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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 10 White Centers in the NBA: Ranking the Best White NBA Centers of All Time

Top 10 White Centers in the NBA: Ranking the Best White NBA Centers of All Time

Publish Date: 12/29/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Do you know by the headline this might have some old white guys in it? There have been some excellent White centers in NBA history, though, and today we will take a look at the best of the best. If you love this list check out our Top 10 Greatest White NBA Basketball players of all time list.

Criteria

Number one is obvious: you have to be White! Outside of that, like any other list, the stats matter, but so does winning. There are a lot of big-time winners on this list. Their effect on the game was that some of these players changed how it would be played for years to come. Current players are ineligible for this list since their careers are incomplete.

10) Mark Eaton

Mark Eaton was one of the best defensive big men of the 80s and 90s, known as one of the greatest defensive big men ever seen in Utah Jazz history. A five-time member of the All-Defensive team, four-time Block Champion and two-time Defensive Player of the Year; Eaton was offensively challenged but more than made up for it on the defensive end of the floor.

Admittedly, Eaton was limited, but at 7’4″, he could affect any game he played in.

  • NBA All-Star(1989)
  • 2 Time NBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • 3 Time All NBA Defensive First-Team
  • 4 Time NBA Blocks Leader
Video: MARK EATON CAREER HIGHLIGHTS!

MARK EATON CAREER HIGHLIGHTS!

9) Vlade Divac

Vlade Divac enjoyed two distinct eras in his career, first with the Los Angeles Lakers and later with the Sacramento Kings. Like fine wine, Divac only got better with age – an incredible force on both teams averaging 12.5 points with 8.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists; becoming an All-Star on both squads, becoming one of their key facilitators while posting massive assists numbers as a big man and helping make Sacramento one of the fiercest title contenders ever in the NBA.

Divac helped lead the Lakers to the NBA Finals in 1991 and got the Kings to the Conference Finals before coming up short. Divac could do it all, but he was one of the greatest passing big men ever.

  • NBA All-Star(2001)
  • NBA All-Rookie First-Team
  • FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players
Video: Vlade Divac - Instinct

Vlade Divac – Instinct

8) Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol established himself as one of the premier big men for nearly two decades through hard work, masterful intelligence, and impressive defensive prowess. A cornerstone member of the Memphis Grizzlies team known for slow play and hard play, Gasol won the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year honors; later, he would find success playing for Toronto Raptors, winning an NBA championship title!

Gasol makes this list because of his relentlessness on the defensive side of the court. He was also a solid offensive player who always did the job for his team.

  • NBA World Champion
  • 3 Time NBA All-Star
  • NBA Defensive Player of the Year(2013)
  • FIBA Euro Cup Winner(2007)
Video: Marc Gasol Highlights 2012/2013

Marc Gasol Highlights 2012/2013

7) Rik Smits

Rik Smits made history during his 11 years with the Indiana Pacers franchise, becoming a fan favorite alongside Reggie Miller. Smits consistently put up 14.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while never quite reaching superstar status; nevertheless, he gave it everything he had each game. Smits was even recognized with All-Star status during 1997-98; unfortunately, he retired just two years after achieving this milestone.

Smits was a considerable part of the Pacers’ success throughout the 90s and helped them get to the 2000 NBA Finals, the only time they have advanced that far.

  • NBA All-Star 1998
  • NBA All-Rookie team (1989)
  • 2000 NBA Finalist
Video: Rik Smits career highlights

Rik Smits career highlights

6) Bill Laimbeer

Bill Laimbeer earned a place as one of the toughest, hardest-working competitors ever seen in NBA competition, earning himself the reputation as an outright pest for the Bad Boy Pistons of the 80s/early ’90s Detroit Pistons squads. A legendary rebounding talent who bent the rules or used dirty tactics if necessary for victory, Laimbeer became a core member of their legendary Detroit squad that won back-to-back titles.

Laimbeer was one of the first big men to take it back behind the three-point line and consistently drain the shot; he was a leader on the Bad Boys and an enforcer who never backed down from anybody. Laimbeer contributed to a Pistons defense that is considered one of the Greatest Defensive teams of all time!

  • 2 Time NBA World Champion
  • 4 Time NBA All-Star
  • NBA Rebounding Leader(1986)
  • Number Retired by the Detroit Pistons
Video: Bill Laimbeer - Captain Chaos

Bill Laimbeer – Captain Chaos

5) Jack Sikma

Jack Sikma was one of the greatest and most underrated big men of the 1980s, achieving seven All-Star nods, an NBA Championship title in 1979, and Hall of Fame status while helping spur Seattle’s passion for basketball. Sikma’s contribution to the Supersonics bak-to-back Finals teams was huge.

