Top 10 NBA Centers of All Time

05/13/2019

This week, we kick off our top 10 player rankings for each of the 5 positions on the basketball court. We couldn't see eye to eye on the top 10 for each position so we decided to split it into two once again.

Ryan based his rankings on how some of the historical greats would have fared in today's NBA, while Victor adheres to his strict cutoff eliminating anything before the 1976 NBA-ABA merger.

As usual, Ryan's rankings will be in Red while Victor's rankings are in Blue


10. Willis Reed

Reed is perhaps best known for his iconic return from injury during game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals. Reed led the New York Knicks to the only two championships in their 73 years of existence. The Captain won an MVP award during the 1969-1970 regular season, averaging a solid 21.7 PPG and 13.9 RPG. By my books, he is the most important New York Knick of all-time. 


9. Yao Ming

Yao did not have as long of a career as his peers, but the years in which he did play were quite impressive. He was a 7'-5'' big man that was capable of hitting mid-range jump shots and converting free throws at a high level (83.3% FT for his career.) He also was one of the only players that did not back down to Shaq, with Yao routinely giving Shaq problems because of his length and basketball IQ.


8. Patrick Ewing

Ewing's impact on team success has been a subject of debate, with the Ewing Theory being popularized by former ESPN personality, Bill Simmons. The theory suggests that Ewing's New York Knicks were a better team when Ewing did not play. Ewing still had a largely successful career, despite never winning a championship, as he became a 3-time All-Defensive player and 8-time All-NBA performer. His 22.8 PPG, 10.4 RPG, and 2.7 BPG numbers as a member of the New York Knicks make him worthy of a top-10 placement.


7. Bill Russell

Russell's standing in these rankings is hurt by the weaker era in which he played, but the man's accomplishments are too incredible to ignore. He's an astonishing 11-time NBA champion and 5-time MVP. His defense and rebounding were his biggest strengths, with a career average of 22.5 RPG to support him. He falls behind another player from his era, Wilt Chamberlain, mainly because his offensive capabilities were lacking, relying larger on offensive put-backs after his team missed. He would fulfill a Ben Wallace-type role in today's NBA.


6. David Robinson

The Admiral benefitted greatly from the arrival of his frontcourt mate, Tim Duncan. Robinson still has plenty of accolades to boast, namely being a 1-time MVP, 2-time NBA champion, and 8-time All-Defensive player. His averages of 29.8 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 3.3 BPG in 1993-1994 still stand as one of the most impressive regular seasons of any player in NBA history.


5. Moses Malone

Moses is the forgotten Malone, with Karl Malone getting far more attention and admiration. However, Moses was arguably just as talented of a basketball player as the Mailman. He is a 3-time MVP, 1-time NBA champion, and 2-time All-Defensive player. His averages of 31.1 PPG and 14.7 RPG in 1981-1982 are nothing to shrug at, either.


4. Wilt Chamberlain

Chamberlain is possibly the first celebrity in NBA history, as his off-the-court escapades are widely known at this point. His 100-point game is a performance that will never be topped, and he's one of the few players during his time that would also be a superstar in today's era of basketball. The reason Wilt the Stilt is not higher up on the list is his inability to get past Bill Russell's Boston Celtics in the playoffs, winning only 2 championships during his career.


3. Hakeem Olajuwon

The debate between Shaq and Olajuwon is as close as any head-to-head comparison comes, and "The Dream" is perfectly worthy of having the number two center spot as well. He's a 2-time NBA champion, 1-time MVP, 2-time Defensive Player of the Year, and implemented the infamous "Dream Shake" post move in his impressive arsenal of offensive tools. Not many players are capable of shouldering the scoring load while still playing elite defense, and Olajuwon was one of the best ever at accomplishing this.


