Top 50 NBA Centers of All-Time: Kareem Ranks No. 1

1Kareem Abdul-Jabbar156024.655.911.23.62.66x19x15x6x11x0
2Bill Russell96315.14422.54.3N/A5x12x11x11x1x0
3Wilt Chamberlain104530.15422.94.4N/A4x13x10x2x2x0
4Shaquille O'Neal120723.758.
5Hakeem Olajuwon123821.851.
6David Robinson98721.151.810.62.531x10x10x2x8x0
7Patrick Ewing11832150.49.81.92011x7x03x0
8Moses Malone145520.349.512.31.31.33x13x8x1x2x0
9Bob McAdoo85222.
10Robert Parish161114.553.
11Dwight Howard110616.858.612.31.41.908x8x05x3x
12Willis Reed65018.747.612.91.8N/A1x7x5x2x1x0
13George Mikan43923.140.413.42.8N/A04x6x5x00
14Wes Unseld98410.850.9143.90.61x5x1x1x00
15Bill Walton46813.352.
16Nate Thurmond9641542.1152.72.107x005x0
17Elvin Hayes13032145.212.51.82012x6x1x2x0
18Dikembe Mutombo11969.851.810.312.808x3x06x4x
19Walt Bellamy104320.151.613.72.40.604x0000
20Dave Cowens76617.64613.63.80.91x8x3x2x3x0
21Alonzo Mourning83817.
22Artis Gilmore132918.858.
23Bob Lanier95920.151.410.33.11.508x0000
24Jerry Lucas8291749.915.63.30.307x5x1x00
25Ben Wallace10885.747.49.61.3204x5x1x6x4x
26Yao Ming4861952.
27Bill Laimbeer106812.949.89.720.904x02x00
28Neil Johnston51619.444.411.32.5N/A06x5x1x00
29Jack Sikma110715.646.
30Dolph Schayes99618.53812.13.1N/A012x12x1x00
31Brad Daugherty5481953.
32Dan Issel121822.649.
33Arvydas Sabonis46012507.32.11.1000000
34Clyde Lovelette7041744.39.51.6N/A04x1x3x00
35Mark Eaton875645.87.913.501x005x2x
36DeMarcus Cousins56521.
37Al Horford84614528.33.31.205x1x01x0
38Pau Gasol11261750.
39Joakim Noah6678.849.
40Ralph Sampson45615.448.
41Joel Embiid20224.147.911.53.11.803x2x02x0
42Karl-Anthony Towns35822.753.411.82.81.502x2x000
43Zydrunas Ilgauskas8431347.
44Mychal Thompson93513.750.
45Arnie Risen6371238.19.71.7N/A04x2x000
46Rik Smits86714.850.
47Bill Cartwright96313.
48Marc Gasol83114.748.
49DeAndre Jordan8759.566.910.80.91.601x3x02x0
50Marcus Camby9739.546.

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Abdul-Jabbar, is also in the discussion for the greatest player of all-time. Kareem is a record-setting, 6-time league MVP, and also has the most All-Star appearances in NBA history with 19. While he was the focal point of some great Lakers teams, Abdul-Jabbar was even better in Milwaukee, as he led the league in scoring two times as a member of the Bucks. In his 20-year career, Kareem missed the All-Star game only once, and due to injury. Not only was he dominant on offense, but Kareem made 11 All-NBA Defensive teams, and led the league in blocks four times.

2. Bill Russell

Russell entered the league in 1956 and dominated right away, leading the NBA in rebounds per game. He would go on to lead the NBA in rebounds per game five times in his career. Russell would finish his career as the second-highest rebounder of all-time, behind the great Wilt Chamberlain. He edges out Chamberlain due to his NBA record 11 championships. Russell is also tied for second (alongside Michael Jordan) with five MVPs and made the All-Star team 12 times (every season except his rookie year. Bill Russell is arguably the best rebounder of all-time (22.5 RBPG) and should be considered the best Celtic in franchise history.

3. Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt the Stilt is number three on this list for a couple of reasons. He holds the best career averages in points and rebounds, 30.1 PPG and 22.9 RPG, and holds the record for most points in a single game (100). Chamberlain finished his career number one the all-time rebounding list and is 7th in scoring. He is a 13-time All-Star and won 2 NBA title’s during his illustrious career. Chamberlain could undoubtedly be higher on my list if he had more championships, as Russell (11) and Abdul-Jabbar (6) both have more in that department than Chamberlain.

4. Shaquille O’Neal

One of the most dominant players we’ve ever seen, Shaquille O’Neal was a force in the NBA even as a rookie. Shaq entered the NBA in 1992 and put up 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game and would win Rookie of the Year honors with the Orlando Magic. O’Neal later joined the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would win three consecutive titles alongside Kobe Bryant. O’Neal finished 8th in scoring and 15th in rebounding during his 20-year career.

5. Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon is one of the best two-way players in NBA history. A 12-time All-Star, Olajuwon also made the All-Defensive team 9 times and led the league in blocks three times. Offensively, Olajuwon finished 11th on the all-time scoring list while averaging 21.8 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting during his career. He’s also the all-time leader in blocks (3,830) and won Defensive Player of the Year twice. With the Houston Rockets, Olajuwon delivered two titles for the franchise and won the MVP award during the 1993 season.

6. David Robinson

Robinson is one of four players in NBA history ever to record a quadruple-double in a single game. In addition to that, Robinson is a 10 All-Star and All-NBA member. Despite missing his first official two years in the NBA due to his time in the US Navy, Robinson won ROY in during the 1989 season. The following year, Robinson would take home Defensive Player of the Year honors and went on to win MVP in 1994. The Admiral would play his entire career in a Spurs uniform and was eventually inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.

7. Patrick Ewing

Ewing is one of the more underrated players of his generation and was an essential piece for some great Knicks teams that challenged Jordan’s Bulls for the Eastern Conference title. The 11-time All-Star won Rookie of the Year during the 1985 season and averaged a near double-double for his entire career (21 PPG & 9.8 RPG). Ewing finished 23rd all-time in scoring and is enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

8. Moses Malone

The great Moses Malone is the most decorated 76er of all-time and won the MVP award three times. Following two seasons in the ABA, Malone would play another 20 in the NBA. He finished 5th in career rebounds and led the league in rebounds per game six times. Malone made the All-Star game 13 times and holds lifetime averages of 20.3 points per game and 12.3 rebounds. Malone also finished his career as the league’s 9th leading scorer of all-time (27,409 points).

9. Bob McAdoo

McAdoo was one of the best scoring bigs early in his career, as he led the league in scoring three times. As a rookie, McAdoo took home ROY honors while putting up 18 points and 9.1 rebounds a night. The following three seasons, McAdoo would average better than 30 points and 12 rebounds per game. The Hall of Famer has 2 championship rings and won the MVP award in 1974.

10. Robert Parish

Another Celtic great on my list, Robert Parish, is a 9-time All-Star and 2-time All-NBA member. With the Celtics, Parish won four titles while averaging 14.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Parish doesn’t have the eye-popping career averages of some players ranked behind him on this list, but he does have four NBA championships, more than every player ranked behind him (exception: George Mikan).

11. Dwight Howard

Howard is the only current player in the top 35 on my list, and for a good reason. Before injuries and inconsistent play derailed his career a bit, Howard was a perennial All-NBA member with the Orlando Magic. The 8-time All-Star ranks 14th on the NBA all-time rebounding and blocks lists and has won Defensive Player of the Year 3 times in his career. As a member of the Orlando Magic, Howard led the league in rebounding 5 times and blocks twice. In his prime, Howard took the Magic to their second NBA Finals appearance in 2009. Superman also has career averages of 16.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game.

12. Willis Reed

The Captain, as he was called, is one of the best players in Knicks franchise history. He’s a two-time championship and also has one MVP award. Reed made 7 All-Star appearances and delivered the Knicks with their only championships in franchise history (1970, 1973). Reed is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame and has career averages of 18.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. In addition to winning MVP in 1969, Reed was also the All-Star Game’s Most Valuable Player.

13. George Mikan

Mikan was the first superstar in the NBA and earned the nickname “Mr. Basketball.” One of the greatest Lakers players of all-time, Mikan won 5 titles in the ABA/NBA. Mikan won an MVP award in 1952 and is a three-time scoring champion. In his first season in the NBA, Mikan would average 27.4 points per game, and would only score less than 20 PPG in his career two times.

