Top 10 best NBA power forwards of all time

Profile Picture: Ryan Murphy

Ryan Murphy

April 27th, 2020

What do Javan rhinos, Amur leopards, and NBA power forwards have in common? They’re all on the brink of extinction. The burly boardsmen and bone-rattling pick setters of yesteryear have given way to lithe seven-footers who can stretch the court and rain down threes from far beyond the perimeter.

Those kinds of players have value, of course, but they’ll never truly replace the double-double machines who roamed the earth during the league’s golden years. Join us now as we salute the top power forwards in NBA history.

10. Buck Williams


NBA teams: New Jersey Nets, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks
Accolades: 3x All-Star, NBA Rookie of the Year

A true throwback in every sense, the hard-nosed, big-bodied Williams was an absolute beast on the boards who ranked in the top 10 in rebounding in each of his first six seasons in the league. The three-time All-Star was at his finest in 1982-83, when he averaged 17.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game and finished seventh in MVP voting.

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Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant and Clippers Blake Griffin chat during a game at Staples Center. (Photo by Icon Sportswire)

9. Blake Griffin


NBA teams: Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons
Accolades: 6x All-Star, NBA Rookie of the Year

We could go on and on about Blake Griffin’s six All-Star appearances or his five All-NBA selections, but all you really have to know about this ferocious power forward is that he once dunked over a car. His ability to defy gravity and throw down seismic-level slams makes him truly one of a kind.

8. Chris Webber


NBA teams: Golden State Warriors, Washington Bullets, Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons
Accolades: 5x All-Star, NBA Rookie of the Year

Webber was a two-time All-American and five-time NBA All-Star who revived a flagging franchise in Sacramento and turned the Kings into NBA heavyweights. The Michigan product was at his best in 2000-01 when he averaged 27.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game while leading the Kings to 55 wins.

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Miami Heat power forward Chris Bosh (1) posts up Boston Celtics power forward Brandon Bass (30). (Photo by Mark Halmas/Icon Sportswire)

7. Chris Bosh


NBA teams: Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat
Accolades: 11x All-Star, 2x NBA Champion

Most fans remember Chris Bosh as the third wheel in Miami, but prior to taking his talents to South Beach CB4 was a force of nature in Toronto. The talented pivot averaged a double-double in three of his first seven seasons, and departed the Great White North as the Raptors’ all-time leader in points, rebounds, blocks, and minutes played. Bosh’s career was cut short by a blood-clotting condition, but he did more than enough during his 13 years in the league to punch his ticket to Springfield.

6. Kevin McHale


NBA team: Boston Celtics
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 7x All-Star, 2x Sixth Man of the Year, 3x NBA Champion

Charles Barkley has called Kevin McHale the best player he ever faced, and it’s not hard to see why. Not only was the 6’10” power forward impossibly long, but he also had more moves than a can of worms. McHale’s endless array of head fakes, feints, spin moves, and up-and-unders kept opposing defenders guessing, and allowed him to average 18 points per game or more eight times, despite spending much of his legendary career coming off the bench.

5. Bob Pettit


NBA teams: St. Louis Hawks
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 2x NBA MVP, 11x All-Star, 4x All-Star Game MVP, NBA Champion

It’s fair to wonder how Bob Pettit would fare in today’s NBA. After all, "Big Blue" was just 205 lbs. and shot above 45% from the floor only once during his 11-year career. What we do know for certain is that he dominated his era like few other players before or since. Pettit was an 11-time All-Star, two-time MVP, and two-time scoring champion who averaged 26.4 points, 16.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists over 792 games. "The Bombardier from Baton Rouge" also won four All-Star Game MVP trophies, proving beyond a doubt that he was head-and-shoulders above his peers.

If this were an article about stretch fours, Dirk Nowitzki would surely steal this spot, but Pettit was too good for too long to cede this position.

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TNT analyst Charles Barkley. (Photo by Icon Sportswire)

4. Charles Barkley


NBA teams: Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets
Accolades: Hall of Fame, NBA MVP, 11x All-Star

If you were only to look at Charles Barkley’s physical measurements you’d assume the 6-foot-4, 252-pounder was a ground-bound garbage man who lived in the paint. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Barkley was a hyper-athletic high-flyer who defied physics with his ferocious forays to the hoop and thunderous, stanchion-shaking slams.

Watching him corral a rebound and take it 94 feet to the hoop was a little bit like witnessing a one-man stampede. Opposing players ran for their lives as Sir Charles rumbled towards the basket at what seemed like 1 million miles an hour. His coast-to-coast romps inspired cartoons, commercials and, more than likely, recurring nightmares among opposing players.

Barkley never managed to win a championship during his 16-year career, but he was an 11-time All-Star and former MVP who is more than deserving of this spot.

3. Kevin Garnett


NBA teams: Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets
Accolades: Hall of Fame, NBA MVP, 15x All-Star, Defensive Player of the Year, NBA Champion

Few players in NBA history have played with more smoldering intensity than Kevin Garnett. "The Big Ticket" was a tireless competitor who willed the expansion Timberwolves into becoming playoff contenders and helped the Celtics capture their first NBA Championship in 22 years. Along the way, he was selected to 15 All-Star teams and 12 All-Defensive teams, and was named the league’s MVP in 2004 after averaging a career-high 24.2 points and 13.9 rebounds per game. KG remains a shining example of what a player can accomplish when he keeps his eyes firmly on the prize.

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Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz. (Photo by Icon Sportswire)

2. Karl Malone


NBA teams: Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 2x NBA MVP, 14x All-Star

Imagine if a rhinoceros and a boulder mated. The result would be something like Karl Malone. The 6-foot-9, 250 lb. power forward was a mountain of a man who bullied smaller defenders with his Herculean strength and surprising speed. It also doesn’t hurt that his career overlapped with John Stockton, one of the greatest point guards of all time. Together, they pick-and-rolled their way to 18-straight playoff appearances and back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998.

"The Mailman" retired in 2004 after a season with the Lakers, but remains in the top three in the NBA in career points, defensive rebounds, win share, and free throws made and attempted. Not bad for a guy who didn’t deliver on Sundays.

1. Tim Duncan


NBA team: San Antonio Spurs
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 2x NBA MVP, 15x All-Star, 5x NBA Champion

It brings us no joy to give our top ranking to a player as dull and robotic as Tim Duncan, but his resume is too impressive to ignore. "The Big Fundamental" was a 15-time All-Star, 15-time All-Defensive selection, and two-time NBA MVP who led the San Antonio Spurs to five titles during one of the league’s most competitive spans.

Perhaps the most striking element of Duncan’s career was his consistency. He won a staggering 71% of his games and his 18-foot bankshots were as reliable as death and taxes. "Old Man Riverwalk" wasn’t exactly a living and breathing thrill ride, but he was a bona fide champion who elevated the play of his teammates and controlled the game at both ends of the court.