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The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time

Updated November 5, 2019 96.6k votes 12.9k voters 149.3k 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
    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    4,481
    1,816

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks

    PositionCenter

    Age72

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

  • 0
  • 2
    Bill Russell is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    3,704
    1,508

    Bill Russell

    Boston Celtics

    PositionCenter

    Age85

    BirthplaceWest Monroe, USA, Louisiana

    More Bill Russell 

    #345 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time#2 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time

  • 0
  • 3
    Wilt Chamberlain is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    4,463
    1,833

    Wilt Chamberlain

    Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers

    PositionCenter

    AgeDec. at 63 (1936-1999)

    BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

    More Wilt Chamberlain 

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  • 0
  • 4
    Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    4,297
    1,836

    Hakeem Olajuwon

    Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors

    PositionCenter

    Age56

    BirthplaceLagos, Nigeria

  • 0
  • 5
    Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    4,658
    2,020

    Shaquille O'Neal

    Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic

    PositionCenter

    Age47

    BirthplaceNewark, New Jersey, United States of America

    More Shaquille O'Neal 

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  • 0
  • 6
    Moses Malone is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    1,989
    969

    Moses Malone

    Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age64

    BirthplaceVirginia

  • 0
  • 7
    Tim Duncan is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    1,954
    775
  • 0
  • 8
    David Robinson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    2,209
    1,084
  • 0
  • 9
    Patrick Ewing is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    1,954
    957

    Patrick Ewing

    Orlando Magic, Seattle Supersonics

    PositionCenter

    Age57

    BirthplaceKingston, Jamaica

  • 0
  • 10
    Elvin Hayes is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    579
    341

    Elvin Hayes

    Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age74

    BirthplaceRayville, Louisiana

  • 0
  • 11
    Kevin Garnett is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    750
    323

    Kevin Garnett

    Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves

    PositionPower forward

    Age43

    BirthplaceGreenville, South Carolina, USA

    Number5

  • 0
  • 12
    Artis Gilmore is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    772
    518

    Artis Gilmore

    Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls

    PositionCenter

    Age70

    BirthplaceChipley, Florida

  • 0
  • 13
    Bob McAdoo is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    500
    283

    Bob McAdoo

    Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age68

    BirthplaceGreensboro, North Carolina

  • 0
  • 14
    Joel Embiid is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    355
    212

    Joel Embiid

  • 0
  • 15
    Ben Wallace is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    792
    546

    Ben Wallace

    Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age45

    BirthplaceWhite Hall, Alabama

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    #29 of 73 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time#32 of 168 The Greatest Power Forwards in NBA History

  • 0
  • 16
    Bob Lanier is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    522
    348

    Bob Lanier

    Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons

    PositionCenter

    Age71

    BirthplaceBuffalo, New York

  • 0
  • 17
    Arvydas Sabonis is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    620
    405

    Arvydas Sabonis

    Portland Trail Blazers

    PositionCenter

    Age55

    BirthplaceKaunas, Lithuania

  • 0
  • 18
    Nikola Jokic is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    388
    151

    Nikola Jokic

    Denver Nuggets

    PositionCenter

    Age24

    BirthplaceSombor, Serbia

    Number15

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  • 0
  • 19
    Anthony Davis is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    591
    273

    Anthony Davis

    Los Angeles Lakers

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age26

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois

    Number3

  • 0
  • 20
    Wes Unseld is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    664
    469

    Wes Unseld

    Washington Wizards, Baltimore Bullets

    PositionCenter

    Age73

    BirthplaceLouisville, Kentucky

    More Wes Unseld 

    #33 of 69 All NBA Rookie Of The Year Award Winners, Ranked#13 of 23 The Best NBA Centers of the 1980s

  • 0
  • 21
    Willis Reed is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    821
    605

    Willis Reed

    New York Knicks

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age77

    BirthplaceHico, Louisiana, United States of America

  • 0
  • 22
    Nate Thurmond is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    681
    488

    Nate Thurmond

    Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age78

    BirthplaceAkron, Ohio, United States of America

  • 0
  • 23
    Dirk Nowitzki is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    424
    163

    Dirk Nowitzki

    Dallas Mavericks

    PositionPower forward

    Age41

    BirthplaceWürzburg, Germany

    Number41

  • 0
  • 24
    Yao Ming is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    1,586
    1,226

    Yao Ming

    Houston Rockets

    PositionCenter

    Age39

    BirthplaceShanghai, China

    More Yao Ming 

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  • 0
  • 25
    Pau Gasol is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest NBA Centers of All Time
    676
    472

    Pau Gasol

    Portland Trail Blazers

    PositionPower forward, Center

    Age39

    BirthplaceBarcelona, Spain

    Number16

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