14. Wes Unseld

Wes Unseld is one of the top rebounders of all-time and ranks 12th in career rebounds (13,769). Unseld led the NBA in rebounding in 1974 and averaged 14 boards per game in his career. The 5-time All-Star also has one MVP award and won a title with the Washington Bullets during the 1977-78 season (the franchise’s only title). Unseld also won Rookie of the Year in 1968-69 while putting up 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds per game. Unseld was extremely efficient as a scorer during his career, as he shot 50.9 percent from the field.

15. Bill Walton

Following a terrific college career at UCLA, Walton had an outstanding career for the Portland Trailblazers before injuries derailed his career. He delivered the franchise’s only NBA championship in 1977 while winning Finals MVP. The following season Walton was the league’s MVP. Walton’s career averages include 13.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while shooting better than 50 percent from the field (52.1%).

16. Nate Thurmond

Thurmond was one of the top players of his generation and is in the discussion for the greatest Warrior of all-time. The center averaged double-digit points and rebounds for ten consecutive seasons with the Warriors. Along with Alvin Robertson, David Robinson, and Hakeem Olajuwon, Thurmond recorded a quadruple-double in a single season game. Thurmond is a 7-time All-Star, 5-time All-Defensive team member, and is 10th on the career rebounding list.

17. Elvin Hayes

Hayes was one of the better rebounders and scorers at his position in NBA history. He finished his career 10th on the all-time scoring lists and is 4th in career rebounds. As a rookie, Hayes dominated his competition, putting up 28.4 points and 17.1 rebounds per night. Hayes would lead the league in rebounding two times and holds a 12.5 rebound average in his 16-year career. In addition to 12 All-Star selections, Hayes won an NBA title with Wes Unseld for the Washington Bullets in 1977.

18. Dikembe Mutombo

Mutombo entered the league in 1991 as a force on the defensive end. In his rookie season, he recorded averages of 16.6 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Mutombo is famous for his finger-wagging after blocking his opponents and would finish his career 2nd on the NBA all-time block list. In his career, Mutombo would be dominant on the defensive side off the ball, leading the league in blocks per game three consecutive times and won Defensive Player of the Year four times. Although he never won a championship, Mutombo was regarded as one of the best defenders in league history.

19. Walt Bellamy

Early in his career, Bellamy was one of the most dominant players in the NBA. In his rookie season, Bellamy won ROY after averaging 31.6 points and 19 rebounds per game while shooting 51.9 percent from the field. In 17 seasons, Bellamy failed to average double-digit points and rebounds only five times and finished his career as the 11th best rebounder of all-time. In addition to his rebounding, Bellamy holds a 20.1-point scoring average and made the All-Star game four times.

20. Dave Cowens

Cowens is just one of the many Celtic greats on this list. He was an 8-time All-Star and two-time NBA Champion. Cowens also won All-Star MVP and league MVP during the 1972-73 season while averaging 20.5 points and 16.2 rebounds per game. Cowens was also one of the better free-throw shooters at his position and holds a lifetime percentage of 78.3 percent. He wasn’t just an elite scorer and rebounder, as Cowens made the All-Defensive team three times.

21. Alonzo Mourning

Mourning, known more for his days in a Miami Heat uniform than in Charlotte, delivered Miami its first title in franchise history during the 2005-06 season. The 7-time All-Star also ranks 11th in career blocks and led the NBA in blocks during a season two times. Mourning also won Defensive Player of the Year two times in his career. His lifetime averages comprise of 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game.

22. Artis Gilmore

Artis Gilmore is one of the most decorated players of his time, having won an MVP award in 1971, and winning ROY in the exact same season. Gilmore is also an 11-time All-Star and 5-time All-NBA team member. Defensively, Gilmore was solid as well and is 25th in career blocks. He also made the All-Defensive team 5 times during his career. Before playing in the NBA, Gilmore played in the ABA, where he won a championship with the Kentucky Colonels.

