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The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time

Updated November 5, 2019 94.9k votes 13.0k voters 150.6k 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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  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar1
    4,376
    1,764

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks

    PositionCenter

    Age73

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

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    #394 of 904 Celebrity Death Pool 2021#1343 of 1,355 The Greatest Minds of All Time

  • Wilt Chamberlain2
    4,348
    1,786

    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#6 of 256 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

  • Bill Russell3
    3,605
    1,491

    Bill Russell

    Boston Celtics

    PositionCenter

    Age85

    BirthplaceWest Monroe, Louisiana, United States of America

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    #311 of 432 The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History#326 of 1,427 The Best Athletes Of All Time

  • Hakeem Olajuwon4
    4,195
    1,798

    Hakeem Olajuwon

    Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors

    PositionCenter

    Age57

    BirthplaceLagos, Nigeria

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    #1 of 50 The Greatest African NBA Players of All Time#21 of 27 The Best Centers of the 70s

  • Shaquille O'Neal5
    4,546
    1,957

    Shaquille O'Neal

    Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat

    PositionCenter

    Age48

    BirthplaceNewark, New Jersey, United States of America

    Number33

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    #1013 of 2,443 The Most Influential People of All Time#27 of 177 The Best Hot Ones Guests Ever

  • Patrick Ewing6
    1,918
    931

    Patrick Ewing

    New York Knicks, Orlando Magic

    PositionCenter

    Age57

    BirthplaceKingston, Jamaica

    Number33

    More Patrick Ewing 

    #107 of 124 The Greatest College Basketball Coaches of All Time#58 of 68 The Best Current College Basketball Coaches

  • David Robinson7
    2,165
    1,059

    More David Robinson 

    #4 of 163 The Smartest Professional Athletes#3 of 22 The Best NCAA Centers of the 80s

  • Moses Malone8
    1,949
    952

    Moses Malone

    Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age64

    BirthplaceVirginia

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    #5 of 78 The Best Philadelphia 76ers of All Time#6 of 31 The Most Successful NBA Free Agent Acquistions

  • Tim Duncan9
    1,906
    776

    Tim Duncan

    San Antonio Spurs

    PositionPower forward

    Age44

    BirthplaceChristiansted, United States Virgin Islands

    Number21

    More Tim Duncan 

    #101 of 150 The Greatest Point Guards in NBA History#24 of 35 Famous People with Literal (and Hilarious) Names

  • Artis Gilmore10
    759
    513

    Artis Gilmore

    Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls

    PositionCenter

    Age71

    BirthplaceChipley, Florida

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    #89 of 227 The Greatest Offensive Players in NBA History#11 of 53 The Best NBA Players Who Played Overseas

  • Elvin Hayes11
    573
    352

    Elvin Hayes

    Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age74

    BirthplaceRayville, Louisiana

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

  • Bob McAdoo12
    499
    287

    Bob McAdoo

    Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age69

    BirthplaceGreensboro, North Carolina

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    #4 of 51 The Greatest UNC Tar Heels Basketball Players of All Time#26 of 56 Athletes Who Won MVP Before Turning 25

  • Bob Lanier13
    524
    349

    Bob Lanier

    Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons

    PositionCenter

    Age71

    BirthplaceBuffalo, New York

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    #97 of 116 The Greatest Left-Handed Athletes of All Time#8 of 26 The Best NCAA Centers of the 70s

  • Kevin Garnett14
    745
    334

    Kevin Garnett

    Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves

    PositionPower forward

    Age44

    BirthplaceGreenville, South Carolina, United States of America

    Number5

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    #84 of 175 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History#41 of 115 The Funniest Professional Athletes

  • Joel Embiid15
    370
    231

    Joel Embiid

  • Wes Unseld16
    664
    460

    Wes Unseld

    Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

    PositionCenter

    Age73

    BirthplaceLouisville, Kentucky

    More Wes Unseld 

    #73 of 76 The All Time Greatest NBA Coaches#31 of 69 All NBA Rookie Of The Year Award Winners, Ranked

  • Anthony Davis17
    584
    293

    Anthony Davis

    Los Angeles Lakers

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age27

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois

    Number3

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

  • Nikola Jokić18
    400
    165

    Nikola Jokić

    Denver Nuggets

    PositionCenter

    Age25

    Number15

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    #2 of 50 The Best NBA Centers Right Now#5 of 294 The Top 100+ NBA Players Today

  • Ben Wallace19
    779
    543

    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

  • Willis Reed20
    812
    589

    Willis Reed

    New York Knicks

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age77

    BirthplaceHico, Louisiana, United States of America

    More Willis Reed 

    #10 of 18 The Worst NBA Executives of All Time#9 of 29 The Best Knicks Coaches of All Time, Ranked

  • Arvydas Sabonis21
    607
    413

    Arvydas Sabonis

    Portland Trail Blazers

    PositionCenter

    Age56

    BirthplaceKaunas, Lithuania

    More Arvydas Sabonis 

    #21 of 232 The Best White Players in NBA History#5 of 151 The Best European NBA Players of All Time

  • Nate Thurmond22
    671
    477

    Nate Thurmond

    Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age78

    BirthplaceAkron, Ohio, United States of America

    More Nate Thurmond 

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

  • Dirk Nowitzki23
    436
    179

    Dirk Nowitzki

    Dallas Mavericks

    PositionPower forward

    Age42

    BirthplaceWürzburg, Germany

    Number41

    More Dirk Nowitzki 

    #67 of 75 The Biggest Crybabies in Basketball#2 of 56 People Who Should Be in the Basketball Hall of Fame

  • Yao Ming24
    1,547
    1,189

    Yao Ming

    Houston Rockets

    PositionCenter

    Age39

    BirthplaceShanghai, China

    More Yao Ming 

    #22 of 161 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings#8 of 107 The Best Foreign NBA Players of All Time

  • Robert Parrish25
    958
    743

    Robert Parrish

    Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets

    PositionCenter

    Age66

    BirthplaceShreveport, Louisiana

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    #55 of 85 Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire#52 of 77 US Men’s Olympic Basketball All-Time Dream Team