5 Greatest Centers of All-Time
Honorable Mention: Moses Malone
Career Statistics 20.3 PTS, 12.3 REB, 1.3 BLK, 22.0 PER
Honors 1x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 3x MVP, 8x All-NBA (4x First Team), 2x All-Defense (1x First Team), 12x All-Star Only 8 players in NBA history have won league MVP on three occasions: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Moses Malone. Malone was the centerpiece of one of the greatest teams of all time in the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers, yet he is often overlooked when it comes to the game’s great centers. Malone was a beast on both ends of the floor and one of the most relentless rebounders in league history. Although Malone was tremendously talented, it was his work ethic and tough, blue-collared approach to the game that separated him from the pack.
5. David Robinson
Career Statistics 21.1 PTS, 10.6 REB, 2.5 AST, 26.2 PER
Honors 2x NBA Champion, 1x MVP, 1x DPOY, 10x All-NBA (4x First Team), 8x All-Defense (4x First Team), 12x All-Star, Rookie of the Year
Arguably the most underrated player in NBA history, David Robinson was an absolute wrecking ball during the 1990s. Robinson was skilled like a guard, could run the floor like a wing, and was as physically imposing a player as there has ever been. Robinson was as versatile as any superstar who came before him or has come since, leading the league in scoring one year, then rebounds another year and blocks in another year. Robinson retired as a two-time champion, an MVP and has the 4th highest career PER (Player Efficiency Rating) in NBA history.
4. Wilt Chamberlain
Career Statistics 30.1 PTS, 22.9 REB, 4.4 AST, 26.1 PER
Honors 2x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 4x MVP, 10x All-NBA (7x First Team), 13x All-Star, Rookie of the Year If Michael Jordan was the greatest player in NBA history, Wilt Chamberlain was the most individually dominant player that basketball has ever seen. Chamberlain was border-line super human with (at the time) an impossible combination of physical size and athleticism. In 1962, Chamberlain scored a legendary 100 points in a game against the New York Knicks. Since that time, 55 years have passed, many great players have entered the league, yet that record hasn’t really come close to being in jeopardy.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Career Statistics 24.6 PTS, 11.2 REB, 2.6 BLK, 24.6 PER
Honors 6x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 6x MVP, 15x All-NBA (10x First Team), 11x All-Defense (5x First Team), 19x All-Star, Rookie of the Year
If we were strictly using numbers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be the greatest NBA player, ever. 6 championships, 6 MVPs, the most career points in league history, the most unstoppable shot in league history, the most win shares in league history, and the list goes on and on. Kareem’s career arch was perfect, from being drafted to play with Oscar Robertson, to moving to the Lakers during his prime, to playing with another all-time great in Magic Johnson just as his prime was beginning to fade. Based on how the league looks today, there may never be a career that quite parallels that of Abdul-Jabbar.
2. Shaquille O’Neal Career Statistics 23.7 PTS, 10.9 REB, 2.3 BLK, 26.4 PER
Honors 4x NBA Champion, 3x Finals MVP, 1x MVP, 14x All-NBA (8x First Team), 3x All-Defense, 15x All-Star, Rookie of the Year
Between the careers of Michael Jordan and LeBron James, no player dominated the league the way Shaq did. Along with his unparalleled size and strength, Shaq had an amazingly high skill-level that was often overlooked. This made O’Neal the perfect combination of size and skill that helped him lead three different teams to the NBA Finals and the Los Angeles Lakers to three 3 NBA Championships between 2000 and 2002. Only Shaquille O’Neal could win 4 NBA championships, and still seemed to have underachieved at the end of his career.
1. Hakeem Olajuwon Career Statistics 21.8 PTS, 11.1 REB, 3.1 BLK, 23.6 PER
Honors 2x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 1x MVP, 2x DPOY, 12x All-NBA (6x First Team), 9x All-Defense (5x First Team), 12x All-Star
Hakeem Olajuwon is perhaps the most dominant two-way player in NBA history. Olajuwon was clearly the best player at his position during the nineties’ golden era of NBA centers. Hakeem could change games on either side of the court. On offense, not only was he a freak athlete but he was also supremely gifted and had arguably the best footwork the NBA has ever seen. Defensively, he could block shots, pick the passing lane and switch onto guards. In terms on ability, no center has ever been as talented as ‘The Dream’.
Did I miss any of your favorite centers? Let me know if you agree or disagree – @awrashoo