NBA History: The Five Greatest Centers of All Time

Jeremy Lookabaugh Correspondent IAugust 20, 2010

NBA History: The Five Greatest Centers of All Time

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    The center position is one of, if not the most important position in the game of basketball. It can change the entire facet of a game. If a team has a true post player, then they can run their offense directly through him.

    As a fan of who has watched this new generation era of basketball that features prolific outside scorers like Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, etc; appreciating the importance of a legit center has been overlooked.

    It is entirely unfair when people try to determine how players of this era will do against the true NBA greats before Bryant and James took over the Association.

    Here is a list of the top five centers in NBA history.

Shaquille O'Neal

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    When you think of a dominant center who has impacted the NBA, Shaquille O'Neal has to come to mind.

    "The Diesel," "The Big Aristotle," and more recently with the Boston Celtics, "The Big Shamrock," O'Neal is the face of what a center should look like.

    O'Neal is arguably the most dominating figure in NBA history. He stands at 7'1" and weighed over 340 pounds at one point in his career.

    He was an intimidating player. He overpowered teams en route to six NBA Finals appearances and four titles. He is a 15-time All-Star who averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.3 blocks per game.

    Shaq also holds an important 58.1 field goal percentage for his career. He also holds a regular season MVP award, and three Final MVP awards with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    The statistic that holds O'Neal back from ranking him as one of the top-three centers is his free-throw percentage. He shoots .527 % from the line.

Hakeem Olajuwon

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    Hakeem Olajuwon is great for not only his offensive statistics, but more importantly what he has done defensively.

    He truly was a dream come true for the Houston Rockets. He averaged 21.8 points per game, 11.1 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game.

    More importantly, Olajuwon won two Defensive Player of the Year awards. He won two NBA titles with the Rockets, was the Finals MVP while winning both those championships, and is also a 12-time All-Star.

    "The Dream," was a true center. He was great at both ends of the court and could decide a game either way.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has scored the most points in NBA history. He had 38,387 points.

    He also has six NBA championships along with six MVP and two NBA Finals MVPs.

    He averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds per game. He was a great passer and a great free-throw shooter for a big man.

Bill Russell

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    Bill Russell is the true face of NBA centers and what they want to establish in a career. Winning is the most important statistic and that is just what Russell did, WIN.

    He had 11 NBA titles, five MVPs, and 12 All-Star appearances. But he only averaged 15 points per game.

    It is also equally important to think about the players with whom Russell played. He played with eight Hall of Famers on those great Celtics championship teams.

    These players include: Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, and, of course, John Havlicek. He was also coached by the great Red Auerbach.

    Russell is a winner, no doubt. But not the greatest center.

Wilt Chamberlain

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    Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain is the greatest center who has ever played the game of basketball.

    Yes, he has won only two NBA titles in his basketball career, but take a look inside the numbers.

    He is the only player to score 100 points in a single game and is only one of two players to grab more than 50 rebounds in a game.

    Chamberlain is also the only player to score over 4,000 points in a single season.

    He averaged 30.1PPG, 22.9 RPG, and 4.4 APG. One year he averaged 50.4 points per game for an entire season.

    He averaged over 20 rebounds for a season 10 straight years, and over 33 points a game in seven straight. In 1967, he led the league in assists and he also has 13 All-Star appearances.