NBA Power Rankings: Kevin Love and the 50 Best Rebounders in NBA History

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2011

NBA Power Rankings: Kevin Love and the 50 Best Rebounders in NBA History

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Kevin Love is having a historically significant season for the Minnesota Timberwolves.  

    He's averaging nearly 16 rebounds per game.  The last person to average over 15 rebounds per game for a season was Ben Wallace during the 2002-03 campaign.  The only other active player to average over 14 a game for an entire season is Dwight Howard.

    He's rebounding in a way that we just don't see in the NBA anymore—his 30-30 game a few months ago will go down as one of the most memorable moments of the 2009-10 season.

    If Kevin Love continues to rebound like this for the rest of his career, he could find himself among the top 10 to 15 rebounders in NBA history.

    His prolific rebounding got some of us here at Bleacher Report to thinking about the all-time best in this category.  I've set out to rank the 50 best rebounders of all-time.

     

    How I Ranked Them

    In trying to decide how to assemble this slideshow, I considered several different factors: total rebounds per game (hereafter referred to as RPG), the era the player played in (and how he would perform in different eras), the player's size and position, career highs in rebounding and, of course, my own subjectivity.

    Another stat that received some heavy consideration was rebounding percentage, which essentially estimates the percentage of available rebounds that a player collects.  If a player is on the floor for 10 missed shots and he gets two rebounds, his rebounding percentage would be 20 percent.

    I'll also consider the amount of rebounds a player averages per 36 minutes of playing time (RP36).

    On some slides I may refer to total rebounding percentage (TRP), defensive rebounding percentage (DRP) and offensive rebounding percentage (ORP).

    So, without further ado...let's get this rolling.

50: Tyson Chandler

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    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 8.8

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 12.4

    TRP: 18.3 percent

    Career RP36: 11.5

    Tyson Chandler being on this list may surprise many of you.

    Most think his 8.8 career average is pretty low for a 7'1" player, but if you dig a bit deeper, you'll realize that his production is largely due to the situations he's been in.

    Chandler's only had three seasons in which he averaged over 30 minutes per game and in those three years he averaged 11.3 rebounds.

    Also, grabbing nearly 20 percent of the rebounds available to him is very impressive.

49: Shawn Marion

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 9.4

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 11.8

    TRP: 14.6 percent

    Career RP36: 9.3

    Shawn Marion is listed at 6'7" and a slim 220 pounds.  He's smaller than most of the men on this list, which is why his career average of 9.4 rebounds per game is so impressive.

    Marion's greatest asset as a rebounder is how quickly he gets off the ground on second and third jumps. He may be better than anyone else in the league in that respect.

48: Joakim Noah

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 8.3

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 11.7

    TRP: 18.1 percent

    Career RP36: 11.5

    It's only his fourth year in the league, but Joakim Noah has established himself as one of the top rebounders in the NBA in an era filled with elite athletes.

    He has several good years in front of him, and I expect his rebounding skills and numbers will continue to increase.

47: Billy Cunningham

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    Career RPG: 10.4

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 13.6

    TRP: 14.2 percent

    Career RP36: 10.7

    Billy Cunningham's nickname was "The Kangaroo Kid."  He had to have great leaping ability to dominate the boards as a 6'6", 210-pound forward.

46: Zach Randolph

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 9.0

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 12.9

    TRP: 16.9 percent

    Career RP36: 10.3

    Zach Randolph has averaged double figures in rebounding in five of his nine NBA seasons, including over 12 rebounds a game since he joined the Memphis Grizzlies.

    He's probably been the most productive player in Memphis' history (and yes, I'm including Pau Gasol).

45: Patrick Ewing

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 9.8

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 12.1

    TRP: 16.4 percent

    Career RP36: 10.3

    Patrick Ewing had a run of nine straight seasons averaging double figures in rebounding during the middle of his career.

    His numbers would likely be higher if he hadn't shared the rebounding load with Charles Oakley for several years.

44: Charles Oakley

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 9.5

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 13.1

    TRP: 17.3 percent

    Career RP36: 10.9

    He had his best rebounding seasons as a young member of the Bulls, but he remained extremely effective on the boards well into his 30s.

43: Elmore Smith

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    Career RPG: 10.6

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 15.2

    TRP: 16.3 percent

    Career RP36: 12.0

    Elmore Smith only had a few seasons in which he was a big-minute player, but he made the most of those few years.  He averaged 12.2 rebounds per game in his first five seasons in the NBA.

42: Emeka Okafor

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 10.3

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 11.3

    TRP: 18.5 percent

    Career RP36: 11.3

    Emeka Okafor is in the midst of his seventh season in the NBA and last year was the only time he failed to average double figures in rebounding.

    At 6'10", he's a bit shorter than many centers, but he possesses great strength and athleticism.

41: Kevin Willis

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 8.4

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 15.5

    TRP: 17.4 percent

    Career RP36: 11.2

    Kevin Willis played in the NBA until he was 44 years old.  

    His career began a couple years before I was born and ended a couple years after I graduated high school.  So it seems like he was always the "old guy" to a lot of people my age.

    However, there was a time when he was one of the most dominant rebounders in the league.

40: Dolph Schayes

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    Career RPG: 12.1

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 16.4

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 12.3

    It's hard to imagine Dolph Schayes dominating the glass in today's NBA the way he did in his era, but you can't ignore his numbers.

39: Oscar Robertson

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    Career RPG: 7.5

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 12.5

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 6.4

    Oscar Robertson is best known for being the only player in NBA history who averaged a triple-double over the course of an entire season.  He's one of the best rebounding guards of all-time.

38: Jason Kidd

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 6.6

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 8.2

    TRP: 10.2 percent

    Career RP36: 6.4

    In my opinion, Jason Kidd is the best rebounding point guard of all-time.  If he were transported into Oscar Robertson's era, I have no doubt he'd average a triple-double.

    To average 8.2 rebounds per game for an entire season against the size and athleticism of today's big men is extremely impressive.

37: Magic Johnson

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 7.2

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 9.6

    TRP: 11.1 percent

    Career RP36: 7.1

    Magic Johnson was the greatest rebounding point guard of all-time.  He's second all-time in triple-doubles with 138, and he collected those great numbers even playing alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    He's known mostly for his superb passing ability, but Magic was a fantastic rebounder as well.

36: George Mikan

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    Career RPG: 13.4

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 14.4

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 13.8

    As was the case with Dolph Schayes, it's difficult for me to picture George Mikan putting up these kinds of numbers against guys like Dwight Howard or Shaquille O'Neal.

    However, at 6'10", 245 pounds, Mikan would probably be more capable of adjusting to today's game than most guys from his era.

35: Paul Silas

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    Career RPG: 9.9

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 13.0

    TRP: 16.6 percent

    Career RP36: 12.7

    Paul Silas played for six different teams in his NBA career, but he had his best rebounding seasons as a member of the legendary Boston Celtics.

    Silas averaged 13 rebounds per game for a team that featured John Havlicek, Don Nelson and Jo Jo White.

34: Robert Parish

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 9.1

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 12.5

    TRP: 17.9 percent

    Career RP36: 11.6

    For 14 seasons, Robert "The Chief" Parish was a staple at center for the legendary Celtics teams of the 80s.

    He averaged double figures in rebounding 10 times.

33: Larry Bird

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 10.0

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 11.0

    TRP: 14.5 percent

    Career RP36: 9.4

    One of the best aspects of Larry Bird's game is often ignored.  

    He averaged double figures in rebounding for each of his first six seasons, and only twice in his 13-year career did he fail to average at least nine rebounds per game (and he only played six games in one of the years he averaged under nine).

    What makes his rebounding numbers even more impressive is the fact that he played a lot of small forward for teams that featured a great rebounder in Robert Parish and a solid rebounder in Kevin McHale.

32: Carlos Boozer

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 10.1

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 11.7

    TRP: 18.3 percent

    Career RP36: 11.2

    The Chicago Bulls may have the best rebounding frontcourt in the NBA over the next few years.  Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer will control the glass against almost any other team on any given night.

    Boozer's strength is his biggest asset as a rebounder and he uses it to get into great position on most missed shots.

31: Ben Wallace

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 10.0

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 15.4

    TRP: 19.0 percent

    Career RP36: 11.8

    Ben Wallace was one of the best rebounders in the league for six straight seasons for the Detroit Pistons. He led the league in boards in 2002 and 2003.

30: Marcus Camby

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    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 10.1

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 13.1

    TRP: 18.9 percent

    Career RP36: 11.8

    Marcus Camby has aged about as well as any center in the last 20 to 30 years.  He's in his late 30s now and he continues to dominate the boards.

    He's averaged double figures in rebounding in 10 of the last 11 seasons, and the one year he came in under double figures was a season shortened by injuries. 

29: Bob Pettit

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    Career RPG: 16.2

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 20.3

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 15.1

    Bob Pettit is third all-time in career rebounds per game.  He was a fantastic rebounder in the '50s and '60s, but you have to wonder how he would perform against today's NBA players.

28: Karl Malone

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 10.1

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 12.0

    TRP: 16.0 percent

    Career RP36: 9.8

    Karl "The Mailman" Malone is mostly known for his scoring, but that's not because he was a slouch on the boards.  He had a run of nine straight seasons averaging better than 10 rebounds per game.

    He's seventh all-time in total rebounds.

27: Dave DeBusschere

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    Career RPG: 11.0

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 13.5

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 11.1

    One of the unsung heroes of the Knicks championship teams of the early '70s, Dave DeBusschere was an elite rebounder even at 6'6".

26: Bill Bridges

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    Career RPG: 11.9

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 15.1

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 12.9

    To put up the kind of rebounding numbers Bill Bridges did at 6'6" is impressive in any era.

25: Walt Bellamy

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    Career RPG: 13.7

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 19.0

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 13.2

    As I've said over and over, it would be very interesting to see what kind of production players would have in different eras.  

    At 6'11", it seems likely that Walt Bellamy could have been a great rebounder even in today's NBA.

24: Kevin Love

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 11.2

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 15.7

    TRP: 21.8 percent

    Career RP36: 13.9

    Is it too early to include Kevin Love on this list?  Well, obviously, I don't think so.

    He's second all-time in total rebounding percentage.  His average per 36 minutes is unreal, and he's still years away from entering his prime.

    Love's only played two-and-a-half seasons in the NBA, but he's already the best rebounder in the league.

    His 30-30 game from a few months ago will go down as one of the most memorable moments of the season.

    By the time his career is over, he very well may be considered one of the top 10 rebounders of all-time.

23: Bill Walton

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    Career RPG: 10.5

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 14.4

    TRP: 19.8 percent

    Career RP36: 13.4

    When Bill Walton was healthy, he was one of the greatest centers to ever play the game.  He had a great deal of skill in every aspect of the game, and that obviously included rebounding.

22: David Robinson

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 10.6

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 13.0

    TRP%: 17.3 percent

    Career RP36: 11.0

    David Robinson may have been the most athletic seven-footer in the history of the NBA.  He was extremely quick for his size and could jump as well as many wing players.

    He used his great size and athleticism to average double figures in rebounding nine times, and lead the league in that category in 1991.

21: Kevin Garnett

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 10.8

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 13.9

    TRP: 17.1 percent

    Career RP36: 10.5

    He's been solid on the boards since he came to Boston, but Kevin Garnett was the best in the league at rebounding for four straight seasons in Minnesota.

    He averaged double figures in rebounding for nine straight seasons as a member of the Timberwolves, including his last four years there, when he won the rebounding crowns.

    At 6'11", 220 pounds, Garnett has always been very slender for a power forward.  He's deceptively strong, but most of his boards were collected as a result of his amazing athleticism.

20: Dikembe Mutumbo

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    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 10.3

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 14.1

    TRP: 19.1 percent

    Career RP36: 12.1

    Dikembe Mutombo is mostly known for his great shot-blocking ability, but he also led the league in rebounding in back-to-back seasons in 2000 and 2001.  

19: Hakeem Olajuwon

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 11.1

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 14.0

    TRP: 17.2 percent

    Career RP36: 11.2

    Hakeem Olajuwon averaged double figures in rebounding in each of his first 12 seasons.  He led the league in boards in 1989 and 1990.

18: Tim Duncan

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 11.5

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 12.9

    TRP: 18.5 percent

    Career RP36: 11.5

    Everything about Tim Duncan's game screams consistency, and that word can definitely be applied to his rebounding ability.

    He's in his 14th NBA season and he's averaging 9.5 rebounds per game.  

    If he continues at that pace, this will be the first season of Duncan's career in which he fails to average double figures in rebounding.

