Ranking the top 15 best NBA centers in the world right now

Ranking the top 15 best NBA centers in the world right now

Babu Tendu
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:02 PM

In basketball, there are several playing positions that a player can engage himself in. Among the playing positions is one crucial position referred to as the 'center'. Hang around to find out the best NBA centers in the world right now and the very best of all time.

Best NBA centers in the world
Photo: canva.com (modified by author)
Source: UGC

The best NBA centers are some of the tallest ballers in the world of basketball. Players like the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Hakeem Olajuwon grace this list. This article will look at the very best centers in the game's history.

Who are the best NBA centers of all time?

According to many recent statistics, there are many skilful centers in the history of basketball, but in this article, we will look at the 15 best of them.

15. Dave Cowens

Bill Russell and Florida State icon Dave Cowens are the only two players to earn league MVP in a season that they were not selected to the NBA's First Team. He averaged 15.2 rebounds per game in his eight-year prime, demonstrating that he was a bundle of energy.

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best NBA centers
Dave Cowens, Center, of the Boston Celtics, drives on Center John Gianelli of the New York Knicks in an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on November 8, 1973. Photo By Ross Lewis.
Source: Getty Images

14. Dwight Howard

During his tenure with the Magic, Dwight Howard was once the best center in the NBA, an era that spanned numerous seasons. Howard was a size-appropriately awe-inspiring athlete who frequently soared for rebounds, blocks, and alley-oops.

best NBA centers of all time
Dwight Howard #39 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates their victory over the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena on April 10, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Jamie Schwaberow.
Source: Getty Images

In the twilight of his career, future Hall of Famer Dwight Howard is reaching the top 10 in NBA history in rebounds and blocks, an astounding accomplishment. He is one of the best NBA players of all time.

13. Willis Reed

Willis Reed is now widely regarded as one of the greatest Knicks of all time, a slightly undersized big man who made his first two shots despite having a sore thigh in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals for the New York Knicks.

best NBA centers in the league
Willis Reed, Center, of the New York Knicks grimaces while waiting during an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on November 8, 1973. Photo By Ross Lewis.
Source: Getty Images

Reed is best known for limping onto the court with a sore thigh and making his first two shots even though he played with a lousy thigh. Reed was a formidable rebounder and shot-blocker despite standing only 6 feet 9 inches tall.

12. Robert Parish

Robert Parish, the starting center for those famed Celtics teams of the 1980s, was a terrific complement to the likes of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, as he was willing to do all the heavy labour down low while still providing a decent scoring punch in the paint. Parish ranks in the Top 10 all-time in both rebounds and blocks.

strongest NBA center
Robert Parish #00 of the Boston Celtics during warm-ups prior to an NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 18, 1991 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios.
Source: Getty Images

11. Wes Unseld

Despite his diminutive stature, Wes Unseld was one of the most physically imposing centers of all time, owing to his tremendous power and sturdy build.

biggest NBA centers in the world right now
Washington Bullets' Wes Unseld #41 walks on the court during a game at Capital Centre circa 1977 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Focus on Sport
Source: Getty Images

Unseld was one of the most excellent rebounders in NBA history, averaging 14.0 for his career and leading the league in rebounds in 1974-75. He was an exceedingly effective finisher in the paint.

10. Bob McAdoo

Bob McAdoo, a monster scorer who once averaged 34.5 points per game and led the league in scoring for three consecutive seasons, possessed an array of post moves and a perfect mid-range shot to torment opponents. He is arguably the strongest NBA center ever.

biggest NBA centers in the world
Bob McAdoo reacts after being introduced as part of the Anniversary Team during the 2022 NBA All-Star Game at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on February 20, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Jason Miller.
Source: Getty Images

9. George Mikan

The first genuinely dominant NBA big man, George Mikan, utilized his immense stature and surprisingly soft touch for a player of his era to his advantage. Mikan could finish effectively with either hand. There is a reason why the Mikan Drill is still in use.

biggest NBA centers
George Mikan reaches for basketball during Minneapolse Lakers practice at 69th Regiment Armory. Photo by Seymour Wally.
Source: Getty Images

