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Top 5 NBA Centers of All Time

Top 5 NBA Centers of All Time

#5 Hakeem Olajuwon

Credit: Getty Images via Sports Illustrated

Games Played: 1,238
• Points: 26,946
• Rebounds: 13,748
• Assist: 3,058

• Steals: 2,162
• Blocks: 3,830
• Defensive Player of the Year: 2
• Championship: 2

The all-around big man. Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon was not only the best defender whenever he stepped on the floor, he had the most versatile offensive game as well. Not many 7-footers consistently hit midrange jump shots - Olajuwon did. Though he's generally known for his famous "Dream Shake" and advanced up-and-under moves, Olajuwon's offensive wizardry was not what carried the Rockets to consecutive titles. Olajuwon's ability to protect the basket and force teams into bad shots is what Houston attributes its 90s era success to. 

 

#4 George Mikan

Games Played: 439
• Points: 10,156
• Rebounds: 4,167

• Assists: 1,245
• Championship: 5

"Mr. Basketball" is the only fitting nickname for the original big man. Mikan may not have possessed the physical gifts of later talents like Hakeem "The Dream" or journeyman "Shaq" O'Neal. But Mikan meant more to the game of basketball than any person not named Dr. James Naismith. 

Mikan was the most dominant center/player of ANY player across all eras. Yes, Mikan benefited from playing in a league devoid of height. But that does not impact his legacy of dominance. Mikan couldn't dictate who suited up against him. But what he could control was his effort, and his efforts earned him five championships in a seven season career.

 
 

#3 Wilt Chamberlain

Games Played: 1,045
• Points: 31,419
• Rebounds: 23,924

• Assists: 4,643
• MVP: 4
• Championship: 2

Wilt did not earn such a high ranking on the Top 5 because he scored 100 points in a single game. Wilt deserves this ranking because he could have scored 100 points in EVERY game he played if he chose to.

Wilt was the consummate team player. He was beloved by his teammates because he showed his appreciation for their hardwork by sharing the basketball. There's a reason Wilt has the highest assist total of any center on this list. No center out rebounded Wilt and only one out scored him (Kareem...but he played in over 500 more games). If Wilt managed to win more head-to-head battles in championships when matched up against Bill Russell, he would easily top this list. But...winning matters! 

 
 

#2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Games Played: 1,560
Points: 38,387
Rebounds: 17,440

Blocks: 3,189
MVP: 6
Championship: 6

The Captain remains the greatest offensive force the NBA has ever seen. Whether he was lofting a skyhook or draining a turnaround jumper, Kareem was a threat from anywhere on the floor. However, similar to Olajuwon, Kareem set the standard defensively. 

Greatness came early for Kareem as he provided the anchor to the Bucks defense, winning a title in his second season. He went on to dominate the hardwood for another eighteen seasons en route to a scoring crown that remains in place today. 

 

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#1 Bill Russell
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Games Played: 963
• Points: 14,522
• Rebounds: 21,620

• Assists: 4,100
• MVP: 5
• Championship: 11

Sadly, blocked shots were not recorded during Bill Russell's career. His dominance forced the NBA to accommodate that skill by adding a new statistical category. What Russell was able to accomplish defensively had never before been seen (hence the reason blocks had not yet been recorded). 

There's not much guesswork needed to understand why Russell finds himself atop this list and near the top of the All Time list - he dominated in an era littered with talent. Like Mikan winning 5 titles in 7 seasons, Russell won 11 titles in just 13 seasons.

Nothing more needs to be said. 

 
 

Honorable Mentions: 

 

• Moses Malone

Credit: Getty images

 
 
 

• Shaquille O'Neal

 
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