Finally, it is time to anoint the best. It is time to break down the history of the National Basketball Association and rank the greatest to ever play the game.
These lists will compile various characteristics to formulate overall rankings. As formerly stated, such factors as career and per game statistics, personal awards, titles, and the player’s impact on the game of basketball in America will all play a part. I will try to avoid any kind of bias or homerism to ensure that these lists reflect more fact than opinion.
In regard to personal accolades, I’ll be using a sort of short-hand system to cut down on text that can be a bit overwhelming:
Hall of Fame: HoF
All-Star Game Appearance: AS
Most Valuable Player: MVP
Rookie of the Year: ROY
Defensive Player of the Year: DPOY
6th Man of the Year: 6M
Finals MVP: FMVP
All-NBA 1st Team: AN1
All-NBA 2nd Team: AN2
All-Defensive 1st Team: AD1
All-Defensive 2nd Team: AD2
We start with the men in the middle; the players that own the rim: the centers. Centers play one of the most versatile positions on the court, for they can be relied upon to be a dominant offensive force in the paint and the last line of defense.
These are your Top 12 centers of all-time.
* Current Player (as of this writing)
21.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 50.4 FG%, 74.0 FT%
24,815 pts (21st), 11,607 reb (24th), 2,894 blk (7th)
HoF 2008, 11x AS, 1986 ROY , 1x AN1, 6x AN2, 3x AD2
Ewing was known as the next generation of great NBA centers when he hit the league in 1985, and soon lived up to the hype. With versatile offensive moves and defensive presence, Ewing helped bring the Knicks back to status in the ‘90s. Unfortunately, he was up against MJ and another all-time great big man, which prevented him from ever winning a title.
18.7 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, 47.6 FG%, 74.7 FT%
HoF 1982, 2x Champ, 7x AS, 1x MVP, 2x FMVP, 1965 ROY , 1x AN1, 4x AN2, 1x AD1
One of the most physical centers ever, Reed edges out fellow-Knick Ewing for the number eleven spot. Reed made a stellar career of playing a tough game against bigger centers, which was no better demonstrated than in the 1970 NBA Finals. Even a torn muscle couldn’t keep Reed out of the starting lineup. Reed led his Knickerbockers to two titles and put them on the map, yet his style of play limited him to just ten years in the league.
21.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 3.0 bpg, 51.8 FG%, 73.6 FT%
20,790 pts (34th), 10,497 reb (33rd), 2,954 blk (6th)
HoF 2009, 2x Champ, 10x AS, 1x MVP, 1x DPOY, 1990 ROY , 4x AN1, 2x AN2, 4x AD1, 4x AD2
The Admiral: a perfect description of one of the most upstanding players in NBA history. Robinson came into the league and made an immediate impact, serving as the star between two other greats in Gervin and Duncan . Robinson’s leadership and dominance at both ends of the court deserve a top 10 finish.
21.0 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 2.0 bpg, 45.2 FG%, 67.0 FT%
27,313 pts (9th), 16,279 reb (6th), 1,771 blk (24th)
HoF 1990, 1x Champ, 12x AS, 3x AN1, 2x AN2
Known as one of the greatest college players ever, Elvin Hayes was an underappreciated star in the ‘70s. Entering the NBA under Wilt and Bill’s shadow was daunting, but Hayes continued his success. Leading the NBA in scoring as a rookie and rebounding as a sophomore, Hayes proved he belonged among the greats in the paint.
13.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.2 bpg, 52.1 FG%, 66 FT%,
HoF 1993, 2x Champ, 1x MVP, 1x FMVP, 1x 6M, 2x AS, 1x AN1, 1x AN2, 2x AD1
Don’t let the numbers fool you. Bill Walton, hippie notions and all, was one of the greatest big men in NBA history. His great success began at UCLA where he won two national titles and three Naismith trophies under John Wooden. Walton then carried his winning ways to the Blazers in the ‘70s, but sadly injuries defined his career. Foot, ankle, and knee problems severely limited what could have been a top 5 career. Yet one can’t ignore what Walton did in his healthy years.
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