Sports

The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated November 5, 2019 95.6k votes 12.7k voters 148.3k views 165 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
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is listed (or ranked) 1 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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#4 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #11 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time #1,310 of 1,344 The Greatest Minds of All Time

2
Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 2 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 #11 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #7 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time

3
Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 3 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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#9 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,155 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time #1 of 107 The Best Foreign NBA Players of All Time

4
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 4 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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#7 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #743 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time #145 of 243 Celebrities Who Should Run for President

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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#10 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #23 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time #344 of 433 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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#31 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #116 of 1,816 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

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#19 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,007 of 1,816 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

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#25 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,808 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time #6 of 148 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings

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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#5 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #94 of 150 The Greatest Point Guards in NBA History #69 of 99 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
Center from Shanghai, China

Teams: Houston Rockets

Age: 39

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#72 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #22 of 148 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings #10 of 107 The Best Foreign NBA Players 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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#66 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,692 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time #7 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time

12
Artis Gilmore is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Chipley, Florida

Teams: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls

Age: 70

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#73 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #7 of 73 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time #42 of 148 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings

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

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#54 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #9 of 78 The Best Philadelphia 76ers of All Time #15 of 148 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings

14
Alonzo Mourning is listed (or ranked) 14 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 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #3 of 22 The Greatest Georgetown Basketball Players of All Time #1 of 66 The Best Charlotte Hornets Players of All Time, Ranked

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

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#61 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #18 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time #19 of 55 The Best No. 1 Overall NBA Draft Picks of All Time, Ranked

16
Willis Reed is listed (or ranked) 16 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

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#63 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,440 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time #106 of 227 The Greatest Offensive Players in NBA History

17
Elvin Hayes is listed (or ranked) 17 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

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#198 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,181 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time #22 of 55 The Best No. 1 Overall NBA Draft Picks of All Time, Ranked

18
Kevin Garnett is listed (or ranked) 18 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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#16 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,036 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time #94 of 175 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History

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)

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#53 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #9 of 106 The Greatest Lakers of All Time #19 of 213 The Best White Players in NBA History

20
Arvydas Sabonis is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
EliasOmarEsgdaille added Center from Kaunas, Lithuania

Teams: Portland Trail Blazers

Age: 55

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#126 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #46 of 148 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings #13 of 107 The Best Foreign 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

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#51 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #23 of 148 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings #1 of 141 The Greatest Kentucky Basketball Players of All Time

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

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#84 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #31 of 73 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time #45 of 168 The Greatest Power Forwards in NBA History

23
Wes Unseld is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
Center from Louisville, Kentucky

Teams: Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

Age: 73

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#78 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #33 of 69 All NBA Rookie Of The Year Award Winners, Ranked #14 of 23 The Best NBA Centers of the 1980s

24
Pau Gasol is listed (or ranked) 24 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

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#74 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #17 of 73 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time #44 of 54 The Most Hated Active NBA Players

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 

#93 of 733 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #744 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time #44 of 73 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time