Welcome back to the "Greatest Ever" series, as we continue with the rankings of the game's finest man-to-man defenders in NBA History.
Having a lockdown defender is always useful. You throw him at the opponent's most productive and best player, where all night long he produces quality defense, locking him down and forcing him to turn the ball over.
Those defensive players, because of their great footwork, skills and intelligence, force their opponents into bad nights and do whatever they need to do to be a defensive standout at all times.
Whether these defenders are starters or come off the bench as elite subs, their production goes beyond the statistics and often. This defensive ability vaulted players into greatness, or even to an elite Hall of Fame level.
Here are the greatest man-to-man defenders in the NBA history!
Very few could lock their man up regardless of their positions like former great Bad Boy Joe Dumars, who was called "Joe D." That D stood for defense, which is the perfect nickname for this legend that had superb professionalism.
Dumars possessed excellent footwork, had nice basketball instincts, skills and determination to defend with a style like few have in this league. He was a versatile defender, as he was often called up to guard players from multiple positions.
He was most known for his phenomenal defense on Michael Jordan during the Pistons' title runs during the late 80's and early 90's. No one ever, as an individual defensive stopper, did a better job guarding Michael.
Even Jordan said that Joe Dumars was the toughest defender he has faced, and we all know how terrific Jordan was. This is enough to consider him in this debate.
Bill Russell was the symbol of great defense, who successfully revolutionized the concepts of defense on the court and was the game's very first lockdown defender. He took over games, even without scoring more than 15 points.
Russell had phenomenal instincts and was very quick. He could run over to play help defense and still catch up to his man. That's a thing very few have excelled at. His skills, intelligence and athleticism also helped him a lot in locking down his man.
He knew everyone's game and that helped a lot, which made him even stronger in one-on-one matchups, as he was called to guard the opponent's best big men and forced them into their worst nights. Even the great legend Wilt Chamberlain had problems with his offense against this guy.
That man-to-man defense by Russell was crucial for 11 championships for the Celtics. Facing multiple Hall-of-Famers from his position, he often outmatched them all to lead his team to wins!
An unknown player for the youth generations of basketball, Sidney Moncrief was one of the most complete players during the 80's, who also marked that era of competitive NBA hoops with his phenomenal defense.
At 6'4", Moncrief possessed excellent footwork and had a nice vertical jump that gave him above average ability to block shots. He also had good skills and a big body, who put in hard work in every single game. He was the first guard to win the Defensive Player of the Year award twice.
That adds volume to the defense that "The Squid" had during his entire career. He locked down dozens of great scorers thanks to his hard work and skills. It's a shame he played in Milwaukee and did not have a great team around him.
Gary Payton is one of the greatest defensive players in NBA History.
Known as "The Glove," Payton got that nickname after playing superb defense on Suns PG Kevin Johnson. Payton's cousin told him, "You're holding Kevin Johnson like a baseball in a glove." He was indeed in the top class of lockdown defenders, who often forced scorers into bad days.
To this very day, he remains the only point guard ever to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, which he did in 1996. Since him, no point guard has won that honor again. That just adds to the greatness of Payton's superb defense.
Payton is one of the best defenders Michael Jordan ever played against, as he helped force Jordan to his worst scoring and shooting Finals series (27.3 points on 42 percent from field). He also held Jordan under 30 points five times in six games during the 1996 NBA Finals.
Payton and Jordan share the record for the most All-First Defensive Team selections (nine) too, which is an incredible achievement.
A 6'8" small forward, Scottie Pippen was terrific defender.
He marked the 90's as one of the top defensive players of that era, alongside Hakeem Olajuwon. He was an athletic forward who had toughness, nice jumping ability, long hands and footwork combined with nice skills that earned him eight All-Defensive First Teams selections.
He often guarded the opponent's top defender, which was his task every time on the court. He had a nice IQ that he used in order to beat multiple players, and he was a versatile stopper who could switch to defend everything from the 1 to 4 positions.
A beast in every sense of the word.
Hakeem Olajuwon possessed a rare combination of quickness and strength with unique skills for a seven-footer.
He was one of the top man-to-man defenders that the game has ever seen. He had nice skills and instincts for a big man, and was also a great decision maker. He was effective in almost every aspect of playing defense, a thing that cannot be measured by stats.