23. Bob Lanier

With the Detroit Pistons, Lanier was a top-tier big man, and one of the best rebounders and scorers in the league at the time. After his rookie season in 1970, Lanier would average at least 21 points and 11 rebounds for the next seven consecutive seasons. The Piston’s center would go on to make 8 All-Star appearances and won the All-Star MVP award during the 1973 season. Lanier’s lifetime averages include 20.1 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game.

24. Jerry Lucas

Lucas is one of the top rebounders of all-time, finishing his career with the 17th-most rebounds (12,942). In his Hall of Fame career, Lucas won Rookie of the Year in 1963, All-Star Game MVP in 1964, and was a 7-time All-Star. In 11 of his 13 seasons in the NBA, Lucas averaged at least 11 rebounds per game. His best rebounding season came in 1965, where he averaged 21.1 boards per game. Lucas also won an NBA championship during the 1972 season as a member of the New York Knicks.

25. Ben Wallace

One of the best defensive players in league history, Ben Wallace, made a considerable impact on the game despite only averaging only 5.7 points per game in his 17-year career. The 4-time All-Star led the league in blocks once, rebounds twice, and won 4 Defensive Player of the Year awards (tied for most on this list). Wallace also made the All-NBA team 5 times and won a championship in 2003 with the Detroit Pistons.

26. Yao Ming

In his 8 seasons in the NBA, Yao Ming made the All-Star game each year. Before his career was ended prematurely due to injuries, Ming was one of the top big men in the league. He also made the All-NBA team 5 times throughout his Hall of Fame career. Ming’s best season came in 2005, where he averaged 25 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.

27. Bill Laimbeer

Laimbeer played on one of the most iconic teams of all-time, the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons, and is regarded as one of the toughest players to ever play in the NBA. In his 15-year career, Laimbeer played at least 79 regular season games thirteen times. He made the All-Star game 4 times and won two championships with the Pistons.

28. Neil Johnston

In his brief, 8-year NBA career, Johnston was one of the most productive players of his era. He led the league in scoring three times in a row (1952-1954) and also led the league in minutes his second and third seasons in the NBA. The Hall of Famer is a 6-time All-Star and won a single NBA championship with the Philadelphia Warriors in 1955.

29. Jack Sikma

In the 1978-79 season, Sikma help deliver Seattle it’s first and only NBA championship. In that season, Sikma averaged 15.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 1 block per game. At the end of his career, Sikma would make 7 All-Star teams, the All-Defensive team once, and was later enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

30. Dolph Schayes

Shayes is one of the better rebounding and shooting bigs of his era. In his 15 seasons in the NBA, Shayes averaged less than 10 rebounds per game only three times and has a lifetime free-throw percentage of 84.9 percent. He’s a twelve-time All-Star and All-NBA member and led the league in rebounding in 1954. Schayes is also a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

31. Brad Daughtery

Daughtery is another big one this list who had a brief NBA career. In his 8 seasons, Daughtery made the All-Star game five times and was an All-NBA member during the 1991-92 NBA season.

32. Dan Issel

Issel entered the league in 1970 had one of the most impressive rookie seasons to date. He put up averages of 29.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 2 assists per game while winning the ROY award. The following season, Issel took home All-Star Game MVP honors. Issel would make 7 All-Star appearances during his career and won an ABA championship in 1974.

33. Arvydas Sabonis

The father of current Indiana Pacer’s forward Domantas, Arvydas Sabonis, was an extremely skilled big man during his time in the NBA. The Hall of Famer made the All-Rookie team in 1995 while averaging 14.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game.

34. Clyde Lovelette

Like many of the centers on this list, Lovelette was a great scorer and rebounder from the interior. In his 11-year career, Lovelette made the All-Star game 4 times and won three NBA championships. His lifetime averages include 17 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Lovelette was also an above-average shooter as a big man, shooting 75.7 percent from the charity stripe in his career.

35. Mark Eaton

While Eaton wasn’t quite the scorer and rebounder as many of the centers on this list, he was an excellent shot-blocker. Eaton entered the NBA at the age of 26, much older than players today, but is 4th all-time in blocks. He would play all 11 NBA seasons with the Utah Jazz and led the league in blocks four times. His best shot-blocking season came in 1984, where he averaged 5.6 blocks per game. Eaton’s career blocks per game are a staggering 3.5, and he also won Defensive Player of the Year two times.

