playing his entire career with the Celtics, McHale was a three-time NBA Champion and two-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year. He was also a seven-time All-Star and three-time selection for the NBA All-Defense First Team. Alongside Robert Parish and Larry Bird, McHale was part of what many basketball historians consider the best frontline in league history.
2) Karl Malone – Known to the legions of NBA fans around the world as “The Mailman”, Karl Malone spent 18 of his 19 seasons with the Utah Jazz. He was the prototype power forward by whom others are judged. Playing the pick and roll to perfection with teammate John Stockton, Malone was a 14-time NBA All-Star and an 11-time selection to the All-NBA First Team. He was also a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player. He won two Olympic gold medals (1992 and 1996). Malone appeared in the playoffs every season of his NBA career. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 as an individual player and also as a member of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team.
1) Tim Duncan – Nicknamed “The Big Fundamental” Tim Duncan had a 19-year playing career with the San Antonio Spurs. Duncan played his college ball for Wake Forest, winning the John Wooden Award in his senior season. He was also named Naismith College Player of the Year and USBWA College Player of the Year. He won five NBA Championships, was twice named NBA MVP, and was named a three-time NBA Finals MVP. A 15-time All-Star, Duncan is the only player to be selected to both the All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams for 13 consecutive seasons. The Association for Professional Basketball Research named Duncan as one of “100 Greatest Professional Basketball Players of the 20th Century.”
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