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best nba centers history

Top 10 Best NBA Centers of All time (#1 Greatest in History?)

There have been some incredible big men in the history of the NBA, so any top-10 list is likely to be a bit controversial. I mean, how do you compare Bill Walton vs. Dikembe Mutombo and leave one of them off the list? Well, we did our best.

Here’s our list of the best NBA centers of all-time:

#10. Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo

Throughout Dikembe Mutombo’s 18 seasons in the league he built a legend as the most prolific shot blocker in NBA history. In fact, he’s 7th all-time in blocks per game and second all-time in total blocks. More stats

Drafted by the Denver Nuggets his defensive presence helped propel the team from being one of the worst offensive teams in the league to one of the best. He won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award four times, and has a top-30 all-time defensive rating. In Atlanta Mutombo further solidified his status as an all-time great by averaging nearly 13 rebounds and 3 blocks.

His longest playoff run came in the 2001 season where he matched up against Shaquille O’Neal in the NBA Finals. He held his ground averaging 12 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Mutumbo ranks as one of the best rebounders of all time, ranking 19th in total rebounds and eighth in rebound percentage. His signature finger wag says it; there were no easy baskets against Dikembe Mutombo.


#9. Wes Unseld

wes unseld

From one dominant rebounder to another, Wes Unseld was a beast on the boards. He averaged 14 rebounds per game for his career including an amazing rookie season where he averaged over 18 rebounds per game and won NBA Rookie of the Year and MVP.

Unseld is sixth all-time in rebounds per game, 12th in total rebounds, and top-20 in rebound percentage. Wes wasn’t much of a scorer but he didn’t need to be as his defense more than made up for anything he lacked on offense. He has the seventh highest offensive rating ever for the regular season and the playoffs, and Unseld rarely had much of a size advantage over his opponent.

At six feet seven inches Unseld didn’t have the towering height of players like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem abdul-jabbar, and Bill Russell. Unseld was just strong and determined. He was also a great passer averaging nearly four assists per game for his career. He won an NBA Championship with the Washington Bullets in 1978 and was awarded NBA Finals MVP honors cementing his place as one of the ten best NBA centers in history.

*Related: Top 10 Best Ball-Handlers in NBA History


#8. Patrick Ewing

patrick ewing

Career stats
21.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, .504 FG%

Championships
None

As is the case with so many New York stars, Patrick Ewing’s legacy is clouded by disillusionment. Always a bridesmaid and never the bride, Ewing’s legendary career is not always recognized as such. However he most definitely left his mark on the game. He’s 12th all-time in blocks per game, seventh all-time in total blocks, and is top-20 in defensive rating.

Ewing may have come into the league with reputation for defense, but his growing offensive game is what helped him develop into an all-around dominant player, averaging nearly 23 points and 10 rebounds in 15 seasons with the Knicks. He won Rookie of the Year after averaging a near double-double with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. As mentioned, at the start Ewing had some solid playoff runs, but with Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan between him and a ring, the Knicks just couldn’t get it done.

New York fans will probably always have mixed feelings about Patrick Ewing, but there’s no question that he was one of the most dominant centers the NBA has ever seen.


#7. Moses Malone

moses malone

Career stats
20.3 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG, .495 FG%

Championships
1 (1983)

Moses Malone was given the nickname Chairman of the Boards, and rightfully so. He was a dominant rebounder, averaging 13 or more rebounds nine times during his career. That puts him at fifth in total rebounds 15th and rebounds per game and fifth and rebound percentage. He was named NBA league MVP three times, and one NBA Finals MVP in 1983 after averaging 26 points and 18 rebounds en route to a four-game sweep of the LA Lakers with the Sixers.

Malone sets several rebounding records during his career, and put up some monster stat lines. He wasn’t always the tallest guy on the court, but he was strong and crafty. He was also a dominant scorer, averaging over 20 points a game for his career, and 8th all-time in total points.

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#6. David Robinson

david robinson nba

Career stats
21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3.0 BPG, .518 FG%

Championships
2 (1999, 2003)

When the Spurs landed David Robinson they had one of the worst records in the league at 21 and 61. In Robinson’s first year he led the Spurs to the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history at the time, was a 35 game improvement and a record of 56 and 26; mostly due to his 24 points 12 rebounds and nearly four blocks per game.

