NBA Players

Best Power Forwards Of All Time Ranked 1-25

By Abhay Acharya / 22 December 2023 02:22 AM

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Power forwards, also known as fours or strong forwards are typically the second-tallest players on the court, after centers, and are known for their physical strength and versatility.

A type of basketball god known for height, skill, and pure might, power forwards live in the paint, where giants compete and rebound rule supreme.

While Duncan reigns over the league, a handful of the powerful forwards have left their mark on the pantheon of hardwood.

They all serve as a reminder of the strength, skill, and overall domination inherent in paint, each with its own distinct aesthetic and impact.

1. Tim Duncan

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  • Years Active - 1997 to 2016

Career Summary - 1392 Games, 19.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.2 BPG, 50.6 FG%

Tim Duncan was more than simply a power forward in the NBA's giant-filled environment; he was a basketball deity and a titan of the paint whose dominance transformed the position.

Completing his entire 19-season NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs, Duncan led the team to five NBA title wins, averaging 19.0 points per game.

The two-time NBA MVP made the NBA All-Star team appearance fifteen times, proving his dominance built on fundamentals and intelligence.

2. Dirk Nowitzki

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  • Years Active - 1994 to 2019

Career Summary - 1522 Games, 20.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.8 BPG, 47.1 FG%

The 2007 NBA MVP Dirk Werner Nowitzki was a maestro of footwork, a sculptor of the one-legged fadeaway.

At an average of 20.7 PPG and with his effortless shooting that exceeded the three-point line, he was a nightmare for any defender to match up with.

There was no denying Nowitzki's influence and consistency. His legend was cemented in 2011 when he guided the Dallas Mavericks to their first-ever NBA title, quieting skeptics.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo

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  • Years Active - 2011 to Present

Career Summary  - 741 Games, 22.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.3 BPG, 54.0 FG%

With his 7'3" wingspan, 6'11" height, and well-built frame, Giannis Sina Ugo Antetokounmpo is a walking mismatch nightmare that leaves opponents gasping and fans in awe.

Over his career, he has averaged 9.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game while actively attacking the rim.

The 2021 NBA champion Giannis was named the NBA Most Valuable Player twice in 2019 and 2020.

4. Karl Malone

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  • Years Active - 1985 to 2004

Career Summary - 1476 Games, 25.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 0.8 BPG, 51.6 FG%

Few people in the NBA's pantheon of power forwards are as revered and intimidating as Karl Malone, the "Mailman."

His status as one of the league's best players was cemented when his offensive prowess was acknowledged with two Most Valuable Player awards.

Furthermore, Malone's 14 All-Star honors are a monument to his enduring influence on the game and his reward for consistency and brilliance.

5. Kevin Garnett

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  • Years Active - 1995 to 2016

Career Summary - 1462 Games, 17.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.4 BPG, 49.7 FG%

The former American professional basketball power forward Kevin Maurice Garnett played in the NBA for three teams since being drafted 5th overall in the 1995 draft.

Throughout his 21-year career, which included 14 All-Star games, one MVP honor, and a championship ring, he solidified his status as one of the all-time great power forwards.

Garnett's defensive play demonstrated exceptional physicality and foresight. Throughout his career, he averaged 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, which made him a nightmare for scorers.

6. Kevin McHale

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  • Years Active - 1980 to 1993

Career Summary - 971 Games, 17.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.7 BPG, 55.4 FG%

Forget about using sheer power; Kevin McHale was a ballerina with a symphony of footwork that left fans speechless and defenders dazed.

Standing at 6'10" and possessing an exceptionally fluid shooting stroke, McHale revolutionized the position with his distinct fusion of power and grace.

With three NBA titles and seven All-Star selections, McHale's contributions weren't just statistical; they were instrumental in the Boston Celtics' success throughout the 1980s.

7. Charles Barkley

Source : britannica

  • Years Active - 1984 to 2000

Career Summary - 1073 Games, 22.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.9 APG, 0.8 BPG, 54.1 FG%

Nicknamed "Sir Charles," Charles Wade Barkley, evoking laughter, trash talk, and sheer dominance on the court, played 16 seasons in the NBA for three teams.

Barkley had a lifetime average of 11.7 rebounds per game and was known as "The Round Mound of Rebounds" due to his renowned ability to rebound the ball.

He was a nuisance for defenders because of his incredible post moves and scoring arsenal (22.1 career average), earning him the 1993 NBA MVP title.

8. Anthony Davis

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  • Years Active - 2012 to Present

Career Summary - 683 Games, 24.0 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 2.3 BPG, 52.0 FG%

The 6'10", 253-pound "Brow," Anthony Marshon Davis Jr., is a force to be reckoned with and a rising star in the NBA power forward hierarchy.

Davis has averaged 24.0 points per game throughout his career. With an accuracy rate of 52.0%, his effortless mid-range jumper is unstoppable.

He excelled on the highest stage by playing significantly in the Los Angeles Lakers' 2020 championship run.

The 2023 NBA In-season tournament champion Davis has been a consistent All-Star, earning eight selections throughout his career.