8. Patrick Ewing

One of the famous big men of the 1990s, Patrick Ewing, was a ferocious shot-blocker with tremendous height and muscle down low, but he also had a soft touch as a scorer in the post and from mid-range. He is one of the best NBA centers of all time.

tallest NBA centers in the world right now
Assistant Coach Patrick Ewing of the Charlotte Hornets looks on during the Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat on May 1, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Mike Ehrmann.
Source: Getty Images

7. David Robinson

In his prime, David Robinson possessed one of the most impressive physiques in NBA history, resembling clay. He used his size and strength to torment opponents on both ends for years, both as a high-calibre scorer and a monstrously effective rim protector.

tallest NBA centers in the world
David Robinson #50 of the San Antonio Spurs during an NBA basketball game at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. Photo by Focus on Sport.
Source: Getty Images

Nonetheless, Robinson did not surpass the hump until Duncan arrived, which diminished his position on this ranking. He is one of the most famous NBA centers.

6. Moses Malone

Moses Malone was arguably the most underrated superstar ever since he led the NBA in nightly rebounds six times, including once when he averaged 17.6 per game. Malone was also a monster scorer in the paint, where he utilized his physical strength to destroy smaller opponents. He is one of the best NBA centers in the league.

tallest NBA centers
Moses Malone (22) overpowers David Twardzik (13) of the Virginia Squires in Malone's first pre appearance, October 3rd, with the Utah Stars of the ABA. Photo by Focus on Sport.
Source: Getty Images

5. Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon, the most outstanding international player in history, played and produced at an elite level on both ends of the court with great low-post moves and corresponding defensive talents.

most famous NBA centers
Hakeem Olajuwon throws the ceremonial first pitch prior to 2019 World Series match between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals on October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Bob Levey.
Source: Getty Images

Olajuwon is the all-time leader in blocks, but with an asterisk because the stats were not tracked before 1973-74. In addition, he is the only player to rank among the top 14 in four key statistical categories, including points, rebounds, blocks, and steals.

4. Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O'Neal was the most dominant physical specimen in the NBA since the days of Wilt Chamberlain due to his combination of size, strength, and incredible explosiveness.

best NBA centers of all time
Shaquille O'Neal attends Game Three of the Eastern Conference Round between the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on April 22, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Paras Griffin.
Source: Getty Images

During O'Neal's prime, opponents made manoeuvres with the sole purpose of containing the big man. Many mediocre centres made a fortune because they were another massive body to throw at O'Neal. He is arguably the biggest NBA center ever.

3. Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain was the most dominant offensive big man in NBA history, albeit this was mainly due to the level of competition he faced during his era. Chamberlain fell short in team success since he was often better during the regular season than in the playoffs.

best NBA players of all time
American basketball player Wilt Chamberlain (1936-1999) pictured wearing a Philadelphia Warriors vest whilst standing in front of a trophy cabinet circa 1962. Photo by Rolls Press.
Source: Getty Images

2. Bill Russell

Bill Russell's record for most NBA championships can never be broken, as no one has or will ever come close to his 11 career titles. Russell's résumé is diminished because numerous awards, including Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Decade, did not exist during his prime.

best centers of all time
Basketball Hall of Fame member Bill Russell attends a game between the Minnesota Lynx and the Las Vegas Aces on July 21, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Ethan Miller.
Source: Getty Images

In addition, since Russell's career blocks were not recorded as a statistic, it is impossible to tell how many he had. There is a probability that he and the following guy on our list would be at the top of the blocks standings. He is arguably the best NBA center of all time.

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who dominated for nearly two decades thanks to his skyhook shot and overall prowess as a scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, is a compelling third candidate in the NBA's GOAT argument.

top NBA centers in 2022
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar waves to the crowd after he is presented with a cake in celebration of his 75th birthday during halftime on April 08, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Harry How.
Source: Getty Images

If anything, the longevity argument still favours Abdul-Jabbar, given he earned his two Finals Most Valuable Player titles 14 years apart in 1971 and 1985. He is the tallest NBA center of all time.

The best NBA centers are the basketball center-positioned players that frequently perform remarkably during matches. As a result, these players have achieved some of the most significant awards due to their ability.

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