Sports
13.1k voters

The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time

Updated November 5, 2019 91.7k votes 13.1k voters 151.5k views165 items

List RulesProfessional 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.

Photo:
...more
  • 1
    4,207
    1,711

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks

    More Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 

    #417 of 904 Celebrity Death Pool 2021#1216 of 1,355 The Greatest Minds of All Time

  • 2
    4,182
    1,722

    Wilt Chamberlain

    Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers

    More Wilt Chamberlain 

    18 Unbelievable But True Stories from the Buckwild Life of Wilt Chamberlain#6 of 269 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

  • 3
    3,471
    1,448

    Bill Russell

    Boston Celtics

    More Bill Russell 

    #288 of 432 The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History#2 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time

  • 4
    4,046
    1,730

    Hakeem Olajuwon

    Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors

    More Hakeem Olajuwon 

    #1 of 48 The Greatest African NBA Players of All Time#1 of 30 The Best NBA Centers of the '90s

  • 5
    4,366
    1,881

    Shaquille O'Neal

    Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat

    More Shaquille O'Neal 

    #1188 of 2,753 The Most Influential People of All Time#77 of 213 Celebrities Who Should Run for President

  • 6
    2,095
    1,025

    More David Robinson 

    #5 of 163 The Smartest Professional Athletes#4 of 22 The Best NCAA Centers of the 80s

  • 7
    1,884
    916

    Moses Malone

    Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks

    More Moses Malone 

    #6 of 31 The Most Successful NBA Free Agent Acquistions#2 of 57 NBA Players Who Played For 8 Or More Teams

  • 8
    1,857
    904

    Patrick Ewing

    New York Knicks, Orlando Magic

    More Patrick Ewing 

    #73 of 100 The Best Current College Basketball Coaches#106 of 124 The Greatest College Basketball Coaches of All Time

  • 9
    1,837
    758

    Tim Duncan

    San Antonio Spurs

    More Tim Duncan 

    #102 of 150 The Greatest Point Guards in NBA History#118 of 120 The Fastest NBA Players of All Time

  • 10
    731
    505

    Artis Gilmore

    Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls

    More Artis Gilmore 

    #11 of 53 The Best NBA Players Who Played Overseas#5 of 27 The Best Centers of the 70s

  • 11
    552
    353

    Elvin Hayes

    Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

    More Elvin Hayes 

    #11 of 25 The Best Power Forwards of the 80s#1 of 23 The Best Power Forwards of the '70s

  • 12
    597
    402

    Arvydas Sabonis

    Portland Trail Blazers

    More Arvydas Sabonis 

    #21 of 232 The Best White Players in NBA History#13 of 130 The Best European NBA Players of All Time

  • 13
    488
    285

    Bob McAdoo

    Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets

    More Bob McAdoo 

    #4 of 51 The Greatest UNC Tar Heels Basketball Players of All Time#15 of 107 The Greatest Lakers of All Time

  • 14
    725
    335

    Kevin Garnett

    Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves

    More Kevin Garnett 

    #82 of 175 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History#42 of 115 The Funniest Professional Athletes

  • 15
    644
    446

    Wes Unseld

    Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

    More Wes Unseld 

    #62 of 78 The All Time Greatest NBA Coaches#29 of 69 All NBA Rookie Of The Year Award Winners, Ranked

  • 16
    752
    523

    Ben Wallace

    Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic

    More Ben Wallace 

    #29 of 73 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time#31 of 168 The Greatest Power Forwards in NBA History

  • 17
    559
    295

    Anthony Davis

    Los Angeles Lakers

    More Anthony Davis 

    #82 of 100 The Most Overrated Players In The NBA Today#8 of 264 The Top 100+ NBA Players Today

  • 18
    409
    167

    Nikola Jokić

    Denver Nuggets

    More Nikola Jokić 

    #15 of 100 The Most Likable Players In The NBA Today#2 of 67 The Best NBA Centers Right Now

  • 19
    506
    344

    Bob Lanier

    Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons

    More Bob Lanier 

    #47 of 77 US Men’s Olympic Basketball All-Time Dream Team#8 of 26 The Best NCAA Centers of the 70s

  • 20
    785
    569

    Willis Reed

    New York Knicks

    More Willis Reed 

    #67 of 126 The Best NBA Buys for the Money#10 of 18 The Worst NBA Executives of All Time

  • 21
    650
    458

    Nate Thurmond

    Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors

    More Nate Thurmond 

    #9 of 30 The Best Power Forwards of the '60s#18 of 121 The Best Cleveland Cavaliers of All Time

  • 22
    374
    241

    Joel Embiid

  • 23
    1,485
    1,140

    Yao Ming

    Houston Rockets

    More Yao Ming 

    #25 of 161 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings#16 of 55 The Best No. 1 Overall NBA Draft Picks of All Time, Ranked

  • 24
    1,166
    887

    Dikembe Mutombo

    Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers

    More Dikembe Mutombo 

    #10 of 78 The Best Philadelphia 76ers of All Time#4 of 22 The Greatest Georgetown Basketball Players of All Time

  • 25
    424
    178

    Dirk Nowitzki

    Dallas Mavericks

    More Dirk Nowitzki 

    #66 of 75 The Biggest Crybabies in Basketball#1 of 56 People Who Should Be in the Basketball Hall of Fame