36. DeMarcus Cousins

Although Cousins has struggled with injuries for the past couple of seasons, people forget just how dominant he was. Before his short stints in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Cousins was a force to be reckoned with on the Sacramento Kings. In his career, Cousins has averaged better than 11 rebounds and 22 points seven times. The 4-time All-Star was even regarded as the best center in the NBA in the mid-2010s.

37. Al Horford

While past his prime, Horford is still one of the best all-around centers in the NBA. He’s a 5-time All-Star and made the Defensive team in 2017. In his career, Horford has four seasons in which he has averaged at least 4 assists per game, including a career-high 5 assists per game in 2016. Horford is also a great shooter at the five and has a career 36.1 percentage from three.

38. Pau Gasol

One of the best international players of all-time, Gasol is a 6-time All-Star and 2-time NBA champion. Gasol ranks 21st in career blocks and won Rookie of the Year honors during the 2001 season as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.

39. Joakim Noah

Noah has been in and out of the NBA recently but was a force on the defensive end during his prime. He’s a 2-time All-Star and 3-time All-Defensive member. In 2013, Noah made First-Team All-NBA honors and was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. In that same season, Noah averaged 5.4 assists per game.

40. Ralph Sampson

Sampson is a 4-time All-Star and has career averages of 15.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. He won the All-Star Game MVP award in 1984 and was also a member of the All-NBA team. Sampson’s career was capped off by a Hall of Fame enshrinement.

41. Joel Embiid

Embiid has just four NBA seasons (2 missed because of injury) but has an unmatched potential. A three-time All-Star already, Embiid has averaged 24.1 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. Embiid is also a significant force on the defensive end, making 2 All-Defensive teams in his brief career.

42. Karl Anthony-Towns

Through five NBA seasons, Towns has all makings of a future Hall of Famer. He currently has averages of 22.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. While Towns has enjoyed some individual success (2 All-Star appearances), he still needs to have team success in order to move up on this list.

43. Zydrunas Ilgauskas

In more cases than not, Ilgauskas was LeBron James’ second-best player in Cleveland. In his 13-year career would make the All-Star game twice while averaging 13 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game.

44. Mychal Thompson

The number one overall pick in 1978, Thompson carved out a solid NBA career. In thirteen seasons, Thompson averaged 13.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. While he never made an All-Star game, Thompson was a two-time NBA Champion.

45. Arnie Risen

Risen was one of the better centers of the 1950s, as he made 4 All-Star teams and won 2 NBA Championships. The Hall of Famer posted career averages of 12 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game.

46. Rik Smits

In his twelve-year career, Smits never played for another team other than the Indiana Pacers. A highly efficient player, Smits shot 50.7 percent from the field in his career and made the All-Star game in 1997.

47. Bill Cartwright

Cartwright was a terrific player early on in his playing career, as he made the All-Star game as a rookie in 1979. That season he averaged 21.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. Although he never made the All-Star game again, Cartwright won three NBA Championships in his 15-year career.

48. Marc Gasol

One of the best centers in the NBA since the late 2000s, Marc Gasol is a 3-time All-Star and 2-time All-NBA member. His best individual season came in 2012 when he won Defensive Player of the Year and made the All-Defensive team. In 2019, Gasol helped the Toronto Raptors win their first title in franchise history. He’s also the brother of Pau Gasol, who is also on this list.

49. DeAndre Jordan

Jordan is one of the most athletic and accurate big men of all-time. He’s a one-time All-Star and two-time rebounding champ. Jordan’s expertise on the defensive end has also earned him a spot on the All-Defensive team two times. Jordan’s career field goal percentage is 66.9 percent, the best on this list.

50. Marcus Camby

Camby is one of the best shot-blockers of all-time and sits 12th in career blocks. Camby led the league in blocks 4 times and won Defensive Player of the Year during the 2006 season. He’s also a 4-time All-Defensive team member.

Diehard Laker and Seahawk fan. I unfortunately witnessed the Seattle Seahawks passing the ball on the 1 yard line. I hope that sports can unite people and bring them closer together. Current student at Chapman University.

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