All-Time Rank: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Karl Malone
Dirk Nowitzki‘s status as an all-time legend is cemented, but where does he stack up in the power forward debate with the great Karl Malone?
Dirk Nowitzki entered the league as a young German kid with a funky haircut in Dallas. Fast forward 18 years, Nowitzki finds himself as 6th on the all-time scoring list and one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
After his impressive career that has consisted of an MVP and championship ring, Nowitzki is commonly thrown around in all-time ranking debates, especially with other great power forwards.
In this piece, we are putting Nowitzki up against the only power forward above him on the all-time scoring list, none other than Karl Malone.
Karl Malone played 19 seasons in the NBA where he notably led a Utah Jazz team alongside John Stockton throughout the 90’s. Playing 18 of his 19 years in Utah, Malone finished as the second all-time leading scorer with more total points than Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.
So how do Malone and Nowitzki stack up against each other after Nowitzki’s 18th year in the league?
*Stats from LandofBasketball.com
The Case for Malone
When talking about the greatest power forwards of all-time, there are always two names that are near the top: Tim Duncan and Karl Malone. For many, Malone has the edge over Nowitzki, but let’s take a look.
At this point, Malone obviously has more total points as he is 2nd on the all-time scoring list trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. With Malone over seven thousand points ahead of Nowitzki, reaching Malone on that list is not happening.
One of the more underrated aspects of Malone’s game, and one of the bigger criticism’s of Nowitzki’s, was in the area of defense. Standing at 6’9″ and 250 pounds, Malone appeared on four All-Defensive Teams while recording over 2,000 career assists.
In 1996 and 1998, Malone brought home the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award but was never able to overcome Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the 90’s to win a title. By the time of his last season in 2004, Malone had racked up 14 All-NBA teams.
Malone had the all around game. He had the biceps that resembled a body builder, a silky smooth shooting stroke and a passing game that was better than most big men. Malone has an overwhelming edge on the rebounding side as he has logged over four thousand more rebounds than Nowitzki. He also has over 1,800 more assists than Nowitzki.
Yes, Nowitzki probably has two more years to go, but reaching most of these numbers of Malone seem very slim.
Most would say Malone had the better all around game, but let’s look at the case for Nowitzki.
The Case for Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki is coming off his 18th season at 38-years old where he averaged over 18 points a game, something unheard of for someone at that point in his career.
Nowitzki just signed a two-year deal that will lock him into two more years in Dallas to finish his career, depending on his health of course. So with those two years, which stats could he pass Malone on?
If Dallas has a solid first half of the season and Nowitzki plays near the same level as last year, he could very well earn his 14th All-Star nod, thus tying him with Malone. Besides that, it looks like Nowitzki will continue to trail in the categories he trails in above.
But Nowitzki has two HUGE accomplishments that Malone chased tirelessly throughout his career; a NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP. Even though it is just one of each, this is huge in the argument as Nowitzki led a non-stacked Mavs team to beat LeBron, Wade, Bosh, and Miami in the 2011 NBA Finals.
Nowitzki also leads in three-point percentage, free throw percentage, and total blocks while still winning a league MVP award in the 2006-07 season.
Something else to consider that the stats above can’t show was that Nowitzki never had a John Stockton. Sure, Nowitzki had a few years of Steve Nash early on and some of Jason Kidd, but he never had a teammate to the caliber of Stockton throughout his career.
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Malone had Stockton by his side for ALL 18 seasons in Utah. Can you imagine if Nowitzki had Nash for all 18 years of his career in Dallas?
There are MANY more things that plays into the argument, but this gives a starting point. So everything considered, who do you give the edge? Is it closer than you originally thought?