Utah Jazz fans all remember Eddie Johnson (no, not the sexual predator), the guy who played for the Kings, Sonics, Suns, Rockets, Pacers, and Hornets over his 17 year career. Of course we do, he scored 30+ on the Jazz 9 times including memorable outings like his 39 back in '82, and 37 in the playoffs back in '98 at the age of 38. My first experiences with him on a near-daily basis were in the MS Dos computer game "Lakers vs. Celtics" where he was part of a very strong Phoenix Suns team that had plenty of firepower. Anyway, Johnson brings some more fire in this video where he breaks down the careers of center and power forward Karl Malone. Ultimately he sides with Duncan because of Rings. I'm not crazy about the "Ringggzzzz" argument, because by that metric Mike Smrek is greater than Karl Malone too, and that John Salley is more important to NBA history than , and has more rings than Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan. Anyway, here EJ's argument here:
Verily, rings matter -- but that's more of an award you get for having competent ownership and a good to great GM. Mitch Richmond is better than B.J. Armstrong, but guess which guy has the rings? The guy playing for a rich owner in a big market next to stars -- not the guy who was hidden away in no-mans-land California where his best team mate was Wayman Tisdale.
But I'm obviously biased. Duncan has been the straw that stirs the drink for several of the championships he has won. I do not ever remember him getting triple teamed regularly though. Karl Malone was, and still managed to be the #2 all-time scorer. And really, if you are looking at who is the better player -- you have to look at the players in a vacuum. You know, if we are trying to find out who is better in a rational, rigorous way. We could make a bad experiment and conclude Duncan is superior because he has more rings -- rings were are a product of R.C. Buford, Gregg Popovich, and guys like David Robinson and Tony Parker. But hey, making individual assessments based upon linked circumstances is fun! Duncan never had to go to war with guys like Bobby Hansen and Adam Keefe starting next to him.
Who is better? Karl. Simply because at the age of 34 he didn't average 13.4 ppg like Duncan did, he averaged 27.0. More than double. Consistently being a player on an excellent run franchise isn't the same thing as being a better player. The numbers for individual achievement skew in Karl's favor. But still, we do we grade Karl against centers in the first place?
Karl is the best PF of all time. Tim is like maybe the 5th or 6th best center. That's why. (In no order: Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Hakeem Olajuwon, then Duncan if you like him better than Shaquille O'Neal) If you want to use the rings as the tie-breaker between Karl and Tim then I would agree with that, if the score was tied. It's not, check the numbers here.
Who is the better player? Karl. Who is the player who played for a better franchise that surrounded him with talent enough to win? Tim. Which one of them is actually a power forward? Karl. Yeah. It's that simple.