Top 20 Best Power Forwards in NBA History

By Ryan Finklestein - December 07, 2018

The power forward position is one that is becoming extinct in the NBA as teams push to play smaller and smaller lineups, which often include just one big. Still a great power forward can transform any lineup and here are the 20 best players to ever the position.

20. Amar’e Stoudemire

Amar’e Stoudemire formed an amazing one-two punch with Steve Nash at the start of his career with the Phoenix Suns and was the 2003 Rookie of the Year. Stoudemire’s prime was cut short due to knee issues but at his peak, he was one of the top power forwards in the NBA.  

19. Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin came into the NBA as the first overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft and he made an immediate impact for the Los Angeles Clippers. Griffin was an all-star in each of his first five seasons and won the 2011 Rookie of the Year Award. Injuries curtailed some of Griffin’s success at the tail end of his tenure with the Clippers, but a trade to the Detroit Pistons last year has rejuvenated his career.  

18. Shawn Kemp

Known by the nickname “Reign Man”, Shawn Kemp was a high-flying scorer that led some of the great Seattle SuperSonics teams of the 1990s. Kemp was a six-time all-star, who finished his career with averages of 14.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.  

17. Tom Heinsohn

Tom Heinsohn is one of the greatest figures in the history of the Boston Celtics, as a player, coach and now as a color commentator on their broadcasts. Heinsohn is the only person that has been involved with the Celtics in an official capacity for all 17 of their championships. As a player, Heinsohn averaged 18.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game and was a six-time all-star. Heinsohn also won the Rookie of the Year award in 1957 and won eight championships as a player.  

16. Dave DeBusschere

Dave DeBusschere had a great NBA career, which he split between the Detroit Pistons and the New York Knicks. DeBusschere started his career in Detroit, where he was a three-time all-star before being traded to the Knicks. DeBusschere helped turn the Knicks into championship-contenders and was a big factor in them winning the NBA Finals in 1970. The Knicks won another championship in 1973 and DeBusschere finished his career with five consecutive all-star appearances.  

15. Larry Nance

Larry Nance’s legacy the in the NBA is still being written as his son Larry Nance Jr. is now in the league and has proven to be a solid player for the Cleveland Cavaliers. While his son has shown promise, he has yet to reach the heights of his father who was a three-time all-star. Nance averaged 17.1 points in his career and took home the crown for winning the 1984 Slam Dunk Contest.

14. Jerry Lucas

Jerry Lucas came into the NBA in 1964 and won the Rookie of the Year award for his great play on the Cincinnati Royals. Lucas was an all-star in his first six seasons, taking home the All-Star Game MVP trophy in 1965. Lucas was great at crashing the boards and finished his career averaging an impressive 15.6 boards per game to go along with 17 points. Lucas was a member of the New York Knicks in 1973 when they won the championship.  

13. Chris Webber

Chris Webber first gained national attention as the best player on Michigan’s infamous “Fab Five”, which went to back-to-back National Championship games. Webber was the only member of the “Fab Five” to leave school after their second year and for good reason as he was the first overall pick in the draft. Webber won the Rookie of the Year award in 1994 and would go on to have a prolific career in which he averaged 20.7 points per game.  

12. Dolph Schayes

Dolph Schayes spent his entire career with the Syracuse Nationals franchise, which later became the Philadelphia 76ers, and was a 12-time all-star and All-NBA performer. Schayes led the Nationals to an NBA championship in 1955 and led the NBA in rebounding in 1951.  

11. Chris Bosh

Who knows how high Chris Bosh would have finished on this list had his career not ended prematurely due to a blood clotting condition. Bosh started his career with the Toronto Raptors, where he had plenty of success as their featured scorer. Then in 2010 Bosh left Toronto to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami to form “The Big Three”. That trio went to the NBA Finals in each of their four years together and won two championships.  

10. Bob Pettit

Bob Pettit was an all-star in each of his 11 seasons in the NBA and he spent all of them with the Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks. Pettit averaged 26.4 points and 16.2 rebounds in his career and won the league’s Most Valuable Player award twice. Pettit was also an integral piece in the Hawks championship team in 1958.  

9. Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman’s antics off the court have superseded everything that he did on the court, which makes us forget just how good of a player he was. Rodman was known for doing all of the little things that a team needed to win, like playing great defense and grabbing a lot of rebounds. Rodman led the league in rebounding seven times in his career and he was the Defensive Player of the Year twice. Rodman won two championships with the Pistons and then later won three with the Chicago Bulls.  

8. Elvin Hayes

Elvin Hayes had his number 44 retired by the Washington franchise as he was one of the greatest players to ever play for the Bullets. Hayes was a 12-time all-star and averaged 21 points, 12.5 rebound and 2 blocks per game in his career.  

7. Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol is one of the better international players to ever play in the NBA, having had decorated career in Europe along with what he has done in the NBA. Gasol was the third overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft and would go on to win the 2002 Rookie of the Year award. Gasol spent seven years with the Memphis Grizzlies before he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008. Gasol had his best years in L.A. as the sidekick to Kobe Bryant and the duo won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.  

6. Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley is one of the greatest player in NBA history to never win a championship. Known as the “Round Mound of Rebound”, Barkley was able to clean the glass better then most despite the fact that he was much shorter then the other bigs he was playing against. Barkley was an 11-time all-star and was the MVP of the 1993 season when he led the Suns to an NBA-best 62-20 record.  

5. Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale began his playing career as the elite sixth man for the Boston Celtics in the 1980s. McHale was crucial to Boston winning three championship during that time and won back-to-back Sixth Man of the Year awards in 1984 and 1985. McHale was inducted into the Hall of Fame and his No. 32 jersey is hanging from the rafters in Boston.  

4. Kevin Garnett

When Kevin Garnett was drafted out of high school, he was the first player to do so in over 20 years. Garnett proved quickly that he was ready to play in the NBA, making an All-Star game in his second season at just 20 years old.   This was his first of fifteen all-star seasons. Garnett led the Timberwolves to the playoffs eight times in his 14 seasons, as the franchise reached heights with Garnett that we have not seen from them since. Garnett was the league MVP in 2004 and finally won his lone championship in 2008 playing for the Boston Celtics.  

3. Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki is by far the best player of the Dallas Mavericks franchise, having led them for 20 years now. Dirk joined the exclusive 50-40-90 club in 2007 and was rewarded by being named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Nowitzki was finally able to get the Mavericks to the mountaintop in 2011 when they beat the much-favored Big Three Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Nowitzki scored the same amount of fourth quarter points (62) as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined in the series and was named the 2011 NBA Finals MVP.  

2. Karl Malone

Known as the “Mailman”, Karl Malone formed one of the best duos in NBA history with point guard John Stockton. Malone was the MVP of the league twice in 1997 and 1999 and was an all-star 14 times.   Malone is second all time in points scored behind Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and finished his career with averages of 25 points and 10 rebounds per game.  

1. Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan is the unquestioned greatest power forward of all time, as he lead the best dynasty in the modern era of basketball in the San Antonio Spurs. Across his 19-year career, the Spurs never missed the playoffs and they won the NBA Finals five times. Duncan was the Finals MVP in three of those five championships and was also named the league’s regular season MVP twice. Just months after his retirement, Duncan’s number 21 was retired by the Spurs.