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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The Grueling Truth's Top 10 Sports Lists / Top 10 Best defensive players in the History of NBA

Top 10 Best defensive players in the History of NBA

Publish Date: 12/08/2023
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Greatest Defensive Players

Who is the best defender in NBA history? The greatest NBA defenders of all time are difficult to rank. These were some of the toughest rankings we ever had to do, and we would love to hear your opinion on this subject. Also, no current players are eligible for this list. Defensive MYP and first-team all-defensive players hold much weight in these rankings.

10) David Robinson

He led the league in blocks during the 1991-92 season, was honored with eight NBA All-Defensive Teams selections and won his second championship ring in 2003.

Video: David Robinson Defensive Highlights Compilation

David Robinson Defensive Highlights Compilation

9) Michael Jordan

M.J. Jordan is revered by many as the greatest player ever due to his offensive prowess and superb defensive play. Jordan led the NBA in steals three times and won 1988 Defensive Player of the Year before earning nine All-Defensive Team selections – his last coming when leading the Chicago Bulls to their sixth championship title victory in 1998. The Chicago Bulls were one of the greatest defensive teams of all time.

Video: Michael Jordan Defensive Highlights Compilation

Michael Jordan Defensive Highlights Compilation

8) Kevin Garnett

If you like fierce intensity from your big men, Garnett was likely someone you enjoyed watching. An extraordinary talent on both ends of the floor, “The Big Ticket” earned 12 All-Defensive Team selections before winning Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2008, leading Boston to an NBA Championship with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

Video: Kevin Garnett Defensive Highlights Compilation

Kevin Garnett Defensive Highlights Compilation

7) Gary Payton

Payton certainly lived up to his nickname “The Glove,” guarding some of the top playmakers during his two decades on the court and making nine All-Defensive teams for both. Before winning a championship with the Miami Heat in 2006, he was considered one of the greatest to never claim one before taking home that championship ring for himself.

Video: Gary Payton Defensive Highlights Compilation

Gary Payton Defensive Highlights Compilation

6) Scottie Pippen

Michael Jordan may be the greatest player of all time, but Pippen did outshine him on the defensive side of the court. His defensive presence helped Chicago overcome the Detroit Pistons teams known as the “Bad Boys”, and he ended his career having received 10 All-Defense Team selections.

Video: Scottie Pippen: Ultimate Defender

Scottie Pippen: Ultimate Defender

5) Sidney Moncrief

Sidney Moncrief was the only guard to win the Defensive Player of the Year award twice(1983, 1984). He used an aggressive, in-your-face style that proved exhausting for opponents to deal with, as well as earning All-Defensive honors five times throughout his career.

Video: Sidney Moncrief: The Greatest Perimeter Defender Ever?

Sidney Moncrief: The Greatest Perimeter Defender Ever?

4) Dennis Rodman

Love him or loathe him, one cannot deny Rodman’s legacy as one of the great “dirty work” players in NBA history. He dove for every loose ball, studied rotations of shots during pre-game warmups to improve his timing, and his contributions helped two different dynasties (the late 80’s Detroit Pistons and mid 90’s Chicago Bulls) establish themselves in basketball history.

Video: Dennis Rodman's Lockdown Defensive Performances!

Dennis Rodman’s Lockdown Defensive Performances!

3) Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe was one of NBA history’s premier shot-blockers: He won four Defensive Player of the Year awards and was league leader for blocks three straight seasons; additionally, he twice led in rebounding as well. Although not known as one of its premier scorers, he still earned himself an NBA Hall of Fame career with his defensive prowess.

Video: Dikembe Mutombo Defensive Highlights Compilation

Dikembe Mutombo Defensive Highlights Compilation

2) Hakeem Olajuwon

The Dream was one of the best NBA defenders of all time. For good reason, others would place “The Dream” at the top of this list. He holds an NBA-record all-time blocked shot total and won two Defensive Player of the Year awards during his two championship seasons; additionally, he led the NBA in rebounding in both 1989 and 1990. Furthermore.

Video: Hakeem Olajuwon Defensive Highlights Compilation

Hakeem Olajuwon Defensive Highlights Compilation

1) Bill Russell

Russell was one of the critical factors driving the Boston Celtics’ unprecedented 11 championship run during this era – most defensive statistics weren’t kept or recorded – however when using defensive win shares alone to measure performance, he stood head and shoulders above everyone else in that era; his 133.64 defensive win shares outshone Tim Duncan by 27 and 12 over other players combined! His defense and team-first mentality was an integral component to Boston’s dominance, as evidenced by their 11 championship victories during 13 seasons led by Russell’s Boston Celtics teammate Tim Duncan; together they led by 27 over Tim Duncan himself! Bill Russell was, without a doubt, the best defender in NBA history.

Video: Bill Russell Defensive Highlights Compilation

Bill Russell Defensive Highlights Compilation

Honorable Mentions

Karl Malone

Joe Dumars

Alvin Robertson

Michael Cooper

Bobby Jones

 

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