Duncan impressing stars past and present
As early as it seems, it may be time to declare 27-year-old Tim Duncan the greatest power forward of All Time.
Updated: June 6, 2003, 12:06 PM ET
By By Terry Brown | NBA Insider
Superlatives have run dry after only six seasons in the NBA, all of them ending in All NBA First Team selections.
He was Rookie of the Year in 1998, an All Defensive First Team selection every season except for the one he was named to the Second Team. Already an NBA in champion and Finals MVP in 1999, he recently tallied 32 points and 20 boards on 64 percent shooting to end any questions that he wouldn't win his second, on both counts, in 2003.
So as early as it seems, is it actually time to declare 27-year-old Tim Duncan, averaging 22.9 and 12.3 rebounds on 51 percent shooting in 451 games, the greatest power forward of All Time?
Here's how the hierarchy stood, in ascending order, before some kid from the Virgin Islands starting hitting 15-footers off the glass.
Willis Reed, New York Knicks
Career: 18.7 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 47 FG%, 650 games
Skinny: The only power forward other than Tim Duncan to lead his team to an NBA Title. And he did it twice in 1970 and 1973 while being named the Finals MVP both years. And how can we forget about his limp out of the locker room at the beginning of the seventh game of the 1970 Finals to score two buckets and inspire his team on to victory in what could be the greatest moment in NBA history. But aside from winning the ROY in 1965, nothing else sticks out when you get to this caliber of competition. His career scoring average is just average and he played in only 650 games. In four more years, Elton Brand will have posted similar numbers.
Elgin Baylor, Los Angeles Lakers
Career: 27.4 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 43 FG%, 846 games
Skinny: There is this mystique about a guy who averaged more points per game than anyone in NBA history not named Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain but never won a ring, scoring title or MVP trophy. His contemporaries argue that his game was 25 years before its time, lacking the television highlight reels, cereal box covers and shoe deals it deserved. At one time, owned the records for most points scored in a regular season game and postseason game. Absolutely dominated the position during the Sixties on his way to 10 All NBA First Team selections from 1959 thru 1969 and 11 All Star appearances but would a 6-foot-5 guy even survive in the paint today?
Karl Malone, Utah Jazz
Career (active): 25.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 51 FG%, 1,434 games
Skinny: The two-time MVP winner (1997 and 1999) is only 2,013 points away from becoming the NBA's all time leading scorer. He's scored more than that in a single season 12 times. And if you thought Baylor's shadow was long, Malone was named to 11 All NBA First Teams and 14 All Star squads. If the voting ended at the end of this article, he would have to be considered the favorite. If it ends after next season and he chooses wisely as an upcoming free agent, he may continue to be the favorite. But lack of an NBA Title will haunt him on Judgement Day.
But an even bigger question is how many of the aforementioned guys will even be remembered after Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber and Dirk Nowitzki are done?
The Golden Age of the power forward is in full swing so isn't it only fitting that we begin comparing the best of this bunch to best of All Time . . .
After all, have power forwards ever dribbled like KG, passed like Webber, shot from range like Nowitzki?
When was the last time your favorite 7-footer moved to small forward because he wanted to get as far away from the restraints of the center position as he could?
"If I had to guard (Tim Duncan), I would make sure that I brought Jamaal Wilkes and Greg Lee, Maurice Lucas, Lionel Hollins and Johnnie Davis," said Hall of Famer Bill Walton in the Dallas Morning News. "And Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge and Scott Wedman. And John Wooden, Jack Ramsay, K.C. Jones. And then, I'd pray a lot."
In fact, are there any centers even left?
"Shaq and Tim, they dominate," said Jason Kidd in the New York Post. "1A and 1B when you talk about the best players on the planet."
"He destroyed them," said former NBA great Artis Gilmore in the Kansas City Star when asked of Duncan's performance in the playoffs. "That's how a great big man is supposed to play. Except for Tim and Shaq, you don't see much of that anymore."
And if he has already transcended basketball dogma beginning with guards, forwards and centers leading to ones, twos, threes, fours and fives with the additions of point forwards and swingmen, then where else are we supposed to look but the past as we prepare for the future?
"Tim Duncan is the epitome of old-school basketball," said Hall of Famer Julius "Dr. J" Erving in Kansas City Star. "When you go the playground and see a really dominant big man with great fundamentals, you appreciate it. Tim does the fundamentals first. And, when the smoke clears, he's usually on the winning side."
And if he's already done with the past, then what does the future hold with only three wins left in this year's Finals and Tim Duncan, 7-feet tall and legend already growing, still only 27-years-old?
"Tim is incredible," said future Hall of Famer and teammate David Robinson in the Times-Picayune. "When you get a great player like Tim, you let him do what he does best. The way he is playing he's at his prime and is going to continue to play great. Tim is a unique animal. I've got my own thing, and he's got his own thing."
Or, caught up in asterisks and sore big toes, have we just run out of adjectives?
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