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13.2k voters

The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time

Updated November 5, 2019 91.0k votes 13.2k voters 151.9k 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.

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  • 1
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    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks

    PositionCenter

    Age73

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

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    #1208 of 1,355 The Greatest Minds of All Time#406 of 904 Celebrity Death Pool 2021

  • 2
    4,140
    1,700

    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#140 of 1,316 The Best Athletes Of All Time

  • 3
    3,422
    1,427

    Bill Russell

    Boston Celtics

    PositionCenter

    Age86

    BirthplaceWest Monroe, Louisiana, United States of America

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    #2 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time#7 of 78 The All Time Greatest NBA Coaches

  • 4
    3,995
    1,701

    Hakeem Olajuwon

    Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors

    PositionCenter

    Age57

    BirthplaceLagos, Nigeria

    More Hakeem Olajuwon 

    #1 of 49 The Greatest African NBA Players of All Time#1 of 30 The Best NBA Centers of the '90s

  • 5
    4,309
    1,854

    Shaquille O'Neal

    Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat

    PositionCenter

    Age48

    BirthplaceNewark, New Jersey, United States of America

    Number33

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    #1157 of 2,753 The Most Influential People of All Time#78 of 213 Celebrities Who Should Run for President

  • 6
    2,080
    1,012

    More David Robinson 

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

  • 7
    1,866
    906

    Moses Malone

    Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age65

    BirthplaceVirginia

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

  • 8
    1,833
    899

    Patrick Ewing

    New York Knicks, Orlando Magic

    PositionCenter

    Age58

    BirthplaceKingston, Jamaica

    Number33

    More Patrick Ewing 

    #79 of 100 The Best Current College Basketball Coaches#108 of 124 The Greatest College Basketball Coaches of All Time

  • 9
    1,814
    746

    Tim Duncan

    San Antonio Spurs

    PositionPower forward

    Age44

    BirthplaceChristiansted, United States Virgin Islands

    Number21

    More Tim Duncan 

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

  • 10
    723
    503

    Artis Gilmore

    Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls

    PositionCenter

    Age71

    BirthplaceChipley, Florida

    More Artis Gilmore 

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

  • 11
    553
    351

    Elvin Hayes

    Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age75

    BirthplaceRayville, Louisiana

    More Elvin Hayes 

    #10 of 25 The Best Power Forwards of the 80s#8 of 22 The Best NBA Centers of the 1960s

  • 12
    639
    447

    Wes Unseld

    Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

    PositionCenter

    Age74

    BirthplaceLouisville, Kentucky

    More Wes Unseld 

    #18 of 23 The Best NBA Centers of the 1980s#27 of 72 All NBA Rookie Of The Year Award Winners, Ranked

  • 13
    593
    401

    Arvydas Sabonis

    Portland Trail Blazers

    PositionCenter

    Age56

    BirthplaceKaunas, Lithuania

    More Arvydas Sabonis 

    #19 of 232 The Best White Players in NBA History#10 of 131 The Best European NBA Players of All Time

  • 14
    744
    525

    Ben Wallace

    Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age46

    BirthplaceWhite Hall, Alabama

    More Ben Wallace 

    #29 of 73 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time#9 of 126 The Best NBA Buys for the Money

  • 15
    505
    343

    Bob Lanier

    Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons

    PositionCenter

    Age71

    BirthplaceBuffalo, New York

    More Bob Lanier 

    #8 of 26 The Best NCAA Centers of the 70s#13 of 347 The Best NBA Players from New York

  • 16
    486
    286

    Bob McAdoo

    Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age69

    BirthplaceGreensboro, North Carolina

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

  • 17
    719
    334

    Kevin Garnett

    Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves

    PositionPower forward

    Age44

    BirthplaceGreenville, South Carolina, United States of America

    Number5

    More Kevin Garnett 

    #359 of 362 The Greatest Entertainers Of All Time#81 of 175 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History

  • 18
    558
    305

    Anthony Davis

    Los Angeles Lakers

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age27

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois

    Number3

    More Anthony Davis 

    #46 of 100 The Most Likable Players In The NBA Today#1 of 141 The Greatest Kentucky Basketball Players of All Time

  • 19
    414
    173

    Nikola Jokić

    Denver Nuggets

    PositionCenter

    Age25

    BirthplaceSombor, Serbia

    Number15

    More Nikola Jokić 

    #1 of 68 The Best NBA Centers Right Now#4 of 268 The Top 100+ NBA Players Today

  • 20
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    Willis Reed

    New York Knicks

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age77

    BirthplaceHico, Louisiana, United States of America

    More Willis Reed 

    #7 of 31 The Best Knicks Coaches of All Time, Ranked#15 of 18 The Worst NBA Executives of All Time

  • 21
    645
    455

    Nate Thurmond

    Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age79

    BirthplaceAkron, Ohio

    More Nate Thurmond 

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

  • 22
    375
    246

    Joel Embiid

  • 23
    1,470
    1,120

    Yao Ming

    Houston Rockets

    PositionCenter

    Age40

    BirthplaceShanghai, China

    More Yao Ming 

    #25 of 161 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings#17 of 55 The Best No. 1 Overall NBA Draft Picks of All Time, Ranked

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    Robert Parrish

    Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets

    PositionCenter

    Age67

    BirthplaceShreveport, Louisiana

    More Robert Parish 

    #40 of 85 Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire#35 of 77 US Men’s Olympic Basketball All-Time Dream Team

  • 25
    1,154
    875

    Dikembe Mutombo

    Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers

    PositionCenter

    Age54

    BirthplaceKinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

    More Dikembe Mutombo 

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