The NBA is usually all about guys who get it done offensively.
Without a doubt, however, defense is the most underrated aspect of the game. Measuring defense simply can't be done, but at the same time, the players will be able to tell the differences between, say, a Dwight Howard and an Andrea Bargnani.
I simply cannot overstate what defense does for teams. Time after time, some of the best defensive teams win championships.
Aside from that, each team (unless you're a Los Angeles Clipper) has that one historical figure whose abilities stuck out from the rest. I'm here to inform you of these 30 men within the following slides.
With all that in mind, we're ready for takeoff!
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From 1992 to '99, Mookie Blaylock confused the heck out of opposing players with his unique, and largely effective, defensive strategy. He even crippled Jordan a few times.
He was quick with his hands and often stood near the top of the steals leaderboard.
Blaylock missed out on an All-Defensive bid just once during his time in Atlanta.
Bill Russell without a doubt changed the game of basketball and is the most under-appreciated player in the history of the association. Much of that statement has to do with what he did on defense.
Instead of putting up Wilt-like offensive numbers, he opted to play the less traveled and less popular route. He was arguably the best frontcourt defender that the NBA has ever seen and let his teammates, who were more than able themselves, do the majority of the scoring.
If blocks were kept track of back then, we'd be calling them "Bill Russells."
One of the NBA's best defensive players today is Gerald Wallace.
He did it all during his tenure in Charlotte, where he made the first team All-Defense in 2010. He's also a great rebounder for his 6'7 frame—he grabbed 10 boards per during the 2009-10 season.
Over the course of the 2005-06 campaign, Wallace became one of the first players ever to average better than two blocks and steals per contest.
It might be sacrilege to admit, but Michael Jordan isn't the best defender in Chicago Bulls history.
That title belongs to the league's most versatile ever in that department—Scottie Pippen. Pip was the NBA's best perimeter defender during his tenure in the Windy City, and he might be the greatest of all-time.
People often point to Michael as the reason he was so good. Whatever it was, he ruled the courts on defense.
After an eight year stint in Phoenix to begin his career, Larry Nance took his talents to Cleveland.
Nance was known as one of the league's best shot blockers during his time there, and that was a large reason he was named to three All-Defense teams. He consistently averaged over two blocks per game and played nearly flawless defense in the post.
One might argue that LeBron James should be here. I'd argue that and say they didn't know their historical Cleveland Cavaliers.
You're going to become a given for this list when Michael Jordan refers to you as one of the toughest defenders he has ever played with.
It's a shame Derek Harper only had two inclusions to the All-Defense teams, because he was a stingy defender that nobody wanted to face.
In his 11 seasons with the Mavs, he proved he was their best defender time and time again.
Dikembe Mutombo was an absolute force in the paint during his time as a Denver Nugget.
He led the league in blocks for three consecutive seasons, capping off 1996, the final one, with a jaw-dropping 4.5 clip.
He also won the first of his four Defensive Player of the Year awards here.
When you win four Defensive Player of the Year awards and average under 10 points and are still called a "star," you pretty much are a given for a list like this.
Big Ben Wallace relied on nothing but his defensive prowess, something that ultimately made him successful in the NBA. He could swat balls like crazy and turn them into momentum. That's just what he did.
I believe Ben will ultimately snag a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame for his efforts and his legendary afro.
I make this inclusion with the highest of apologies for Dennis Rodman, a workhorse who helped the "Bad Boys" in Detroit win a pair of championships.
The first player in NBA history to achieve a quadruple-double, Nate Thurmond was something else during his time in San Francisco.
He was named to five All-Defense teams as a Warrior and averaged better than 15 boards over the course of his career.
He's also one of the NBA's most underrated players defensively. Who actually brings him up in a conversation about the elite?
Hakeem Olajuwon was one of the NBA's best post players during his time as a Houston Rocket.
He won consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards in the early 90s, and he collected nine All-Defense teams to go with it.
Hakeem could block better than anyone throughout his tenure. He once swatted 4.6 balls on average over the course of a season.
He was also surprisingly nifty with his hands, which led to him averaging a 1.7 career clip for steals.
Ron Artest had the weirdest imaginable tenure as an Indiana Pacer.
The prime of his career were the years he spent there, where he made it known he was not messing around defensively.
In four years with the team, he won a Defensive Player of the Award and found his name on the All-Defense team thrice.
And we all know why he didn't make a fourth one.
Being a team that has made the playoffs just seven times in its 41-year history, the Los Angeles Clippers sure are a hard team to find good defenders for.
After all, no one in franchise history has ever made an All-Defensive team.
I'll give it to Randy Smith since he was decent on D and leads the team all-time in steals.
I'm not sure casual NBA fans are informed about which Los Angeles Laker is the best defender in team history.
Some would say Kobe or Michael Cooper, but the fact of the matter is that no one was as consistently great as Jerry West.
He only made four All-Defense teams, sure, but the idea of the All-Defense team wasn't established until four years before his career concluded. He undoubtedly would've had double digits. He also would've won at least one Defensive Player of the Year had they made the award during the '60s and counted steals.
The Memphis Grizzlies aren't exactly an efficient defending team historically, but Shane Battier has been solid in that aspect in his six-plus seasons in Tennessee.
He's one of the more versatile and tough guys defensively, and even though he never made an All-Defense team with the Grizz, you can't deny his greatness.
However, I was still a little tempted to put Tony Allen on this list after just one season.
Alonzo Mourning absolutely obliterated opponents in the post. That's just the best way to put it.
During his time in South Beach, 'Zo won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and established himself as a premier post presence on both sides of the floor. He blocked shots like almost no one. During the 1998-99 season, he threw aside 3.9 Spaldings per game.
To form a defensive list is to add Sidney Moncrief in it. To omit him from any such list is straight up blasphemic.
The 6'4" shooting guard won the league's first two Defensive Player of the Year awards and tossed on five all-team selections in 10 years as a Buck. He was arguably the game's best perimeter defender during the 80s.
"Sir Sid" was a defensive playmaker if I've ever seen one.
For 12 seasons, Kevin Garnett ruled the state of Minnesota, and not just on the offensive side of things.
During his time there, he garnered eight All-Defensive team selections and established himself as one of the league's best defensive players. He was often at the top of rebounding and block leaderboards.
Jason Kidd has long (and quietly) been one of the NBA's best defending guards.
His on-ball defense has always been lauded, and there really is no other Net that deserves this spot like Kidd.
He is third all-time in steals, and a large part of that has to do with what he did on the Jersey Shore.
Aside from being a tremendous distributing point guard, Chris Paul also is far greater than average defensively.
He has led the league in steals three times in his six seasons, and just about nobody should deny his appearance here.
His on-ball antics are hated by opponents.
Dave DeBusschere, or "Big D" as he was often referred to as, is easily the New York Knicks' best defender of all-time.
Like Jerry West, the fact that he "only" has six All-Defensive selections is a testimony to the award being started only six years prior.
He was tenacious and humbling in his ability, and his prowess was in part why the Knickerbockers won two titles during the 1970s.
Gary Payton, commonly known as "the Glove" throughout the course of his career, is perhaps NBA history's best defending point guard.
He is the only player at the position to ever win a Defensive Player of the Year award.
His nickname roots from the fact that he was an amazing ball swiper. He once averaged 2.2 steals per game for seven consecutive seasons.
If you were to find a dictionary and look up the definition for "modern day center," you'd see this picture.
Truth is, Dwight Howard is the most imposing post player in basketball today. He does all the right things and primes his game on his defensive dominance.
Oh yeah, he's also won the last three Defensive Player of the Year awards, too.
In each of his first 10 seasons, Maurice "Mo" Cheeks swiped more than two balls per game. That's a phenomenal statistic.
He was named to five All-Defense teams, but it really feels like it should've been more.
Cheeks is one of the NBA's most underappreciated players, in large part because of his stifling on-ball defense. I'll bet you 10 bucks that today's youth recognizes him more as a coach than a player.
Shocked by this inclusion?
Don't be. For awhile, Don Buse was widely considered the stingiest and best defending point guard in NBA history.
In four seasons with the Phoenix Suns, he acquired, you guessed it, four first-team All-Defense selections!
Amidst a ton of standouts, Buck Williams emerges from the pack. He was a versatile defender with lateral quickness to die for.
His three All-Defense team selections are more than any other Portland Trail Blazer.
This spot could've been Bill Walton's, but he only played 208 games and often was injured.
Doug Christie wasn't an amazing player; he just had heart and defense.
In his five years as a King (boy, I remember how exciting that team was), Christie established himself as a versatile defender, picking up four All-Team selections in the process.
It was so hard for me to select just one Spur, so I'll give a reason for everyone's inclusion.
Alvin Robertson, one of the NBA's most underrated players of all-time, was also one of the most tenacious defenders during the game's history.
He would routinely snatch up balls from opposing players, a skill that once helped him complete a quadruple-double. He also won the NBA's second Defensive Player of the Year award.
Tim Duncan made the All-Defense team every year until 2011. That in of itself should earn you a mention. He's not flashy, but he's always been solid on D.
David Robinson, or "the Admiral" as he was called, was one of the most imposing post players when he played. He routinely swatted shots and played terrific defense in the post.
Bruce Bowen would be represented on about half of the teams for this list, but unfortunately, he comes from a deep pool.
Nonetheless, people will always remember his stifling defense, and just about everyone hates him for it.
The Toronto Raptors don't exactly have a notable list of awesome defenders (and Marcus Camby wasn't there long enough), so Morris Peterson is the winner here.
He established himself as a solid perimeter defender during his time as a Raptor and often stole more than one ball per game.
If Karl Malone and John Stockton ever snuck a peek at this inclusion, they would both feel like they were slapped by Marshall Eriksen.
However, when the all-time leader in blocks per game average was a mainstay in the post during some championship runs (and won two Defensive Player of the Year titles), this inclusion simply cannot be denied. He once even averaged 5.6 swats over a season.
To give you a feel for how often he blocked the ball, imagine tossing up a shot and getting rejected almost a third of the time. That was Mark Eaton.
Elvin Hayes wasn't exactly flashy on defense during his time as a Washington Bullet, but he was oh so prolific with his blocking ability.
On nine separate occasions, the 6'9", 235-pound Hayes blocked at least eight shots. The funny part is that we're only counting his nine years in Washington, too.
Otherwise, we'd be looking at 15-plus of a similar input.