THAT WAS THEN ... THIS IS NOW: Pettit and Duncan
The game has evolved dramatically over time, but NBA.com's That Was Then ... This Is Now proves the more things change, the more they stay the same. We compare two players who put the power in power forward: Bob Pettit and Tim Duncan.
Dominique-Kobe
Wilt-Shaq
Thomas-Francis
Gervin-McGrady
-- By Rob Peterson


Name
BOB PETTIT
TIM DUNCAN
Nickname
None
The Big Fundamental
Height
6-9
7-0
Weight
215
260
Career
(Seasons)
1954-65
(11 NBA seasons)
1997-present
(6th NBA season)
A-S Selections
11
5 (includes 2003)
First
All-Star Game
1955
(in New York)
1998
(in New York)
Age (first A-S Game)
22
21
A-S scoring average
20.4 ppg
13.5 ppg
Best A-S
performance
1958:
28 pts., 26 reb., 1 asst.
2000:
24 pts., 24 reb., 4 asst.
A-S Game MVP
1956, 1958, 1959 (co-MVP), 1962
2000, co-MVP with Shaquille O'Neal
Career avg.
26.4
22.9
Best season
31.1 ppg (1961-62)
25.5 ppg (2001-02)
Most memorable performance
Leading St. Louis Hawks to 1958 NBA title
Leading San Antonio Spurs to 1999 NBA title
THE SKINNY
Bob Pettit
in his prime:
56k | 300k
How alike are Bob Pettit and Tim Duncan? Just look at Duncan's half-jesting nickname given to him by Shaquille O'Neal: the Big Fundamental.

Then, take a look at the video to the right and watch the first shot Pettit takes: a 15-foot, one-handed set shot.

While he is reluctant to venture out much further than 10 feet and a one-handed set shot may be too fundamental even for him, no power forward, or center for that matter, has better all-around, low-post skills than Duncan. Save for Scottie Pippen, no one uses the glass better on offense than Duncan. He's also excellent when it comes to cleaning the glass, as he grabs rebounds at a pace of 13 per game, good for second in the league.

With 22.9 points and 12.3 rebounds per game for his career, what you get with Duncan is consistent excellence, not flash. That's not to say he's not competitive or ferocious on the blocks. On the contrary, Duncan is tough to handle down low. His array of hook shots with either hand and powerful drop step leaves many a defender looking silly. That, and he can run the floor and finish with a flourish on the break.

Before Karl Malone, the 6-9, 215-pound Pettit set the standard for power forwards. When he retired after the 1964-65 season, Pettit was the NBA's all-time leading scorer with 20,880 points. That total is now good for 23rd on the all-time list.

One of the things that made Pettit so good was his ability to venture away from the hoop and drag slower big men away from the basket. Pettit, as you could see in the video, had the ability to hit the 20-foot shot. He was also a load to handle on the blocks. Three seasons he led the NBA in free throws made and averaged 10.3 attempts per game for his career.

Pettit was named to the All-NBA first team 10 of his 11 seasons, MVP twice (1956 and 1959) and is the only player to win the All-Star MVP four times. Duncan looks like he could have a Pettit-like career. Both have one NBA title (Pettit -- 1958; Duncan -- 1999) and both were Rookies of the Year (Pettit -- 1956; Duncan -- 1998). Duncan has one NBA MVP (2002) and he has been named All-NBA first-team in his first five seasons.

Fundamentally the same, indeed.

Photo credits: (Pettit -- NBAE Photos; Duncan -- Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)