    He's never led the league in this category, but he averaged over 11 per game for nine straight seasons, and over 12 per game for five straight seasons.

17: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    Career RPG: 11.2

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 16.9

    TRP: 15.7 percent

    Career RP36: 10.9

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is first all-time in points scored, and fourth all-time in total rebounds.

    Over the first 12 years of his career, he averaged 14.1 rebounds per game.  In 1976, he led the league in rebounding at 16.9 rebounds per game.

16: Artis Gilmore

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    Career RPG: 12.3

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 18.3 (ABA)

    TRP: 18.0 percent

    Career RP36: 12.5

    Artis Gilmore definitely had his best rebounding seasons in the ABA, but he had his fair share of great seasons in the NBA as well.

    Known as "The A-Train," the 7'2" Gilmore simply overwhelmed scores of big men with his size.

15: Swen Nater

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    Career RPG: 11.6

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 16.4 (ABA)

    TRP: 21.4 percent

    Career RP36: 14.5

    Swen Nater led the ABA in rebounding in 1975 and then led the NBA in the same category in 1980.  His total rebounding percentage is third-best all-time.

14: Willis Reed

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    Career RPG: 12.9

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 14.7

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 13.1

    In Willis Reed's first seven seasons, he averaged under 13 rebounds per game just once (and in that one season his average was 11.6).

13: Elvin Hayes

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    Career RPG: 12.5

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 18.1

    TRP: 15.6 percent

    Career RP36: 11.7

    Elvin Hayes averaged double figures in rebounding in each of his first 12 seasons.  He led the league in that category twice.

12: Dave Cowens

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    Career RPG: 13.6

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 16.2

    TRP: 17.1 percent

    Career RP36: 12.7

    Dave Cowens controlled the glass for eight straight seasons in the '70s for the Boston Celtics.  His career average of 13.6 rebounds per game is ninth all-time.

11: Elgin Baylor

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    Career RPG: 13.5

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 19.8

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 12.2

    Elgin Baylor may have played in an era when there wasn't as much size, but it's still extremely impressive for a 6'5" player to average 13.5 rebounds over a 14-year career.

10: Charles Barkley

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    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 11.7

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 14.6

    TRP: 18.2 percent

    Career RP36: 11.5

    The number of rebounds Charles Barkley grabbed is truly amazing for a 6'6" man playing in the '80s and '90s.  

    He used a of combination strength, instincts and sheer determination to become one of the 10 best rebounders of all-time.

    Barkley averaged 8.6 rebounds per game during his rookie year, and then went on to average double figures in that category in each of the next 15 seasons.  He led the league in 1987 by pulling down 14.6 boards per game.

9: Moses Malone

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    Career RPG: 12.3

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 17.6

    TRP: 19.8 percent

    Career RP36: 13.0

    From 1979 to 1985, Moses Malone led the NBA in rebounding in six out of seven seasons.  He averaged double figures in rebounding in 14 straight seasons.

8: Wes Unseld

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    Career RPG: 14.0

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 18.2

    TRP: 18.0 percent

    Career RP36: 13.8

    Wes Unseld played 13 seasons in the NBA.  He averaged double figures in rebounding in 12 of those seasons.  

    His career average of 14 rebounds per game is seventh all-time and he led the league in boards in 1975 with 14.8 per game.

7: Nate Thurmond

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    Career RPG: 15.0

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 22.0

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 14.5

    In Nate Thurmond's first 12 seasons, he averaged over 16 rebounds per game eight times, over 18 a game five times, and over 20 rebounds per game twice.

    With a career average of 15 rebounds per game (fifth all-time), it's hard to believe he never led the league in rebounding.

6: Dwight Howard

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 12.7

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 14.2

    TRP: 20.8 percent

    Career RP36: 12.8

    Although he'll likely finish second behind Kevin Love this year, Dwight Howard is still considered by many to be the league's best rebounder.

    He led the NBA in boards in each of the past three seasons, and he's only had one season in the NBA in which he failed to average at least 12 rebounds per game.

    If this man were transported to the '50s and '60s, he'd have a real good shot at breaking Wilt Chamberlain's record for the highest rebound per game average for a single season (27.2).

