Sports
13.0k voters

The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time

Updated November 5, 2019 98.0k votes 13.0k voters 150.1k 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
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar1
    4,523
    1,834

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks

    PositionCenter

    Age72

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

  • Wilt Chamberlain2
    4,503
    1,857

    Wilt Chamberlain

    Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers

    PositionCenter

    AgeDec. at 63 (1936-1999)

    BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

    More Wilt Chamberlain 

    18 Unbelievable But True Stories from the Buckwild Life of Wilt Chamberlain#461 of 583 The Greatest Entertainers of All Time

  • Bill Russell3
    3,734
    1,533

    Bill Russell

    Boston Celtics

    PositionCenter

    Age85

    BirthplaceWest Monroe, Louisiana, United States of America

  • Hakeem Olajuwon4
    4,346
    1,852

    Hakeem Olajuwon

    Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors

    PositionCenter

    Age56

    BirthplaceLagos, Nigeria

  • Shaquille O'Neal5
    4,706
    2,026

    Shaquille O'Neal

    Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic

    PositionCenter

    Age47

    BirthplaceNewark, New Jersey, United States of America

    More Shaquille O'Neal 

    #991 of 2,443 The Most Influential People of All Time#83 of 211 Celebrities Who Should Run for President

  • Moses Malone6
    2,010
    978

    Moses Malone

    Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age64

    BirthplaceVirginia

  • Tim Duncan7
    1,975
    790
  • David Robinson8
    2,231
    1,094
  • Patrick Ewing9
    1,976
    963

    Patrick Ewing

    Orlando Magic, Seattle Supersonics

    PositionCenter

    Age57

    BirthplaceKingston, Jamaica

  • Artis Gilmore10
    781
    529

    Artis Gilmore

    Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls

    PositionCenter

    Age70

    BirthplaceChipley, Florida

  • Elvin Hayes11
    589
    356

    Elvin Hayes

    Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age74

    BirthplaceRayville, Louisiana

  • Kevin Garnett12
    764
    336

    Kevin Garnett

    Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves

    PositionPower forward

    Age43

    BirthplaceGreenville, South Carolina, USA

    Number5

  • Bob McAdoo13
    509
    295

    Bob McAdoo

    Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age69

    BirthplaceGreensboro, North Carolina

    More Bob McAdoo 

    #48 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time#5 of 51 The Greatest UNC Tar Heels Basketball Players of All Time

  • Joel Embiid14
    371
    228

    Joel Embiid

  • Ben Wallace15
    804
    556

    Ben Wallace

    Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age45

    BirthplaceWhite Hall, Alabama

    More Ben Wallace 

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

  • Bob Lanier16
    533
    355

    Bob Lanier

    Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons

    PositionCenter

    Age71

    BirthplaceBuffalo, New York

  • Wes Unseld17
    680
    474

    Wes Unseld

    Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

    PositionCenter

    Age73

    BirthplaceLouisville, Kentucky

    More Wes Unseld 

    #6 of 27 The Best Centers of the 70s#32 of 69 All NBA Rookie Of The Year Award Winners, Ranked

  • Anthony Davis18
    599
    292

    Anthony Davis

    Los Angeles Lakers

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age27

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois

    Number3

    More Anthony Davis 

    #48 of 102 The Most Likable Players In The NBA Today#1 of 141 The Greatest Kentucky Basketball Players of All Time

  • Nikola Jokić19
    400
    166

    Nikola Jokić

    Denver Nuggets

    PositionCenter

    Age25

    Number15

  • Arvydas Sabonis20
    624
    421

    Arvydas Sabonis

    Portland Trail Blazers

    PositionCenter

    Age56

    BirthplaceKaunas, Lithuania

  • Willis Reed21
    832
    612

    Willis Reed

    New York Knicks

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age77

    BirthplaceHico, Louisiana, United States of America

  • Nate Thurmond22
    690
    493

    Nate Thurmond

    Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age78

    BirthplaceAkron, Ohio, United States of America

  • Dirk Nowitzki23
    438
    176

    Dirk Nowitzki

    Dallas Mavericks

    PositionPower forward

    Age42

    BirthplaceWürzburg, Germany

    Number41

  • Yao Ming24
    1,609
    1,230

    Yao Ming

    Houston Rockets

    PositionCenter

    Age39

    BirthplaceShanghai, China

    More Yao Ming 

    #23 of 161 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings#69 of 786 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

  • Dikembe Mutombo25
    1,250
    975

    Dikembe Mutombo

    Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers

    PositionCenter

    Age53

    BirthplaceKinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo