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The Top 10 NBA Centers of All Time

Mark HauserCorrespondent IIMarch 5, 2009

1: KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR
2: BILL RUSSELL
3: WILT CHAMBERLAIN
4: SHAQUILLE O'NEAL
5: HAKEEM OLAJUWON
6: GEORGE MIKAN
7: MOSES MALONE
8: DAVID ROBINSON
9: PATRICK EWING
10: BILL WALTON

Since its inception, the NBA has been dominated by big men. Centers are still considered an important position; however, the point guard, for example, is currently considered to be at least as important as the center. (The following is an excerpt from my article the 25 Greatest Basketball Players of All Time.) 

"From 1946 through 1978, the team with a dominant (or at least an excellent) center almost always won the championship.  In 1978-79 Seattle won without a dominant center (Jack Sikma) and then Bird, Magic, Jordan, and Tim Duncan took over and dominated the NBA from all four positions other than center.

"Although, Duncan sometimes plays center and Bird was as much a power forward as he was a small forward. Yes, I know Shaq won four titles, but he had Kobe Bryant (whom I ranked eighth) and Dwyane Wade (Finals MVP) as heavy contributors. 

"So, it is now accepted by the basketball world that the position that you play does not influence how potentially dominant you can be as a player."

However, since the center has the richest tradition (and hence, the largest number of great players) of all the positions in the NBA, it is the most interesting of the NBA ranking that's asks more questions than it answers.

Plus, it might be the closest.

Here is another excerpt from the same article: "Trying to conclusively rank Jabbar, Russell, and Chamberlain is next to impossible.  There are so many great arguments, pro and con, for all three players. (As I alluded to earlier, I started following basketball because of Abdul-Jabbar and I tried not to let this influence my rankings.) I flipped a coin and came up with Abdul-Jabbar first, because he seemed not to have any glaring weaknesses, and for his credentials."

In that same article, I gave long explanations (too long to repeat here) for why I ranked them the way I did. My basic premise is that Abdul-Jabbar seemed to do whatever what his team needed to win.

While Chamberlain was more concerned with personal statistics and this, along with his lousy free-throw shooting (even worse in the playoffs), appeared to cost his team and him some championships. 

Russell, on the other hand, had lots of championships but was too limited offensively for me to rate him above Abdul-Jabbar.

Walton, because of all his injuries, was the hardest to evaluate (Mikan was also hard to evaluate because of the era he played in).

Walton was a great all-around center and the best passing center ever and with a complete career—he might have ended up as high as fourth.

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