He was a versatile center who could often switch on the opponent's guard/forward and stay against him out on the perimeter, which is not easy for bigger players to do.
Olajuwonwho marked the 90's as its top defensive player, and did nice work to out-match a much younger Shaq during the 1995 NBA Finals.
During the 2000's, no one else played better perimeter defense than the great Bruce Bowen, who is known for his ability to defend.
He was one of the most feared lockdown defenders to ever step on a NBA hardwood. He is 6'7" and 200 pounds and had the footwork, skills and aggression combined with hard work to make him a feared player on defense.
He was often called to defend players from multiple positions too, anything from 1-4. He never gave up and his best defense came against the young LeBron James, who he slowed down to 23 points on six turnovers per game in the 2007 Finals.
Excellent man-to-man defense,no?
Former Philadelphia 76ers great Bobby Jones was one of the most admired defensive players ever to put a NBA uniform on.
Jones was a tenacious and versatile defender who hustled, worked hard, was aggressive on his man and had offensive skills too. That made him only the second-best sixth man of the 80's behind Kevin McHale
He could also switch guarding any of the 1 to 4 positions without a problem. He earned 10 All-Defensive Selections. Nine of them were All-First Team selections. Talk about a defender that you'd want on your team.
Dennis Rodman couldn't do many things right, but for everything bad that he did on and off the court, he was an unquestionable success rebounding and defending.
He was the game's most versatile defender ever thanks to his excellent man-to-man defensive skills, ability to box out everyone and put players on their worst shooting nights. He wasn't the strongest, tallest or quickest, but he was a skilled and productive defender.
Very few could be argued as better stoppers on their man. He was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and made seven All-NBA Defensive teams, including five first team appearances.
Dennis Johnson sat an entire college season on the bench, but he put in hard work to reach greatness as a pro. That is fantastic.
He established himself as one of the best defensive guards in NBA history because of his bulk and rocket-launcher legs, which helped him frequently win battles against players nearly a foot taller. He was also tenacious, and had quick hands which he used to get steals.
His finest moment came in the 1984 Finals as part of the Boston Celtics, where he shut down the much taller and stronger Earvin "Magic" Johnson. He earned nine All-Defense selections, including six on the first team.
Arguably the best player in the NBA history, Michael Jordan was a dominant defensive guard for his entire career.
His offense was perhaps equally good to his defense. He was an athletic, strong, skilled and quick defender that would often guard the opponent's top scorer while still lighting up the scoreboard.
He had quick hands that he used to strip the ball and cause many fast breaks. Plus his ability to block shots was awesome too. He often locked his man without a problem, and earned the 1998 Defensive Player of the Year award.
He also got nine All-NBA First Defensive Team selections, a record that he shares with Gary Payton.
Although he is more known for his amazing offensive abilities, Kobe Bryant marked his career as an outstanding defender too whose footwork, skills and hard work earned him that reputation
Bryant won eight All-First Team Defensive selections and two All-Second Team selections, which adds volume to his great ability to lock down his man.
He has a chance this year to tie with the defensive greats of the game, Gary Payton and Michael Jordan, with nine All-First Team selections.
Few have dominated in the paint with their defense like the great Tim Duncan, who maximized his talent by playing perfect fundamentally and more to the ground, which is different than most big men.
His ability to contain his man has been phenomenal, but underrated in the eyes of the most fans since he plays efficient, yet unattractive basketball to the casual fan. His shot-blocking skills are so great.
His best defensive work came in the 2000 season, when against LA he held Shaquille O'Neal to just 23 points per game during his monster season.
He has earned a record 13 All-NBA Defensive Selections, including eight first teams.
Lately, Kevin Garnett is playing so well, which often reminds me of his 2008 form. That should be scary for all other teams.
KG has been a great defensive player his entire career, but he took that ability to a level above in 2008, as he earned the Defensive Player of the Year award. His defense was so much improved, take a look at his 2008 Finals performance against Pau Gasol as proof.
That toughness, energy, hustle translated to his team and Celtics fans. He has earned 10 All-Defensive Team Selections, including eight on the first team! That's excellence!
Dave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Willis Reed, Michael Cooper and so on.