These players dominated the game not only with size, but also with their achievements

The 6 best centers in NBA history

We have finally reached the center position in our series of blogs about the greatest NBA players at each roster spot. It was not easy to narrow the list down and then rank these legends of the game. To make all of this at least somewhat easier, we decided to look at both personal accolades as well as at the influence on the game all of them had.

5. George Mikan

Younger fans will probably wonder who is this guy they never heard of, so we will start off with his nickname which shows how a big of a deal he was – “Mr. Basketball.” On the other hand, those who know the history of the game will remember that he is considered the first true superstar in the NBA who had the full center package that included killer scoring instincts along with great rebounding and shot-blocking abilities.

After an amazing playing career, Mikan became the first commissioner of the American Basketball Association (ABA) where he is credited with introducing the red-white-blue ball and also introducing the 3 point shot.

Fun fact: his mother was Lithuanian and his father Croatian.

4. Hakeem Olajuwon

The Dream” almost made decision as a child because of which we would probably never hear of him. Growing up in Nigeria, he played sports – but he was a football goalkeeper who never even played basketball before the age of 15! Luckily, his sudden growth made it inevitable that he would end up playing hoops, so by the time it was time for college he was on his way to the University of Houston where he ended up going to the Final Four 3 times. He was so dominant that by the time that the iconic 1984 NBA draft (including MJ, Barkley, Stockton…) came around, he was the first overall pick.

His achievements in the league are pretty special as he was the first non-American to do all of this:

  • MVP award winner
  • NBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • play and start in the NBA All-Star Game

Also, he is the first player ever to become the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP in the same year. Of course, he is also a two time champion with Houston Rockets. In 1993, he became an American citizen and won gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics with the second Dream Team.

3. Wilt Chamberlain & Shaquille O’Neal

Just like in the previous blog, we have a shared entry! If we simply described these two giants as “the most dominant ever” – it would be more than enough. There is no doubt that, at the peak of their powers, these two centers were simply unstoppable which is best seen by the countless records Wilt set and still holds to this day and by how Shaq transformed roster construction in the NBA (teams were basically forced to have more big men so that they could at least foul O’Neal).

Some might say that both of them lacked true dedication that would lead to more championships and team success, but even these critics will have to agree that they were larger than life and also influenced areas outside of sports such as movies and music.

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • 6× NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers
  • 6× NBA Most Valuable Player
  • 2× NBA Finals MVP
  • 3× NCAA champion
  • 3× NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player
  • 19× NBA All-Star
  • 10× All-NBA First Team
  • 5× All-NBA Second Team
  • 5× NBA All-Defensive First Team
  • 6× NBA All-Defensive Second Team
  • NBA Rookie of the Year

The list of these achievements will put fear into most people as they all show how unstoppable KAJ was. At Grosbasket, we are hyper focused on basketball, but when it comes to Kareem (who grew up with the name Lew Alcindor) we must also point out and praise him for his civil rights activism during a time when it was even dangerous to do so in the United States. His efforts were fully recognized in 2016 when he won the Presidential Medal of Freedom which is the highest civilian award in the United States given by the President.

1. Bill Russell

11 championships with the Boston Celtics. As there are haters for everyone and everything, some will criticize the fact that Russell won so many times by saying his opponents were subpar and that the game was so much different then. Well, we would disagree with anyone making such claims, as Bill’s biggest rivals included Wilt Chamberlain, Dolph Schayes, Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and many other great players.

Just like Kareem, Bill was an outspoken civil rights activist for which he also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

That’s a wrap! Thank you for following our top 5 blog series and for the positive feedback and comments you provided which makes us think that we could come up with a few more lists. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let us know!