5: Jerry Lucas

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    Career RPG: 15.6

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 21.1

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 14.5

    Jerry Lucas is fourth all-time in career rebounds per game.  He had eight straight seasons in which he averaged at least 14 rebounds per game and nine straight seasons of at least 13 per game.

4: Shaquille ONeal

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 10.9

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 13.9

    TRP: 17.8 percent

    Career RP36: 11.3

    Shaq's rebounding numbers have taken a hit over the last few years as a result of no longer being the premier player on the four different teams he's played for.  

    However, during the first half of his career, Shaquille O'Neal was arguably the most dominant player the NBA has ever had.

    He averaged double figures in rebounding in each of his first 13 seasons in the '90s and 2000s.  Just imagine how ridiculous his numbers would have been had he played in Wilt Chamberlain or Moses Malone's eras.  

    He's 7'1" and he's spent most of his career over 300 pounds, and he physically dominated some of the best athletes in human history for over a decade.

3: Bill Russell

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    Career RPG: 22.5

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 24.7

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 19.1

    Bill Russell is considered by many to be the greatest defensive player in the history of the game, and every coach will tell you the defensive stand isn't over until you secure the rebound.

    No player personified this concept quite as well as Russell.  He's second all-time in career rebounds per game and total rebounds.

2: Wilt Chamberlain

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    Career RPG: 22.9

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 27.2

    TRP: N/A

    Career RP36: 18.0

    Wilt Chamberlain owns plenty of rebounding records.  He's first all-time in total rebounds and career rebounds per game.  

    He's also responsible for six of the top 10 greatest single-season rebounding averages (including his record setting average of 27.2 in 1961).

    The only thing that is keeping him out of the top spot on this list is the era in which he played.

    Chamberlain's numbers are nothing short of spectacular, but there will always be a question mark as to how he would perform in a league filled with scores of 7-footers and modern athletes.

1: Dennis Rodman

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Career RPG: 13.1

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 18.7

    TRP: 23.4 percent

    Career RP36: 14.9

    Dennis Rodman's dominance as a rebounder is unparalleled.

    He played during the '90s, when there were plenty of great athletes and big men who could rebound.  

    Even though he was just 6'7", he completely dominated every rebounding matchup he was faced with.

    His career total rebounding percentage is first all-time, and he's the only player who played in the '80s or later with a career rebounding average of over 13 per game.

    From 1992 to 1998, he led the league in rebounding for seven straight seasons. Over that stretch, he averaged 16.7 rebounds per game.

    Rodman had superb instincts and possessed nearly perfect rebounding fundamentals, but the most important ingredient to his success as a rebounder was his determination and the attitude he had, which led him to believe that every rebound was his.

Blake Griffin and Other Honorable Mentions

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    Blake Griffin

    Career RPG: 12.7

    Best RPG For an Entire Season: 12.7

    TRP: 19.8 percent

    Career RP36: 12.2

    He may only be a rookie, but Blake Griffin is definitely making his presence felt on the glass.  Just ask Lamar Odom.

    Anyone who has watched the Clippers this year has seen the great tenacity with which Blake attacks the boards.  His combination of athleticism and aggressiveness is unlike anything I've seen in the NBA.

    Physically, he's like LeBron James plus two inches.  He combines those natural gifts with a desire to grab every loose ball.

    As his experience, fundamentals and skills progress and start to catch up with his attitude and athleticism, he could be one of the very best rebounders in the league.

    Barring injury, Blake Griffin could not only develop into one of the best in this era, but all-time.

    He's already ranked fourth in the NBA in rebounding and he's getting better at it by the month...

     

    Month Rebounds Per Game
    October 11.0
    November 11.7
    December 13.5
    January 14.5

     

    Griffin's numbers are unbelievable for a rookie.  If he stays healthy, I can't imagine the kind of production we'll be seeing out of him in a few years.

     

    Other Honorable Mentions

     

    Pau Gasol

    Lamar Odom

    Chris Webber

    Elton Brand

    Harry Gallatin 

    Julius Erving

    Troy Murphy

    Bill Laimbeer

    Dirk Nowitzki

    Chris Bosh

    Red Kerr

    Bob Lanier

    Shawn Kemp

     

    As is the case with most lists of this nature, the difference between the No. 1 and the No. 10 guy can be incredibly small.  The difference between 25 and 50 can be quite small as well.  Any such list is bound to be extremely subjective.