A couple of years later he won NBA Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 12 rebounds and four blocks per game. After that ’94-95 season, he was awarded league MVP after averaging nearly 28 points 11 rebounds and three blocks per game and leading the team to a 62 and 20 record along with an NBA Conference Finals appearance.

Robinson is fourth all-time in blocks per game, sixth in total blocks, fourth in defensive rating, and tenth in defensive win-shares. After suffering a few injuries and a terrible season, The Admiral was partnered with Tim Duncan and went on to win two NBA Championships.

He’s one of only four players to have a quadruple-double, one of five players to score 70 or more points in a game, one of two players to win NBA Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and MVP, and is the only player in NBA history to rank in the top five in rebounding, blocks, and steals in the same season. Can anyone argue that David Robinson is one of the ten best NBA centers ever?

Plus, he was 7-feet tall and just plain ripped! Those arms used to inspire me to do a lot of curls in high school.


#5. Shaquille O’Neal

shaquille oneal lakers

Career stats
23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.3 BPG, .582 FG%

NBA Championships
4 (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006)

With a deadly combination of height and weight, Shaq could dominate the game pretty much anytime he wanted. With four NBA Championship rings, three NBA Finals MVP’s and one regular season MVP, his place in history is pretty much indisputable. Shaq is 6th on the all-time scoring list, 14th in total rebounds, 8th in total blocks, and 10th in total win-shares all-time.

At 7′ 1″ and 325 pounds, there wasn’t really anyone in the league who could match Shaq physically. He overpowered opponents in the low-post night in and night out, averaging 27 points per game on nearly 58% shooting during his best years in LA.

He is the only player in NBA history to record at least 40 points and 20 rebounds in a game at least four times, the only player to be a history to win the NBA scoring title without making a single three-point field goal, and the only player in NBA history to record at least 60 points and 20 rebounds in a game, and holds many franchise records for the Lakers, Magic, and Heat.

No one can arge Shaq ranks highly among the ten best NBA centers in history.


#4. Wilt Chamberlain

wilt chamberlain

Career stats
30.1 PPG, 22.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, .540 FG%

NBA Championships
2 (1967, 1972)

Wilt Chamberlain was basically the original Shaq, just better, and also looked like men among boys on the court. With career averages of 30 points and 23 rebounds per game, he’s second all-time in points per game, first in rebounds per game and total rebounds, and second in total win-shares.

Wilt ranks 5th on the all-time scoring list. It’s hard to say how much of Wilt’s total-dominance was due to skill and ability, and how much was due to the fact that he was just taller and stronger than everyone else on the court. Either way, he was dominant.

Aside from the famous 100 point game, he won seven scoring, nine field goal percentage, and 11 rebounding titles. He even lead the NBA in assists for a season! He’s the only player to average at least 30 points and 20 rebounds per game for a season, which he did seven times. He probably would have also won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award a few times had the award existed when he played. In any event, he was one of the most dominant NBA centers of all-time.

*Related: Best Point Guards in NBA History


#3. Bill Russell

bill russell celtics

Career stats
15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, .440 FG%

NBA Championships
11 (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969)

It’s kind of hard to argue with a guy that won 11 rings and five MVPs, right? Bill Russell was so crucial to his team success that the NBA decided to name the Finals MVP trophy after him, since it didn’t exist when he won all those championships.

Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell are numbers one and two in rebounds per game and total rebounds for the regular season and the playoffs, with Wilt winning the regular season, and Bill winning the playoffs. However, the difference is less than half a rebound on both sides. Russell is also number one in defensive win-shares for the regular season, and ninth in total win-shares for the NBA Playoffs.

He was the true leader of his team, going 11-0 in playoff elimination games, averaging 18 points and 30 rebounds in those games. Wilt put up incredible numbers, but Russell was always right behind him, leading the Celtics to 11 NBA Championships in 13 years. In an era marked by high-octane offenses, Russell infused the game with defense and forever change the perception of how to win, making him one of the best NBA centers ever.


#2. Hakeem Olajuwon

hakeem olajuwon kareem

Career stats
21.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.1 BPG, .512 FG%

Championships
2 (1994, 1995)

When you play in the same league as Michael Jordan it’s hard to stand out, and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon is a perfect example of that, and had amazing footwork and agility for a big man. While in Houston he averaged 22.5 points, 11 rebounds, and over three blocks per game. He’s third in blocks per game 1st in total blocks 13th and total rebounds and tenth on the all-time scoring list. He’s also in the top 15 in defensive rating. Those are some impressive numbers!

