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The Best NBA Players of All Time - Centers

Published on November 30, 2023

Best NBA Players of All Time
Wilt Chamberlain Bill Russell

A list of the best NBA players of all-time is likely to spark great debate, specifically the centers. However, here’s a list of worthy candidates for your consideration (regular season career stats in parentheses).

Best NBA Players of All Time – Centers

  • Bill Russell (963 GP, 15.1 ppg, 4.3 apg, 22.5 rpg)
    No other player in NBA history has won more championships than Bill Russell, who led the Celtics to 11 rings in 13 seasons. He was a master of defense, who changed the game with his ability to block shots and grab rebounds. He was also a leader and a winner, who earned five NBA MVP honors and 12 All-Star nods.
  • David Robinson (987 GP, 21.1 ppg, 2.5 apg, 10.6 rpg)
    With his combination of size, skill, and athleticism, David Robinson was one of the most formidable centers in NBA history. He spent his entire career with the San Antonio Spurs, winning two titles, an MVP trophy, and 10 All-Star nods. He was also a defensive stalwart who topped the league in blocks and rebounds during his career.
  • George Mikan (439 GP, 23.1 ppg, 2.8 apg, 13.4 rpg)
    George Mikan was the original big man of basketball, who dominated the NBA with his size, skill, and strength. Mikan was the star of the Minneapolis Lakers, who won five NBA titles in six seasons. He was a 6-foot-10, 245-pound center who mastered the art of rebounding, shot-blocking, and shooting with his hook shot. He was a six-time All-NBA First Team member, a four-time All-Star, and an NBA All-Star Game MVP. Additionally, he was so influential that he caused several rule changes in the NBA, such as the goaltending rule, the shot clock, and the “Mikan Rule”, which widened the foul lane.
  • Hakeem Olajuwon (1238 GP, 21.8 ppg, 2.5 apg, 11.1 rpg)
    Hakeem Olajuwon was a dominant force in the NBA for 18 seasons, leading the league in blocks three times and rebounds twice. He won two NBA titles, two Finals MVPs, one regular season MVP, and two Defensive Player of the Year awards. He is the only player in NBA history to record more than 3,000 blocks and 2,000 steals in his career.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1560 GP, 24.6 ppg, 3.6 apg, 11.2 rpg)
    With his signature skyhook shot, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dominated the NBA for two decades, playing for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. He won six NBA titles, six MVP awards, and two Finals MVP awards, becoming the only player in NBA history to win the MVP and Finals MVP awards in different seasons. Abdul-Jabbar held the NBA record for the most points scored in a career (until Lebron James surpassed him in 2023 ) and also ranks among the top three in field goals made, rebounds, and blocks. He was a 19-time All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time All-Defensive selection.

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Great NBA Centers

  • Moses Malone (1455 GP, 20.3 ppg, 1.3 apg, 12.3 rpg)
    Moses Malone was a legendary center who played 19 seasons in the NBA, winning one title, one Finals MVP, and three MVP awards. He was a 12-time All-Star, an eight-time All-NBA selection, and a one-time All-Defensive selection. Also, he was the first player to go directly from high school to the pros, and the first to win the MVP award in both the ABA and the NBA.
  • Nikola Jokic (613 GP, 20.5 ppg, 6.7 apg, 10.6 rpg) stats as of this writing
    Nikola Jokic is not your typical center. He is a playmaker, a scorer, a rebounder, and a winner. Jokic has led the Denver Nuggets to their first NBA title in franchise history, earning himself two MVP honors and one Finals MVP honor along the way. He is the first center to ever record 50 triple-doubles in his career1. He is one of the most influential and innovative players in NBA history.
  • Patrick Ewing (1183 GP, 21.0 ppg, 1.9 apg, 9.8 rpg)
    Patrick Ewing was a dominant force in the paint for the New York Knicks for 15 seasons. He was a prolific scorer, a fierce rebounder, and a formidable shot-blocker. Ewing also led the Knicks to two NBA Finals appearances and was an 11-time All-Star. He was also the Rookie of the Year, a member of the 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
  • Shaquille O’Neal (1207 GP, 23.7 ppg, 2.5 apg, 10.9 rpg)
    Few players have ever impacted the game of basketball like Shaquille O’Neal. He was a dominant center who could score, rebound, block, and pass at a high level. Shaq won four titles, three Finals MVPs, and one MVP award in his 19-year career. He was a 15-time All-Star, a 14-time All-NBA performer, and a three-time All-Defensive player. Simply put, Shaq was the most physically dominating player in NBA history.
  • Wilt Chamberlain (1045 GP, 30.1 ppg, 4.4 apg, 22.9 rpg)
    Wilt Chamberlain was a dominant force in the NBA, setting records that still stand today. He is the only player to average 40 and 50 points in a season, score 100 points in a single game, and grab over 2,000 rebounds in a single season. The Big Dipper also won four MVP awards, two NBA championships, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.