The Big Fundamental Vs. The Mailman: a Myth Dispelled

Karl Malone and Tim Duncan were not only two of the best Power Fowards during recent history, they should easily go down in history as two of the best NBA players of All-Time. 

Although both were very well rounded players, Malone was a scoring machine, while Duncan excelled on defense.

Each of these big-men where the focal point of their respective teams through most of their careers, and were surrounded by other stars and key roll players.

Both men played 19 seasons. Malone’s teams were involved in the playoffs every year, while Duncan’s teams only missed one.

Although their careers did intersect momentarily, they played most of their games in completely different eras.

In the 80’s and 90’s teams were stacked with massive post players known for their defensive ability.

During the 00’s and 10’s front courts began to evolve into softer, more versatile players who could shoot from the outside.

In an era where analysts and fans instantly grant greatness to the player with the most trophies and awards, it would appear that there is a clear cut winner, but let’s take a closer look at the stats and make a more educated decision.

            Awards and Achievements

NBA Championships:

Duncan: 5

Malone: 0

All-Star Games

Duncan: 15

Malone: 14

Season MVP

Duncan: 2

Malone: 2

Finals MVP

Duncan: 3

Malone: 0

All-NBA 1st Team

Duncan: 10

Malone: 11

All NBA Teams

Duncan: 15

Malone: 14

All-Defensive 1st Team

Duncan: 8

Malone: 3

All-Defensive Team

Duncan: 15

Malone: 4

Rookie of the Year

Duncan: 1

Malone: 0

In this section, it’s clear that Duncan is the more decorated and acknowledge player by a decent margin.



Points Per Game

Duncan: 19.0

Malone: 25.0

Rebounds Per Game

Duncan: 10.8

Malone: 10.1

Assists Per Game

Duncan: 3.0

Malone: 3.6

Steals Per Game

Duncan: 0.7

Malone: 1.4

Blocks Per Game

Duncan: 2.2

Malone: 0.8

Total Points

Duncan: 26,496

Malone: 36,928

Malone was clearly the more dominant player all around, as shown most emphatically by the fact that he outscored Duncan by over 10,500 points. He accomplished this feat with superior       

              Shooting Percentages

FG %

Duncan: .506

Malone: .516

3-Point %

Duncan: .179

Malone: .274

Free Throw %

Duncan: .696

Malone: .742

As far as the game goes, the only two stats that Duncan had an edge in, were rebounding and blocked shots. The two players were almost even in rebounds. So the only area where Duncan was dominant was blocked shots. 

Malone was a better inside and outside shooter, a better passer, pickpocket, and extremely more prolific as ascorer.It’s very clear that Malone was way better statistically on the court. 

So that leaves the question as to why Duncan was able to win more championships, and why he was given more honors?


There are only three reasonable options; Either the competition wasn’t as tough in Duncan’s era, he was surrounded by better talent, or a mixture of both.

Sure Duncan won more titles, but as far as which big man performed better on the court, Malone is far and away the better player. 

Once again showing that rings are in no way a proper reflection of greatness.

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