Hakeem is the only player in NBA history to win the NBA MVP Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP awards in the same season. Hakeem was a complete player, as he was a top defender, rebounder, and scorer.

Hakeem’s signature move, The Dream Shake, is one of the most deadly moves ever. He used that move to dominate his counterpart, dropping 33 points on Robert Parish, 40 on Kareem, 35 on Shaq, 41 on David Robinson, 45 on Karl Malone, and 30 on Patrick Ewing; all in the playoffs.

He’s 12th in total rebounds for the playoffs, third in blocks per game for the playoffs, 1st in total blocks for the playoffs, and ninth in points per game for the playoffs. He won two NBA Championship rings, two NBA Finals MVP awards, two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, and a regular season MVP award.


#1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

kareem sky hook

Career stats
24.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG, .559 FG%

Championships
6 (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)

There is so much you could say about Kareem. He’s number one in total points, number three in total rebounds, and number three in total blocks. Kareem has six NBA Championship rings, two NBA Finals MVP awards, and six regular season MVP awards; a record unlike other. Big men like Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal could simply bully their way to the rim, but Kareem killed you with finesse and skill, using his signature sky-hook to score over defenders.

But, it wasn’t just about offense for Kareem. He was also a legendary defender, averaging 2.6 blocks per game for his career putting him at ninth all-time in blocks per game. The list of Kareem’s personal records, achievements, and awards is almost endless. What Kareem was able to do as a player year-after-year (even into his late 30’s and early 40’s) is nearly unmatched.

That’s why we think Kareem Abdul Jabbar is the undisputed best NBA center of all-time!

Other Legendary NBA Centers:

Honorable Mentions: Centers like George Mikan and Bill Walton certainly deserve to be on this list, but we had to limit our list to 10!

Well, that’s Nasty Dunk‘s list of the greatest centers in NBA history. I know that a couple of the rankings are controversial, but I hope you enjoyed!

best nba point guards all time

Top 10 Best Point Guards in NBA History (Greatest Ever!?)

So, how did we determine our list of the best NBA point guards ever?

We looked at essential stats like assists steals and points as well as a player’s ranking in assists percentage PER (player efficiency rating) and win shares just to name a few. We also took into consideration their individual achievements, NBA playoff performances, and any other pertinent accolades. You probably saw a few of these players on our recent list of the best ball-handlers in NBA history, too!

Okay here’s our list of the 10 best point guards in NBA history:


#10. Walt Frazier

walt frazier nba point guard

Career stats
18.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.1 APG, .490 FG%

NBA Championships
2 (1970, 1973)

“Paradoxically tough on the court and flashy off of it, Frazier epitomized the ’70s-era backcourt style in which roles were less defined.” – Doolittle

Walt, or Clyde Frazier, set many franchise records while playing for the New York Knicks. While many of them were eventually broken, he still holds the franchise record for the most career assists with 4791. While with the Knicks, he won two championships and one all-star MVP in 1975.

He made the NBA all-defensive team seven times, and the All-NBA First Team four times. In the 1970 NBA Finals, while matched up against greats like Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, Walt scored 36 points, dished out 19 assists, and had five steals to seal a championship for the Knicks. It’s hard to say what Frazier is known more for; his stellar defense or his stylish attire. Either way, teammate Willis Reed put it best when he said, “It’s Clyde’s ball, he just lets us play with it once in a while.”


#9. Gary Payton

gary payton nba point guard

Gary Payton played for several franchises including the Miami Heat where he won an NBA championship as a part of his farewell tour. However, he’s best known for his time with his Seattle Super Sonics where he earned the nickname, “The Glove” for his inescapable defense and sick handle. Oh, and setting up all those nasty dunks for Shawn Kemp!

In fact, Gary Payton is the only point guard to win Defensive Player of the Year, and was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First team nine times; a record he shares only with Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant. Pretty elite company! Gary Payton is number four all-time in total steals, and 20th all-time in steals per game.

Payton wasn’t just an elite defender, he’s also eighth all time in total assists. He was a complete point Garten able to score, defend, and grab rebounds.


#8. Kevin Johnson

kevin johnson nba suns

Kevin Johnson is always held in high esteem by NBA fans, but he’s even more amazing to talk about when you look at some of his career achievements. He ranks sixth all-time in assists per game for the regular season and the playoffs, ninth all-time in assists percentage, eighth all-time in assists percentage for the playoffs, and 11th all-time in offensive rating.

