When Duncan won his eighth consecutive NBA First Team recognition (in 8 seasons) this year, I asked my brother when people were going to start calling Duncan the greatest power forward in NBA History.
Because that is where I had him. I assumed people always gave lip service to other players with lesser pedigrees because they were flashy and Tim Duncan is one of the most dull public figures since the Daryll #2 from Newhart.
But numbers tell the tale.
8 NBA First teams. Two MVPs. 2 Championships. 2 NBA Finals MVPs.
Now he has added another title and Finals MVP to that list.
So, today on sports radio, the debate is in full bloom. Is Duncan the greatest PF of all time?
Where does he rank on the list of all-time NBA players regardless of positon?
First, I believe that Duncan in the greatest PF of all-time. The other candidates are:
(1) Karl Malone. Second all-time scorer in NBA History. Personal statistics exceed Duncan in almost every way (even taking into account that he played more seasons). Three trips to the NBA Finals. Two time MVP. Two gold medals. 11 All-NBA First teams. Zero Championships.
Assessment: A few years ago, he was far and away my #1 choice. His lack of a ring hurts when compared to Duncan’s three. You can only explain away so much by blaming Jordan’s dominance. Karl could have won one during the Houston years or in the lockout season when they were the defending Western Conference champs. That would be the year TD got his first ring…
(2) Charles Barkley. Incredible numbers, put up despite being a 6’5" power forward. One trip to the finals. One MVP. 5 All-NBA First Teams. Numerous hilarious quotes. Zero Championships.
Assessment: Barkley is definitely one of the most entertaining players in NBA history. But “quick wit” doesn’t add up to a championship ring. As with Malone, it really comes down to that. Without a ring, at least one, you really shouldn’t be considered the greatest at your position.
(3) Elvin Hayes. Kind of underated. Excellent numbers. One Championship. Zero MVP Awards. 3 Time NBA First team. Kind of a surly guy, as well.
Assessment: He has the ring, but he was never the MVP of the league. If you can’t prove you were the best player in the league ONCE, then it is hard for me to think you were the best player at your position.
(4) Kevin McHale. A solid player, but he should not be part of the debate. Despite winning 3 Championships, he was never the guy who led a team to the title. He was an excellent defender, but he only made one NBA First team, and NO second teams.
Assessment: I don’t understand why his name comes up in the debate.
(5) Bob Petitt. One championship. Two MVPs. 10 Time All-NBA First team. Averaged 26 Pts, 16 Boards for a career. The only guy to beat Bill Russell in the NBA Finals.
Assessment: Played much of his career pre-integration AND he never played a game on color TV.
Overall: None of these guys have the resume of Tim Duncan. Three rings puts a superstar into pretty elite company. LARRY BIRD has three rings. ShaqHakeem Olajuwon has TWO!