Power in the Paint: The 5 Greatest NBA Centers Of All-Time
The Greatest Centers in the History of the NBA
Although the current game of basketball has several future Hall of Famers and game-changing centers, the game is starting to become dominated by small/power forwards and point/shooting guards.
But make no mistake, if it weren’t for the golden eras of NBA centers, the game would have looked a lot different today. The league wouldn’t have reached the all-time levels of popularity that it has enjoyed for 70-plus decades.
With that said, in this article we’ve put together the greatest NBA centers of all time.
5. Wilt Chamberlain
Chamberlain was part of the legendary Kansas Jayhawks basketball programme under head coach Dick Harp.
These two built a historic winning foundation at the University of Kansas, which captured the 2022 NCAA National Championship.
The Jayhawks enter 2022-23 as one of the prime favourites to win next year’s championship, according to the top sportsbooks in Kansas. Chamberlain is the only player in NBA history to score 100 points in a game.
He won two NBA Championships (1967 with the Philadelphia 76ers and 1972 with the Los Angeles Lakers). He also won four MVP Awards and racked up seven scoring titles.
The 11-time rebound champion put the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors (now the Golden State Warriors) on the map in the late 50s and 60s.
Although this generation will grow up thinking of the Warriors as the team that has revolutionised the game with “small ball” lineups, it was Chamberlain who started the winning culture with this franchise more than a half-century ago.
Wilt Chamberlain, aka The Big Dipper, is, without a doubt, one of the game’s true characters!
4. Hakeem Olajuwon
The Houston Rockets drafted Olajuwon first overall in 1984- two picks before Michael Jordan. The latter went on to become the basketball GOAT, but the Rockets certainly wouldn’t regret the Olajuwon selection.
The Hall of Fame center led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995. Those stand as Houston’s only championship banners to date.
The 1994 league MVP earned 12 All-Star selections and two MVP awards. Olajuwon twice led the NBA in rebounding and three times in blocks.
3. Shaquille O’Neal
“Shaq” was the franchise face of three different NBA teams in his career: The Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.
The first overall pick of the 1992 draft led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995, but they were swept by Olajuwon’s Rockets. In 1996, Shaq forever changed the NBA landscape by signing with the Lakers.
O’Neal and Kobe Bryant formed one of the greatest super duos in the history of sports, leading the Lakers to three straight NBA titles from 2000 to 2002. O’Neal was named the Finals MVP on all three occasions.
O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004. There, he’d form a new elite duo alongside rising star guard Dwyane Wade. The two led Miami to the franchise’s first NBA Championship in 2006.
Shaq retired as a four-time NBA Champion with 15 All-Star selections, a 2000 MVP award and eight All-NBA First team nods on his résumé.
One of the most quotable guys in basketball history, Shaq is as large in life off-court, as he was on it.
2. Bill Russell
Russell’s contributions to the NBA’s popularity growth cannot be stressed enough. He was the face of the league during his run with the Boston Celtics, which spanned from 1956-57 to 1968-69.
Incredibly, the Celtics only failed to win the NBA Championship twice in Russell’s historic 13-year career. Russell led Beantown to 11 title banners while also racking up five MVP awards and 12 All-Star selections.
The Russell-Chamberlain rivalry was a sight to behold for basketball fans in the 60s.
Quite frankly, no other one-on-one competitive rivalry has ever come close to matching the intensity and excitement of this one in the basketball world.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
When it comes to the all-time great basketball centers, Abdul-Jabbar is often considered the best to ever do it.
The NBA’s all-time scoring leader (38,387 points) had already cemented his legacy after he led the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA Championship in 1971.
However, the ace of the “Skyhook” shot was only getting started!
Abdul-Jabbar won six MVP awards- three with Milwaukee and as many with the Lakers. He and Magic Johnson formed the legendary “Showtime” Lakers dynasty that produced five NBA championships in the 1980s.
If you talk to someone who doesn’t consider Jordan or LeBron James as the basketball GOAT, chances are they’ll opine Abdul-Jabbar!