9. Elvin Hayes

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  • Years Active - 1968 to 1984

Career Summary - 1303 Games, 21.0 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 2.0 BPG, 45.2 FG%

"The Big E," Elvin Ernest Hayes, was more than simply another potent forward. He made a lasting impression on the NBA in the 1960s and 1970s as a rebounding machine and an avalanche of points.

Hayes, who finished fourth all-time in rebounds with 16,279, was a voracious board eater and a legendary rebounder because of his tenacity and location.

The 1978 NBA champion Hayes consistently earned his place among the league's best, his dominance undeniable with 12 NBA All-Stars and six All-NBA team selections.

10. Bob Pettit

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  • Years Active - 1954 to 1965

Career Summary - 792 Games, 26.4 PPG, 16.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 43.6 FG%

Robert E. Lee "Bob" Pettit Jr. was the original power forward in the NBA, dominating the position long before Kareem, Duncan, and Malone arrived.

With his 7'2" wingspan and 6'9" height, Pettit was a natural scorer and rebounder who changed the game during the 1950s and 60s and won two MVP awards and eleven All-Star appearances.

He cemented his status as one of the greatest champions in NBA history by leading the St. Louis Hawks (currently known as Atlanta Hawks) to the 1958 NBA title.

11. Dolph Schayes

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  • Years Active - 1948 to 1964

Career Summary - 996 Games, 18.5 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 38.0 FG%

Adolph (Dolph) Schayes existed before Giannis, KD, Tim Duncan, and Kevin McHale. Schayes, a huge man hitting down low, wasn't simply another power forward. He was a pioneer in the position.

With 12 All-Star appearances and six All-NBA selections, Schayes was a staple of the NBA's elite for over a decade.

His three NBA Finals appearances and one championship pushed the Syracuse Nationals (currently the Philadelphia 76ers) to prominence.

Also, he inspired a generation of big players to be more than just back-to-the-basket scorers.

12. Chris Bosh

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  • Years Active - 2003 to 2017

Career Summary - 893 Games, 19.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 BPG, 49.4 FG%

Christopher Wesson Bosh, the lean Floridian with a silky smooth jumper, might not always top the "best power forward" lists, but his impact on the game shouldn't be overlooked.

He could guard various positions thanks to his defensive versatility, making him an invaluable member of Miami's 2012 and 2013 championship runs.

His 11 All-Star appearances and 2.0 assists per game mark his consistent excellence, highlighting his playmaking skills.

13. Harry Gallatin

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  • Years Active - 1948 to 1958

Career Summary - 682 Games, 13.0 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 39.8 FG%

While players like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett dominate the NBA's greatest power forwards list, Harry Junior "The Horse" Gallatin is a name not to be forgotten.

Gallatin averaged a double-double with 13.0 points and 11.9 rebounds per game throughout his career.

His domination on both ends of the court was demonstrated by his seven-time All-Star status and 1954 rebounding lead in the league.

From 1948 until 1957, Gallatin was a member of the New York Knicks, helping the team win two Eastern Division titles.

14. Tom Heinsohn

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  • Years Active - 1956 to 1965

Career Summary - 654 Games, 18.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 40.5 FG%

The archetypal "Mr. Celtic," Thomas William Heinsohn, is a Boston icon and a legend ingrained in the history of NBA power forwards.

He was a key contributor with eight championship titles in nine seasons with the Celtics, averaging over 18 points per game in four of those championship seasons.

Even though his statistics might not immediately scream "all-time great," his contribution to the game and his influence on the Celtics' dynasty merit more examination.

15. Jerry Lucas

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  • Years Active - 1962 to 1974

Career Summary - 829 Games, 17.0 PPG, 15.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.3 BPG, 49.9 FG%

Jerry Ray Lucas was the best power forward in the NBA before Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Standing at a towering 6'8" and possessing a fluid, unconventional shooting style, Lucas made a lasting impression on the game and cemented his place among the all-time greats.

Lucas was a powerhouse in the paint, averaging 17.0 points and 15.6 rebounds per game for his 11-year NBA career.

Lucas demonstrated consistent greatness throughout his career by being named an NBA champion, an All-Star seven times, and an All-NBA selection five times.

16. Dennis Rodman

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  • Years Active - 1986 to 2006

Career Summary - 911 Games, 7.3 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.6 BPG, 52.1 FG%

The NBA's ultimate rebounding outlaw, Dennis Keith Rodman, defies conventional notions of what constitutes a power forward.

The five-time NBA champion, two with the Pistons and three with the Bulls, Rodman was selected to the All-Defensive First Team seven times.

He won the Defensive Player of the Year award twice and was named the NBA All-Star twice in 1990 and 1992.

During the 1995-96 season, he averaged 14.9 rebounds per game, setting the NBA record for most rebounds in a single season. He became the NBA rebounding champion seven times.

17. Pau Gasol

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  • Years Active - 1998 to 2021

Career Summary - 1226 Games, 17.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.6 BPG, 50.7 FG%

Pau Gasol Saez was a seven-foot ballerina and European master whose combination of size, ability, and flare from around the world transformed the power forward position.

Gasol's clutch play and defense skills were crucial to the Lakers' back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.

His talent and impact were consistently recognized throughout his career, with six NBA All-Star appearances.

With a career average of 17.0 points per game, he made threes (36.8% lifetime) and stretched the floor with a silky mid-range jumper (50.7% career).

18. Blake Griffin

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  • Years Active - 2009 to Present

Career Summary - 765 Games, 19.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 0.5 BPG, 49.3 FG%

Blake Austin Griffin is a high-flying dunker with a silky handle, a rare blend of skill, athleticism, and showmanship that captivated audiences and redefined the possibilities of his position.

His career average of 4.0 assists per game showcases his ability to orchestrate the offense and create easy looks for teammates.

At 6'9" with a 6'11" wingspan, Griffin was a force on the boards, averaging 8.0 rebounds per game throughout his career.

19. Vern Mikkelsen

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  • Years Active - 1949 to 1959

Career Summary - 699 Games, 14.4 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.2 APG, 40.3 FG%

The four-time NBA champion Arild Verner Agerskov Mikkelsen was around before the days of Duncan, Malone, and Garnett.

With his chiseled physique and unwavering work ethic, Mikkelsen reinvented the power forward position in the NBA during its early years despite his small stature of 6'7".

Thanks to his famed defensive skills, Mikkelsen led the Minneapolis Lakers to four winning runs in six years.

20. Shawn Kemp

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  • Years Active - 1989 to 2003

Career Summary - 1051 Games, 14.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.2 BPG, 48.8 FG%

Nicknamed the "Reign Man," Shawn Travis Kemp Sr. played power forward in the NBA for the Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Seattle SuperSonics.

Throughout his 14-year career, Kemp averaged 14.6 points per game and was constantly in the paint. Thanks to his strength and agility, he could overwhelm opponents and finish with authority.

He demonstrated his supremacy on the glass during his 1996 season with the Seattle SuperSonics, grabbing a career-high 11.4 rebounds per game.

21. Amar'e Stoudemire

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  • Years Active - 2002 to 2020

Career Summary - 846 Games, 18.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.2 BPG, 53.7 FG%

Amar'e Carsares Jehoshaphat Stoudemire is an Israeli-American former professional player who played power forward in the NBA for 15 seasons for four teams.

It is impossible to dispute his status as one of the most tremendous power forwards in the NBA, from his explosive early years in Phoenix to his late-career comeback with the Knicks.

Moreover, he earned recognition, making six All-Star appearances and five All-NBA team selections throughout his career.

22. Jermaine O'Neal

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  • Years Active - 1996 to 2014

Career Summary - 1011 Games, 13.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.8 BPG, 46.7 FG%

Jermaine Lee O'Neal Sr. was a walking highlight reel who could score, rebound, block, and shoot with the best of them.

O'Neal averaged 13.2 points per game throughout his career while displaying a wide range of offensive weapons. His dunks were thundering, his fadeaway jumper flawless, and his post moves unstoppable.

In addition to being a three-time All-NBA pick and six-time All-Star, he played a significant role in the Indiana Pacers' 2000 championship appearance.

O'Neal was a genuine leader on the floor because of his contagious defensive ferocity, which boosted his teammates' spirits.

23. Bobby Jones

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  • Years Active - 1974 to 1986

Career Summary - 774 Games, 11.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.3 BPG, 55.0 FG%

The 1983 NBA champion Robert Clyde Jones is a former professional American basketball power forward who played for the 76ers in the NBA and the Nuggets in the ABA.

Although not particularly good at scoring, Jones could still rack up points (11.5 PPG). He was a nuisance for defenses due to his aggressive post moves and fluid mid-range jumper.

Throughout his career, he was selected to the All-Star team four times and named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 1983, demonstrating his skill and influence on the game.

24. Chris Webber

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  • Years Active - 1993 to 2008

Career Summary - 831 Games, 20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 47.9 FG%

Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III, "C-Webb" for the faithful, was more than just a compilation of spectacular dunks and behind-the-back passes. 

A five-time All-Star and 2001 All-NBA First Team selection, Webber averaged 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

His offensive toolkit was broad: a strong post-game, a deft mid-range jumper (47.9% lifetime), and an eye for spotting open teammates (4.2 assists per game).

Chris' influence goes past the stats. He was a cultural icon, a face of the NBA in the late 90s and early 2000s.

25. Draymond Green

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  • Years Active - 2012 to Present

Career Summary - 773 Games, 8.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.0 BPG, 44.9 FG%

Though he may not have Dirk Nowitzki's style of play or Karl Malone's sheer scoring ability, Draymond Jamal Green has made an indisputable impression on the court.

Green has legendary defensive ability. He is the cornerstone of Golden State's championship-caliber defense, a four-time member of the All-Defensive First Team, and the Defensive Player of the Year award winner.

He was a vital member of every Warriors championship run and an NBA champion four times. He is unquestionably a leader who hustles hard and can motivate his teammates.