Sports

The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated November 5, 2019 94.9k votes 12.6k voters 147.5k 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

More Hakeem Olajuwon 

#10 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,172 of 2,181 The Best Athletes 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

More Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 

#3 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #9 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #1 of 107 The Greatest Lakers 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

More Shaquille O'Neal 

#8 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #718 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #144 of 256 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 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #8 of 2,181 The Best Athletes 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

More Bill Russell 

#11 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #28 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #2 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time

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

More Moses Malone 

#26 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #135 of 2,181 The Best Athletes 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

More David Robinson 

#19 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,027 of 2,181 The Best Athletes 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

More Patrick Ewing 

#27 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #2,172 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #2 of 22 The Greatest Georgetown Basketball 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

More Tim Duncan 

#7 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,634 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #74 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

More Robert Parish 

#66 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,982 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #7 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics 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

More Alonzo Mourning 

#56 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #3 of 22 The Greatest Georgetown Basketball Players of All Time #3 of 71 The Best Charlotte Hornets Players of All Time, Ranked

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 

#53 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #4 of 22 The Greatest Georgetown Basketball Players of All Time #9 of 78 The Best Philadelphia 76ers of All Time

14
Artis Gilmore is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Chipley, Florida

Teams: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls

Age: 70

More Artis Gilmore 

#75 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #2,086 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #58 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time

15
Bill Walton is listed (or ranked) 15 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

More Bill Walton 

#61 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,621 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #11 of 243 The Best White Players in NBA History

16
Kevin Garnett is listed (or ranked) 16 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

More Kevin Garnett 

#20 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,057 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #3 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time

17
Willis Reed is listed (or ranked) 17 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 

#76 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,484 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #79 of 175 The Greatest Power Forwards in NBA History

18
Elvin Hayes is listed (or ranked) 18 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 

#193 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,203 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #22 of 55 The Best No. 1 Overall NBA Draft Picks of All Time, Ranked

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 243 The Best White Players in NBA History #9 of 107 The Greatest Lakers of All Time

20
Pau Gasol is listed (or ranked) 20 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 

#70 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #12 of 243 The Best White Players in NBA History #5 of 136 The Best European NBA Players of All Time

21
Anthony Davis is listed (or ranked) 21 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 

#50 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1 of 148 The Greatest Kentucky Basketball Players of All Time #82 of 95 The Most Overrated Players In The NBA Today

22
Ben Wallace is listed (or ranked) 22 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

More Ben Wallace 

#87 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #31 of 77 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time #46 of 175 The Greatest Power Forwards in NBA History

23
Arvydas Sabonis is listed (or ranked) 23 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 

#132 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #25 of 243 The Best White Players in NBA History #6 of 136 The Best European NBA Players of All Time

24
Wes Unseld is listed (or ranked) 24 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 #6 of 27 The Best Centers of the 70s

25
Nate Thurmond is listed (or ranked) 25 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 

#89 of 870 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #717 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #44 of 77 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time