In the 75 years of rich NBA history, it has been blessed with many great players to play as power forward. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Curry brothers, to name a few.
However, some players sit on top among others due to their incredible performance and achievements in their playing days.
On February 7, 2023, LeBron James became the all-time leading scorer with 38,390, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387.
Looking deep into reliable and popular online sites like ESPN, Clutch Points, and the NBA, this article assembles the top 10 best power forwards. This article assembles the top 10 best power forwards ever to play in the NBA.
Let’s look at the players who made it into our list without delay. But first, let’s have a look at the list.
Ten Best Power Forwards Ever in NBA
We have taken NBA and ESPN as our primary sources of reference for preparing this list.
10. Bob Pettit
- St. Louis Hawks
- 1x NBA championship, 2x NBA MVP
Back in his 60s, centers, and guards were leading scorers for the team, whereas power forwards was the rebounder. However, Bob Pettit was one who did exceptionally well on both ends of the floor.
In his career, Pettit never averaged fewer than 24.6 PPG and 12.4 RPG. In each season, he managed to average a double-double.
To win his first ring, Pettit scored a playoff-high score of 50 points against the Celtics in the series-clinching game 6 of the NBA Finals in 1958.
Bob Pettit was the first player to win the NBA MVP award back in 1956. Later, in 1959 he won his second MVP.
In his 11 years NBA career, Pettit was NBA All-Star each season, winning four All-Star MVPs. He was named All-NBA First Team selections 10 times.
Bob Pettit is the first player in NBA to record more than 20k points. Similarly, his career average of 26.4 PPG and 16.2 RPG is placed 8th and 3rd, respectively, on the all-time leaderboard list.
Later, in 1970 he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. So, undoubtedly, Bob is one of the best power forwards ever to grace the court in the NBA.
9. Anthony Davis
- New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers
- 1x NBA championship, 8x NBA All-Star
Anthony Davis is a unique player and one of the greatest power forwards of all time.
Davis is a huge offensive threat and can punish you with three-pointers or paint.
He also makes a strong presence in defense, acting as a rim protector and excellent rebounder.
Davis is 8 times NBA All-star, 4 times All NBA First Team, and 2 times NBA All-Defensive First Team.
Soon after joining the Lakers, Davis won his first NBA championship in 2020. He has already won the 2012 Olympics and 2014 World Cup representing the USA.
Still, for 30 years old, Anthony Davis has more to accomplish in his career.
On February 7, 2023, in the game where LeBron James made history by becoming the highest point scorer, Davis was apparently uninterested in his teammate’s accomplishment.
Lakers fans were puzzled by his reaction and slammed Anthony over his petty reaction.
8. Elvin Hayes
- Washington Bullets, Houston Rockets
- 1x NBA Championship, 12x NBA All-Star
Elvin Hayes is one of the most talented power forwards, if not the best, to grace the basketball court. The Big E made his mark in NBA despite playing in the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar era.
In his rookie season, he recorded the fifth-best all-time scoring average for a rookie and remains the last rookie to lead the NBA in scoring average.
In his 12 years as a professional NBA player, he didn’t miss more than 2 games in any season.
Furthermore, Hayes is Washington Wizards’ all-time leading scorer scoring 15,551 points.
Despite recording MVP numbers, Hayes didn’t win league awards in his career. But he won his first and only NBA championship in 1978.
Hayes is a 12 times All-star and 3 times All-NBA First team and was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1990. The former NBA player had his #44 jersey retired by the Houston Rockets on November 18, 2022.
7. Kevin McHale
- Boston Celtics
- 3x NBA Championship, 7x NBA All-Star
Although coming off the bench for almost half his career, Kevin McHale is considered one of the best power forwards.
Out of 971 NBA games, he only started 400 games, but his mindset to sacrifice individual numbers for team success deserves respect.
Alongside Larry Bird and Robert Parish, Mc Hale led Celtics to 3 NBA championships out of 5 finals.
Hall of Famer, Charles Barkley, mentions McHale as the toughest opponent he ever faced in his career.
His footwork and post moves were unstoppable, making him hard to guard. Moreover, he was also a good defender making it into All-Time Defensive First Team 3 times.
Naismith Hall of Fame inductee Kevin McHale played all his 13 years for Boston Celtics.
During the first 5 seasons, Hayes mainly came off the bench and won the 1984 and 1985 NBA Sixth Man of the Year awards.
He is one time All-NBA First team and 7 times NBA All-star. Besides, he also coached Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets.
6. Charles Barkley
- Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets
- 1x NBA MVP, 11x MBA All-Star
Standing 6 feet 5 inches (1.95 meters) tall, Charles Barkley utilized his strength and aggressiveness to become one of the most dominant rebounders in the NBA despite being shorter than typical power forward.
He would go coast to coast with anyone, jump higher than bigger guys for rebounds and slam monstrous dunks.
The 1993 NBA MVP Barkley was an all-around player recording 23,757 points, 12,546 rebounds, and 4,215 assists over his career.
Furthermore, he is 11 times NBA All-Star and 5 times All-NBA’s first team. Barkley is two times a Hall of Fame inductee, in 2006 for his individual career and in 2010 as a Dream Team member.
However, like many other great players back in the 90s, the failure to win NBA championship rings is the only flaw in his resume.
Barkley was a popular name for controversies and fights back in his 80s and 90s.
In October 2022, the former NBA player signed a 10-year contract extension with Warner Bros. Discovery Sports, owner of TNT, and will remain as a host on Inside the NBA.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Milwaukee Bucks
- 1x NBA champion, 1x NBA Finals MVP, 2x NBA MVP, 7x NBA All-Star
Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s achievements in the NBA are already enough to rank him #5 on the list of best power forwards of all time.