2. Shaquille O'Neal

Simply put: Shaq is the most dominant offensive player in NBA history. He has his fair share of weaknesses (*cough* free throws *cough*), but his ability to just bulldoze through multiple opponents with ease made him an unstoppable force throughout his career. Having multiple playoff runs in which he averaged a 30 PPG and 15 RPG solidifies his place as a phenomenal playoff performer.


1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The most prolific scorer in NBA history (by far), Kareem has the accolades and the longevity to claim his spot on top of the center rankings. He is a 6-time NBA champion, 11-time All-Defensive player, 15-time All-NBA player, and a 6-time MVP (an NBA record). He also played his prime during a competitive era of the NBA, which puts him ahead of some of the older heads like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.


10. Dikembe Mutombo

The finger wagging legend. Mutombo kicks off our top 10 on the back of his defensive dominance. Mutombo lost his scoring touch as his career went on but substituted that with not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 Defensive Player of the Year trophies.


9. Ben Wallace

Arguably the best defender the NBA has ever seen. 6'8" Ben Wallace turned a Division 2 basketball career, and an undrafted free agency into 4 Defensive Player of the Year trophies and an NBA championship against Kobe and Shaq in their prime.


8. Alonzo Mourning

Alonzo Mourning marks the first player on the list who was elite on both sides of the ball. Two Defensive Player of the Year trophies and a career average of 17 points a game. Mourning deserves his spot on this list.


7. Patrick Ewing

New York legend and current Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing. Pat did everything but win a ring and even then he still did some incredible things on the court. 29 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks a game over an entire season . . . Ewing was dominant and it's a shame he never won a ring.


6. Dwight Howard

One of the most underrated stars of his generation, people forget Dwight Howard was a dominant force before his career took a downturn in LA. Despite that, Howard is still a three time Defensive Player of the Year and once led an uninspiring Orlando Magic team to the NBA Finals while averaging 21 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks a game during the regular season. Put some respect on his name


5. David Robinson

With number five, I go with an original Spurs Legend. David Robinson is one of the few on the list with both a regular season MVP and a Defensive Player of the Year award to his name. Robinson could do it all on the court and deserves special recognition as the last player to record a quadruple-double, doing so in a 30-10-10-10 effort against the Pistons in 94. Robinson also adds two championships to his name but is the last person on the list not to win a Finals MVP.


4. Moses Malone

The original Malone is one of the most underrated legends of all time. He actually managed to win a ring and a Finals MVP in an 80s era that was dominated by Jordan, Bird, Magic and the Bad Boy Pistons. The man once averaged 31 points and 15 rebounds in a season that saw him win regular season MVP. Speaking of MVPs, Moses Malone has three of those, all coming within a 5 year period where he was by far the most dominant player in the league. Malone would have been higher on the list but the other options were far better defensively.


3. Hakeem Olajuwon

Sliding in at number three is the man some considered the most complete basketball player before LeBron James. Hakeem retired as the only player in NBA history to finish in the top 11 of four different categories (points, rebounds, blocks, steals). Not to mention 2 Finals MVPs, 2 Defensive Player of the Year trophies, one regular season MVP and the Dream Shake.


2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Deciding between Kareem and Hakeem was hard. Even with the 1976 cutoff, Kareem still put together 5 rings and 2 MVPs. And while Olajuwon gets the edge with two Defensive Player of the Year awards, Kareem still put together 6 All-NBA defense nominations after the merger. What gives Kareem the edge is the Skyhook, arguably the most unguardable shot in NBA history.


1. Shaquille O'Neal

While the previous two on the list had a go-to move with Hakeem's Dream Shake and Kareem's Skyhook, Shaq's signature move was dunking on anything and anyone in sight. Number one on my list is the one and only Shaquille O'Neal. Arguably the most dominant center of all time, Shaq recorded at least 26 points and 10 rebounds a game for ten straight years after his impressive rookie season that saw him put up 23 points and 14 rebounds a game. We've seen empty numbers before but Shaq backed up his dominance with 4 rings and 3 Finals MVP. Superman is number one and quite rightly.


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