In just his second season in the NBA Johnson averaged over 20 points and 12 assists. That same year in the playoffs he averaged nearly 21 points and 11 assists while shooting almost 50% from the floor. Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas are the only other players to average at least 20 points and 12 assists and Kevin Johnson did it in his second year in the league!

He averaged at least 20 points and 10 assists for the next three seasons, joining Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players to do that for three consecutive seasons. He never won a championship but he had several remarkable player performances out-playing Magic Johnson, beating John Stockton, and of course dunking on Hakeem Olajuwon while on his way to scoring at 38 points. (see video above!)

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#7. Bob Cousy

bob cousy

NBA Championships
6 (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963)

Career stats
18.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.5APG, .375 FG%

“The undisputed first great point guard, Cousy remains the only guard in NBA history to be named First-Team All-NBA in 10 straight seasons.” – Adams

Now it’s time to go real old-school. Bob Cousy was ahead of his time, or maybe he was just the beginning of everything, and everyone has just been copying him ever since. Cousy was magic before Magic Johnson. His flashy passes were something no one had really seen before. Aside from winning six NBA championships, he also won League MVP in 1957.

He’s 15th all time in total assists, 19th all-time in assists per game for the regular season, and ninth all-time in assists per game in the playoffs. He actually led the league in assists for eight consecutive seasons. With an attitude that matched his game, Cousy was not just a fan-favorite. He was considered by many to be the greatest basketball player ever; or, at least of his generation.

Cousy set the tone for future players like Magic Johnson and Steve Nash. He had excellent court-vision and amazing ball handling and passing skills. His behind the back dribble moves may not seem flashy today, but it got the ball rolling in the direction of creativity and showmanship. That’s what makes him one of the best NBA point guards ever.

*Related: Best 10 NBA Centers in History


#6. Chris Paul

chris paul

Career stats
18.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 9.9 APG, 2.3 SPG

NBA Championships
None

There was a time when Chris Paul was on his way to becoming the greatest point guard of all time. However, after 10 seasons in the league without making it past even the second round of the playoffs, he started to slide in the minds of some NBA fans; and rightfully so. However, he is still done plenty through his career to earn this spot.

He’s third all-time in assists per game, third all-time in steals per game, second all-time in assists percentage, sixth all-time in PER, and has the highest offensive rating ever. In the playoffs he’s top ten in PER, assists per game, assists percentage, and offensive rating That’s incredible! His short playoff runs are definitely a black mark on his career, but he’s still one of the greatest point guards of all time.


#5. Jason Kidd

jason kidd

Career stats
12.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.9 SPG

NBA Championships
1 (2011)

Probably the most versatile point guard in NBA history, Jason Kidd had a long and illustrious career. After 21 seasons he finished second in total assists, second in total steals, and seventh in assists per game. His size made him an excellent all-around player. He could score, pass, rebound, and defend. In fact, he’s the only player in NBA history with at least 15,000 points, 10,000 assists, and 7,000 rebounds. He’s also third all-time in triple-doubles.

Despite having a reputation for being a terrible jump shooter, he’s actually fifth all-time in three-pointers made. His defense and smart play helped win him a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Before that, he made back-to-back Finals appearances with teams featuring Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, and Keith van Horn. Pretty impressive, and without a doubt Kidd is one of the best point guards in NBA history!


#4. Isaiah Thomas

best ball handlers all time isiah thomas

Career stats
19.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 9.3 APG, 1.9 SPG

NBA Championships
2 (1989, 1990)

“The only players in NBA history with more games with 20 points and 10 assists are Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.”Adams

Known as the point guard that led the bad-boy Pistons to back-to-back championships, Isaiah Thomas was part of some of the most memorable Playoff moments ever. His battles against the Celtics Knicks and Lakers made for great TV, and solidified his reputation as an elite player who could score pass and defend. Any team that beats Jordan has to be great, right? He won two rings with the Detroit Pistons, and won Finals MVP for his efforts in the 1990 playoffs.

He’s often known for his grittiness, toughness, and style, and the numbers back up his elite reputation. He’s seventh all-time in total assists. Not bad for a guy that had a relatively short career! He’s also 5th all-time in assists per game, in the regular season, and seventh all-time in assists per game in the playoffs. On top of that, he’s top-20 all-time in steals and assists percentage.