In 2020, Greek Freak joined the ranks of Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon to win NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same year.
With two consecutive MVPs, one NBA championship, and one NBA Finals MVP, Giannis has established himself as one of the top players in the history of the NBA.
Moreover, Antetokounmpo is the youngest player to win 2 NBA MVPs before the age of 26.
Although listed as a power forward, Antetokounmpo is an all-around player to play in all five positions.
Moreover, he is called Greek Freak due to his size, speed, athleticism, and ball-handling abilities. His physical traits help him get past defenders to slash for a dunk.
On January 3, 2023, Giannis recorded a career-high 55 points in a win over the Washington Wizards and his 32nd career triple-double in a 123-115 win against the Miami Heat.
4. Kevin Garnett
- Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets
- 1x NBA championship, 1x NBA MVP, 15x NBA All-Star
Only a few players can match the intensity, versatility, athleticism, and defensive ability in NBA history that 15-time All-Star Kevin Garnett (KG) possesses.
In the 1995 NBA Draft, KG came straight from high school, making Minnesota Timberwolves a title contender.
Before Garnett, the Wolves hadn’t made any playoff appearances or won more than 29 games in a season.
However, Kevin Garnett, “The Big Ticket,” led the team, becoming their highest scorer, rebounder, playmaker, and excellent defender.
During Garnett’s first spell, the Wolves made 8 successive playoff appearances from 1997 to 2004. Later in 2008, Garnett showed excellent leadership dinging his playoff track record in his NBA championship triumph with Celtics.
Garnett’s NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors prove his two-way finesse.
He was named to the All-NBA First team 4 times and NBA All-Defensive First Team 9 times.
Later, in 2021, KG was inducted into the Hall of Fame, claiming his spot as one of the best power forwards of all time. The Celtics retired his number 5 jersey on March 13, 2022.
3. Dirk Nowitzki
- Dallas Mavericks
- 1x NBA championship, 1x NBA MVP
Dirk Nowitzki is the one who should be credited for revolutionizing the power forward position. He transformed the position into one for the player capable of shooting, dribbling, and passing.
The German legend is definitely the best European player to play in NBA.
Well known for scoring ability and versatility, his signature one-legged fadeaway is one of the impossible moves to guard.
Nowitzki is the first and only NBA player to play 21 seasons for one franchise, Dallas Mavericks.
Nowitzki won his sole NBA MVP award in 2007. Later, in the 2010-11 season, he led Dallas to their only NBA championship and won himself the NBA Finals MVP title.
He performed as champion in playoff series on the road to glory, defeating Portland, Lakers, OKC, and Heat Big 3 in the finals.
With 31,560 points, he ranks 6th among all-time NBA points leaders. Moreover, Nowitzki is the first international player and second power forward to score more than 30k points.
Besides his several records in NBA and Dallas, Mavericks Nowitzki is also 14 times NBA All-Star and 4 times All NBA First Team. Dirk is a nominee for Hall’s class of 2023.
2. Karl Malone
- Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers
- 2x NBA MVP, 14x NBA All-Star
Karl Malone is one of the best power forwards in the NBA; however, the NBA championship is only what’s missing from his prolific career.
For his consistent performance, Malone was called “Mailman.” He is an elite scorer with 36,928 points and also NBA’s third all-time points leader. Malone is the all-time leader in free throws attempted and made.
The former NBA player was also a defender and rebounder. At the age of 40, he became the oldest player to register a triple-double and start in NBA Finals.
The two-time NBA MVP Malone is the only NBA player selected in All-NBA’s first team for 11 successive seasons.
In 2010, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his individual career and as a member of the 1992 Dream Team.
Karl Malone was named to the NBA 50th Anniversary Team and the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in October 2021.
1. Tim Duncan
- San Antonio Spurs
- 5x NBA championship, 3x NBA MVP, 15x NBA All-Star
Nobody deserves the throne of the best power forwards of all time other than Tim Duncan. His resume places him among the greatest players in the history of the NBA.
Duncan is the ultimate franchise player playing 2 decades for the Spurs leading them to 5 NBA titles. Alongside his 3 finals MVPs, he also has 2 league MVP awards to his name.
Nicknamed “The Big Fundamental,” he made his presence known on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor with his simple, effective textbook skills.
Over his 20 seasons in NBA, he scored 26,496 points ranking him 16 on the all-time points leaders board.
His signature bank shot was simply unstoppable. During his career, he was a consistent scorer, rebounder, and rim protector, which is why he is 10 times All NBA First Team and 8 times All NBA Defensive First Team.
Furthermore, Duncan is 15 times NBA All-Star and one-time All-Star MVP.
Later in 2021, Tim Duncan was enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame alongside Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant. He was also honored by naming him to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in 2021.
Some Honorable Mentions
The above list of players completes our list of best power forwards of all time.
The players were ranked based on their accomplishments, records, and career stats.
(Feel free to comment about dropping your opinion on players mentioned in the article.)
drop Malone to 5th place, behind KG, Dirk and the Freak. went ring chasing with prime Kobe and Shaq and went home empty handed. KG 2nd placec due to better defence than Dirk, Freak will eventually be 2nd place or maybe 1st.
Pettit should be 7. His numbers and accomplishments are better than 7, 8 & 9.
no way Giannis is ever better than Timmy D
Pettit should be #2 or #3 based on his accomplishments. 10x All-NBA first team, multiple MVPs, a ring in the Russell Celtics era, and the indisputable top forward of his era. He was a beast.