Sports

The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated November 5, 2019 93.8k votes 12.5k voters 146.4k views 168 items

List Rules Professional basketball players in the center position

Throughout basketball history, having a franchise center has been a crucial part of building a championship team. The best NBA centers have carried the success of many basketball teams. A lot of teams spend years looking for a dominant center, but not too many graduate from project to an iconic, Hall of Fame big man. Some teams have had better luck than others when landing a great NBA center. The Los Angeles Lakers has been the best NBA team at developing and trading for the best centers in the league. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan and Shaquille O'Neal are all centers who have played for the Lakers.

Another team that's had a number of great centers on its roster is the Houston Rockets. Counting Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Yao Ming as its alumni, not to mention Dwight Howard, could all be considered some of the top centers in the NBA. While a great center may not guarantee a championship, it certainly doesn't hurt to have any of the big men on this list on your team.

Many of these centers are the biggest names in basketball history. They have MVP awards, scoring titles, and Defensive Player of the Year awards spread among them. Vote for the players you think deserve to be called the best centers of all time.

list ordered by
1
Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Lagos, Nigeria

Teams: Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors

Age: 56

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#1,178 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #10 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #3 of 55 The Best No. 1 Overall NBA Draft Picks of All Time, Ranked

2
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from New York City, New York, United States of America

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks

Age: 72

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#12 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #1,421 of 1,471 The Greatest Minds of All Time #3 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

3
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Newark, New Jersey, United States of America

Teams: Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat

Age: 47

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#1,182 of 2,835 The Most Influential People of All Time #713 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #145 of 262 Celebrities Who Should Run for President

4
Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia Warriors, San Francisco Warriors

Age: Dec. at 63 (1936-1999)

More Wilt Chamberlain 

18 Unbelievable But True Stories from the Buckwild Life of Wilt Chamberlain #9 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #9 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

5
Bill Russell is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from West Monroe, Louisiana, United States of America

Teams: Boston Celtics

Age: 85

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#19 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #2 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time #294 of 438 The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History

6
Moses Malone is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Power forward and Center from Virginia

Teams: Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, Buffalo Braves, Houston Rockets, + more

Age: 64

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#134 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #27 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #5 of 78 The Best Philadelphia 76ers of All Time

7
David Robinson is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Key West, Florida, United States of America

Age: 54

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#1,033 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #19 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #9 of 55 The Best No. 1 Overall NBA Draft Picks of All Time, Ranked

8
Patrick Ewing is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Kingston, Jamaica

Teams: Orlando Magic, Seattle Supersonics, New York Knicks

Age: 57

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#2,157 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #6 of 151 The Best NBA Players with No Championship Rings #28 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

9
Tim Duncan is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
tom-charbono added Power forward and Center from Christiansted, United States Virgin Islands

Age: 43

Number: 21

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#1,631 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #8 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #78 of 98 The Most Likable Players In The NBA Today

10
Yao Ming is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
11
Robert Parish is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Shreveport, Louisiana

Teams: Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls

Age: 66

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#1,968 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #7 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time #63 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

12
Alonzo Mourning is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Chesapeake, Virginia, United States of America

Teams: Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat

Age: 49

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#55 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1 of 72 The Best Charlotte Hornets Players of All Time, Ranked #59 of 175 The Greatest Power Forwards in NBA History

13
Dikembe Mutombo is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Teams: Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, + more

Age: 53

More Dikembe Mutombo 

#15 of 151 The Best NBA Players with No Championship Rings #53 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #9 of 78 The Best Philadelphia 76ers of All Time

14
Bill Walton is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from La Mesa, California, United States of America

Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Boston Celtics, San Diego Clippers, Los Angeles Clippers

Age: 67

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#1,649 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #16 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time #57 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

15
Artis Gilmore is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Chipley, Florida

Teams: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls

Age: 70

More Artis Gilmore 

#2,070 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #39 of 151 The Best NBA Players with No Championship Rings #58 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time

16
Elvin Hayes is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Power forward and Center from Rayville, Louisiana

Teams: Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets, Houston Rockets, San Diego Rockets

Age: 74

More Elvin Hayes 

#1,209 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #193 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #21 of 55 The Best No. 1 Overall NBA Draft Picks of All Time, Ranked

17
Kevin Garnett is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
tom-charbono added Power forward from Greenville, South Carolina, United States of America

Teams: Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves

Age: 43

Number: 5

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#1,065 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #3 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time #20 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

18
Willis Reed is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Power forward and Center from Hico, Louisiana, United States of America

Teams: New York Knicks

Age: 77

More Willis Reed 

#1,488 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #76 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #3 of 22 The Best NBA Centers of the 1960s

19
George Mikan is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Joliet, Illinois

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers

Age: Dec. at 81 (1924-2005)

More George Mikan 

#54 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #14 of 242 The Best White Players in NBA History #9 of 107 The Greatest Lakers of All Time

20
Ben Wallace is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Power forward and Center from White Hall, Alabama

Teams: Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls

Age: 45

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#87 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #31 of 77 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time #45 of 175 The Greatest Power Forwards in NBA History

21
Arvydas Sabonis is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
EliasOmarEsgdaille added Center from Kaunas, Lithuania

Teams: Portland Trail Blazers

Age: 55

More Arvydas Sabonis 

#45 of 151 The Best NBA Players with No Championship Rings #133 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #25 of 242 The Best White Players in NBA History

22
Pau Gasol is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
ChrisGoulart added Power forward and Center from Barcelona, Spain

Teams: Portland Trail Blazers

Age: 39

Number: 16

More Pau Gasol 

#73 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #11 of 242 The Best White Players in NBA History #3 of 149 The Best European NBA Players of All Time

23
Anthony Davis is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Kate Perry added Power forward and Center from Chicago, Illinois

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers

Age: 26

Number: 3

More Anthony Davis 

#22 of 151 The Best NBA Players with No Championship Rings #33 of 135 The Best Small Forwards of All Time #50 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

24
Nate Thurmond is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Power forward and Center from Akron, Ohio

Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, San Francisco Warriors, Chicago Bulls

Age: 78

More Nate Thurmond 

#717 of 2,166 The Best Athletes Of All Time #36 of 151 The Best NBA Players with No Championship Rings #89 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

25
Wes Unseld is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Louisville, Kentucky

Teams: Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

Age: 73

More Wes Unseld 

#78 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #7 of 22 The Best NBA Centers of the 1960s #14 of 23 The Best NBA Centers of the 1980s