It’s been a stressful time to be a Dallas Mavericks fan lately. Cheering for a team that is fighting for their playoff lives with two other teams breathing down their neck isn’t exactly relaxing. But, at least on Tuesday night we had something good to celebrate when Dirk Nowitzki passed Oscar Robertson to move into the top 10 in all time scoring.
Now, one of the more fun debates to have is where Nowitzki ranks in terms of the greatest power forwards ever. He’s definitely in the top five, but where exactly people have him differs. Here’s how my list goes in order: Tim Duncan, Dirk, Kevin Garnett, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone.
I don’t think it’s much of a debate that Duncan is the best power forward ever. He’s got the rings and the accolades to cement him in that spot. As far as Dirk being in second, I don’t think that’s a stretch at all.
Barkley and Malone were great players in their time. But the one thing that separates Dirk from them is the ring. Had Dirk not won the title in 2011, then this is a very different discussion. But the fact that Nowtizki was the only true superstar on the only team that has beaten the “Big Three” Miami Heat in an NBA Finals says a lot. Obviously, the only reason Barkley and Malone weren’t able to get a ring during their time was because of a guy named Michael Jordan, but the fact Nowitzki has the title and has now passed both players on the scoring list puts Dirk ahead.
And then there’s Kevin Garnett. Nowitzki passed Garnett in scoring earlier this season and there has been something of a rivalry between the two since Garnett’s days in Minnesota. Both have won a league MVP. Both have won a NBA championship. Both have scored more than 20,000 points in their career.
But I’m not hesitating to put Dirk ahead of Garnett in terms of all time great power forwards.
The simple fact is that Dirk has been able to win an NBA championship by himself as the only superstar on a team. Yes, Tyson Chandler was a big difference maker. Yes, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion were all key cogs. But none were superstars. That team was truly built around Dirk Nowitzki.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were never able to build a championship team around Kevin Garnett. During the years that Garnett made the playoffs in Minnesota, he only got out of the first round once. One can argue that perhaps Garnett didn’t have the right coach or maybe even the right teammates. But someone of Garnett’s caliber should at least be able to get out of the first round and maybe make a Finals run.
It took Garnett being traded to the Celtics to team up with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to win a ring. Garnett is a Hall-of-Famer, there’s no doubting that. But as far as all time great power forwards go, I put Nowitzki just one step ahead of KG. And, after cracking the top-10 in all-time scoring, I think it’s easy to put Nowitzki right behind Duncan in terms of the greatest power forwards ever.