He even set the record for the highest assists percentage in league history at 13.9 in the 1984-85 season. That record was later broken by John Stockton. After several injuries, Isaiah Thomas retired at only 32 years old. What more could he have done if he had stayed healthy? It’s hard to say, but he still earned a high spot as one of the best NBA point guards in history.


#3. Steve Nash

steve nash nba

Career stats
14.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 8.5 APG, .428 3P%

NBA Championships
None

“Today’s children will ask, ‘Who was the Steph Curry before Steph Curry?’ Steve Nash is the answer.” – Haberstroh

“Wayne Gretzky on the court.” For the younger generation, Steve Nash is probably the greatest point guard we actually got to watch we’ll just ignore his two years of the Lakers. After growing as a player with the Dallas Mavericks, Nash had his best years with the Phoenix Suns; perfectly orchestrating their high-octane offense with Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, and Shawn Marion.

it’s there that he won two MVP awards beating out Shaquille O’Neal and becoming just the third point guard ever to win the award and the second to win it multiple times along with Magic Johnson. Steve Nash is third all-time in total assists, 10th and assists per game, 3rd in assists percentage, and 10th all-time in offensive rating. Basically, he was one of the greatest passers of all time.

However, Nash was also a very underrated shooter. He’s actually 10th all-time in three-point shooting percentage, and had four 50-40-90 seasons. He and Larry Bird are the only players to do that more than once, and even Larry Bird only did it twice.

What could Nash and Dirk have accomplished if they had stayed together? Probably multiple rings, but it’s hard to say. Either way Steve Nash cemented his legacy as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history.


#2. John Stockton

best ball handlers john stockton

Career stats
13.1 PPG, 10.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, .384 3P%

NBA Championships
None (doh!)

Did you know that John Stockton led the NBA in assists for 9-straight seasons starting from 1987-1996?

It’s true. John Stockton might be the most under-appreciated player in NBA history.

We all think we know how great John Stockton was, but chances are he’s even better than you think. Just listen to some of his accomplishments: he’s number one all-time in total assists, a record he holds by a margin of more than three thousand assists. Number one in total steals, number two in assists per game for the regular season and the playoffs, number one in assists percentage for the regular season and the playoffs, and number four in offensive rating

He holds the record for assists per game average over one season at 14.5, led the league in assists for nine seasons; a record, and had five of the top six assist seasons in NBA history. Stockton is known for his offense and passing and rightfully so but he wasn’t a bad defender either.

Stockton was number one in total steals and number seven in steals per game. He was also selected to the NBA all-defensive second team five times and was known to be one of the toughest players in the league. The Jazz never missed the playoffs during Stockton’s career and they reached the Western Conference Finals five times in a seven-year span.

We could go on with these stats, but the point is that Stockton owned the court. He was the quintessential point guard and set records that will probably never be broken. He was never able to beat Jordan and win a ring and surprisingly he never won MVP, but he’s still easily one of the greatest point guards of all time.


#1. Magic Johnson

magic johnson nba

Career stats
19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, .520 FG%

NBA Championships
5 (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)

“No one was more dynamic, or magical, with the ball in the open court than Earvin Johnson. He lifted the Lakers, and transition basketball, to ethereal levels. He was transcendent.”Rob Peterson

You can probably already guess that we were going to put Magic at the top of the list of best point guards of all time, and with good reason. Of the 15 point guard related stats, Magic is top-20 in 13 of them and top 10 in 8. On top of that, Magic Johnson won five championships, is a three-time MVP, and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He’s number five in total assists, number one in assists per game for the regular season and the playoffs, number five in assists percentage, number three in offensive rating, number one in offensive rating for the playoffs. He also has a 5th most win-shares for the playoffs in NBA history!

Those achievements are amazing playing alongside other NBA Hall of Fame players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy Magic could have blended into the scenery and let his teammates run the show. Instead, he had the greatness to stand out among those legendary players and established himself as the leader of the team.

His size, mobility, and ball handling skills made him one of the most complete players ever. Proof of this is the fact that he’s second only to Oscar Robertson in triple doubles! Magic Johnson is our choice for the best point guard to ever play in the NBA!


A Number of Other NBA Point Guards Could Have Made This Top 10 List:

OK, that’s Nasty Dunk’s list of of the top 10 point guards in NBA history.

There are a few legendary players that you won’t see on this list including Steph Curry, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Allen Iverson. That’s because we are listing those players as shooting guards.

While it’s impossible to compare players, we hope you enjoyed this post, and agree with most of the rankings!