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Top 8 Greatest Centers in NBA History

The best big men
Publish Date: 04/23/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa
BOSTON - 1967: Wilt Chamberlain #13 of the Philadelphia 76ers posts up against Bill Russell #6 of the Boston Celtics during a game played in 1967 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1967 NBAE (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

Today we are going to rank the top 10 Centers in NBA History!

The majority of this list if not all of it will be old-timers as the Center position has seen a great loss of importance because of the three-point line.

8) Willis Reed

Career years: 1964-1974Team(s): New York KnicksStats: 650 G, 18.7 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.1 BPGAccolades: Basketball Hall of Famer, 2x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 1x NBA MVP, 7x NBA All-Star, 1x All-NBA First Team, 4x All-NBA Second Team, 1x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 1965 NBA Rookie of the Year, 1965 NBA All-Rookie First Team

Reed to me is maybe the most underrated center of all-time. His career was shortened to just seven full seasons because of injuries, but Reed could do it all and one can think of what might have been.

Video: Willis Reed: Career Tribute Mixtape

Willis Reed: Career Tribute Mixtape

7) Elvin Hayes

Career years: 1968-1984Team(s): San Diego/Houston Rockets, Baltimore/Washington Bullets, Houston RocketsStats: 1,303 G, 21.0 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.0 BPGAccolades: Basketball Hall of Famer, 1x NBA Champion, 12x NBA All-Star, 3x All-NBA First Team, 3x All-NBA Second Team, 2x NBA All-Defensive Second Team, 1969 NBA All-Rookie First Team

Hayes, unlike Reed, was one of the most durable players in NBA history and over 16 years in the NBA he played over 80 games in each season. He was also a tough rebounder who averaged over 20 points a game for his career

Video: Elvin Hayes - The Big E

Elvin Hayes – The Big E

6) Shaquille O’Neal

Career years: 1992-2011Team(s): Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston CelticsStats: 1,207 G, 23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.3 BPGAccolades: 4x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 1x NBA MVP, 15x NBA All-Star, 8x All-NBA First Team, 2x All-NBA Second Team, 4x All-NBA Third Team, 3x NBA All-Defensive Second Team, 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year, 1993 NBA All-Rookie First Team

Believe it or not, I think that O’Neal fell far short of where he should have been on this list. O’Neal was a monster at the start of his career, and while he was always dominant, he never really seemed to improve. If he had, he would probably be at the top of this list. Take a look at our best sports betting sites!

Video: Shaquille O'Neal - Shaq Attack

Shaquille O’Neal – Shaq Attack

5) Moses Malone

Career years: 1974-1995Team(s): Utah Stars, Spirits of St. Louis, Buffalo Braves, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Bullets, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio SpursStats: 1,455 G, 20.3 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.3 BPG Accolades: Basketball Hall of Famer, 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA Finals MVP, 3x NBA MVP, 12x NBA All-Star, 2x ABA All-Star, 4x All-NBA First Team, 4x All-NBA Second Team, 1x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 1x NBA All-Defensive Second Team

Malone carried a .500 Houston Rockets team to the 1981 Finals. He later put Dr. J on his back and carried the 1983 76ers to one of the most dominant seasons in NBA history. Malone was incredible on both sides of the floor.

Video: Moses Malone: Tribute Mixtape

Moses Malone: Tribute Mixtape

4) Hakeem Olajuwon

Career years: 1984-2002
Team(s): Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors
Stats: 1238 G, 21.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 3.1 BPG
Accolades: Basketball Hall of Famer, 2x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 1x NBA MVP, 12x NBA All-Star, 6x All-NBA First Team, 3x All-NBA Second Team, 3x All-NBA Third Team, 2x NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 5x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 4x NBA All-Defensive Second Team, 1985 NBA All-Rookie Team

“The Dream” could do it all from the dream shake to his ability to run the floor. He was a true “Nigerian Knightmare” for his opponents. He is still the only player to win NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP all in the same year.

Video: Hakeem Olajuwon - The Dream [HD]

Hakeem Olajuwon – The Dream [HD]

3) Bill Russell

Career years: 1956-1969Team(s): Boston CelticsStats: 963 G, 15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG, 4.3 APGAccolades: Basketball Hall of Famer, 11x NBA Champion, 5x NBA MVP, 12x NBA All-Star, 3x All-NBA First Team, 8x All-NBA Second Team, 1x NBA All-Defensive First Team

Bill Russell won championships at every level and was a dominant defender. When people say that Michael Jordan is the greatest because of his six titles they are ignoring the fact that Russell won 11!

Video: NBA Vintage: Bill Russell

NBA Vintage: Bill Russell

2) Wilt Chamberlain

Career years: 1959-1973Team(s): Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles LakersStats: 1045 G, 30.1 PPG, 22.9 RPG, 4.4 APGAccolades: Basketball Hall of Famer, 2x NBA Champion, 1x NBA Finals MVP, 4x NBA MVP, 13x NBA All-Star, 7x All-NBA First Team, 3x All-NBA Second Team, 2x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 1960 NBA Rookie of the Year

Wilt was the most dominant big man in the history of basketball. He averaged over 30 points per game during his career and almost 23 rebounds per game. Russell won more titles but it wasn’t because he was better than Wilt.

Video: The Ultimate Wilt Chamberlain Highlights

The Ultimate Wilt Chamberlain Highlights

1) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Career years: 1969-1989Team(s): Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles LakersStats: 1560 G, 24.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 3.6 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.6 BPGAccolades: Basketball Hall of Famer, 6x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 6x NBA MVP, 19x NBA All-Star, 10x All-NBA First Team, 5x All-NBA Second Team, 5x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 6x NBA All-Defensive Second Team, 1970 NBA Rookie of the Year, 1970 NBA All-Rookie Team

Jabbar had the most indefensible shot in NBA history, the skyhook. He wasn’t as complete a player as Russell was but on the offensive side of the floor, very few made the impact that Kareem did.

Video: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 70 Sky Hooks for His 70th Birthday!

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 70 Sky Hooks for His 70th Birthday!

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