A SuperSonics Legend who averaged 16.8 points per game with 10.8 rebounds on average. Later, he played for the Milwaukee Bucks, where his role-playing abilities made an impactful contribution as they competed during the later decades of this decade. Sikma was a big man who could hit the outside shot just as well as he could throw an outlet pass.

  • NBA World Champion(1979)
  • 7 Time NBA All-Star
  • NBA All-Rookie First-Team(1978)
Video: Jack Sikma Highlights NBA big man ahead of his time

Jack Sikma Highlights NBA big man ahead of his time

4) Dan Issel

Dan Issel was an All-Star and NBA Champion with the Kentucky Colonels and Denver Nuggets teams. Throughout his four-year ABA career, Issel averaged 28.3 points and 11.4 rebounds per game and became a consistent All-Star and Champion; upon making his way into NBA play, he went on to be honored seven times as an All-Star, eventually going on to become a Hall of Famer as well.

Issel is often forgotten, but he was one of the greatest players in NBA history and will be remembered in Kentucky and Denver for a very long time.

  • ABA Champion(1975)
  • 6 Time ABA All-Star
  • NBA All-Star(1977)
  • ABA All Star Game MVP(1972)
  • ABA Rookie of the Year(1971)
  • ABA Scoring Champion(1971)
Video: Dan Issel - The Horse

Dan Issel – The Horse

3) George Mikan

George Mikan was a beloved Minneapolis Laker of the 40s and 50s known for his electric, explosive scoring style that could destroy defenses with ease. Averaging 23.1 points and 13.4 rebounds per game over his seven-year career, Mikan achieved greatness, winning three scoring titles, an MVP award, and five NBA Championships – becoming one of the first truly dominant big men ever seen before in NBA history.

Mikan was the first dominant giant that the game of basketball had ever seen. Seventy years later, people remember the name, and Mikan is still considered one of the greatest lakers of all time.

  • 5 Time NBA World Champion
  • 4 Time All-Star
  • 3 Time NBA Scoring Champion
  • NBA Rebounding Leader(1952)
Video: George Mikan - Shot-by-Shot vs. Pistons (32 Points, 12-of-36 Shooting)

George Mikan – Shot-by-Shot vs. Pistons (32 Points, 12-of-36 Shooting)

2) Arvydas Sabonis

Arvydas Sabonis was one of the greatest and most accomplished overseas basketball players ever seen, dominating and masterful during his 16-year professional career spanning the 1980s and 1990s. While playing professionally for 16 years, Sabonis only broke into the NBA in his tenth year (though well out of his prime) at age 29; still an amazing talent who was key for the Blazers teams at the turn of the millennium; serving as his blueprint. He still stands as an inspiration today despite having come 40 years earlier!

Sabonis, much like Walton, had his prime years cut short by injuries, but much like Walton, he was so good that he still finds himself in rare air towards the top of this list. He was an unbelievable passer and shooter with awesome low-post moves. He helped lead the Soviet Union to an upset win in the semi-finals of the 1988 Olympics.

  • FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players
  • Olympic Gold Medalist(1988)
  • NBA All-Rookie First-Team
Video: Arvydas Sabonis Offense and Defense Highlights – Before Injuries

Arvydas Sabonis Offense and Defense Highlights – Before Injuries

1) Bill Walton

Bill Walton was among the greatest players ever seen on a basketball court. Amassing stats like 17.7 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game during his first four years in the NBA, Walton achieved two All-Star selections and Rebounding Champ status along with all-defensive player honors, MVP and Finals MVP honors all within four years – yet injuries ultimately derailed his career before the Boston Celtics gave him another shot as Sixth Man of the Year; later helping win another championship on one of history’s most powerful teams ever.

Walton could do it all. He was a great passer and facilitator for his team’s offense. If not for injuries Walton may have been a top five center of all time, he was that good. Until injuries got him, he ran the court as well as any big man ever has. Walton was also considered one of the greatest College Basketball players of all time!

  • 2 Time NBA Champion
  • NBA Finals MVP(1977)
  • NBA MVP
  • 2 Time NBA All-Defensive Team
  • NBA Sixth Man of the Year
Video: Bill Walton Greatest Games: 44 Points vs Memphis State (1973 NCAA FInal)

Bill Walton Greatest Games: 44 Points vs Memphis State (1973 NCAA FInal)

Honorable mentions

Shawn Bradley

Shawn Bradley stands as the second-tallest NBA player ever, towering over opponents while providing some of the greatest rim protection ever. At his peak, Bradley averaged an incredible 3.5 blocks per game while contributing double-digit points and high rebounds per game.

Bryant Reeves

Big Country earned his nickname, and Bryant Reeves earned it when Shaquille O’Neal said he was the hardest player for him to guard; that momentous achievement marked Reeves’ career high point with the Vancouver Grizzlies; playing just six seasons but posting 15 points and 7.8 rebounds per game!

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