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Top 10 Best Centers in NBA of all time

Publish Date:02/19/2024
Fact checked by: Allan Howe

The modern NBA game is an outside game that rests on the threat of the three-point shot. It’s the little man, and any man, who can hit the three that is most valued. But once, long ago, the center, or the big man, was paramount.

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The NBA has witnessed the dominance of numerous exceptional centers throughout its storied history. Ranking the best centers is a subjective task, considering the diverse eras, playing styles, and competition faced by these players. However, a consensus emerges around certain players who have left an indelible mark on the league. Here are the 10 best centers in NBA history:

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Standing as the all-time leading scorer in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's impact is unparalleled. With an unstoppable skyhook shot and an illustrious career spanning two decades, Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA championships and six MVP awards. His defensive prowess and scoring ability make him a unanimous choice for the top spot among NBA centers.

2. Bill Russell

Russell's legacy is defined by an incredible 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics. A defensive stalwart and an exceptional shot-blocker, Russell revolutionized the center position. His impact often transcended traditional statistics, and he remains one of the greatest winners in the history of professional sports.

3. Wilt Chamberlain

A statistical marvel, Wilt Chamberlain's dominance in scoring and rebounding is legendary. Chamberlain holds numerous records, including the iconic 100-point game. His physical prowess and scoring ability set him apart, and he claimed two NBA championships during his illustrious career.

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4. Shaquille O'Neal

Known for his dominance in the post and powerful dunks, Shaquille O'Neal was a force to be reckoned with during his prime. "Shaq" won four NBA championships and three Finals MVP awards. His combination of size, strength, and agility made him nearly unstoppable in his prime.

5. Hakeem Olajuwon

Renowned for his "Dream Shake" move, Olajuwon was a defensive maestro and an offensive powerhouse. The Nigerian-born center led the Houston Rockets to back-to-back championships in the mid-1990s, earning Finals MVP honors both times. Olajuwon is one of the greatest shot-blockers in NBA history.

6. David Robinson

“The Admiral” possessed a well-rounded skill set, excelling in scoring, rebounding, and shot-blocking. A key figure for the San Antonio Spurs, Robinson won two NBA championships and an MVP award during his illustrious career.

His impact extended beyond the court, earning him recognition for sportsmanship and community involvement.

7. George Mikan

Often regarded as the first dominant big man in NBA history, George Mikan was a trailblazer for future generations of centers. Mikan led the Minneapolis Lakers to multiple championships in the early years of the league and was a five-time All-NBA First Team selection.

8. Patrick Ewing

A dominant force for the New York Knicks, Patrick Ewing was a perennial All-Star and an iconic figure in the 1990s. Ewing's defensive presence, scoring ability, and leadership made him one of the premier centers of his era. Although he fell short of an NBA championship, his impact on the game is undeniable.

9. Nate Thurmond

Known for his defensive prowess, Nate Thurmond was a seven-time All-Defensive Team selection and an elite rebounder. Thurmond played the majority of his career with the Golden State Warriors and was a consistent force on both ends of the court.

10. Dikembe Mutombo

Renowned for his shot-blocking ability and signature finger wag, Dikembe Mutombo left an indelible mark on the defensive end of the court. A four-time Defensive Player of the Year, Mutombo's impact extended beyond statistics, as he anchored the defense for multiple NBA teams throughout his illustrious career.

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