Dwight Howard: Where Does He Rank Among the Best Centers in NBA History?

Ross ColemanAnalyst IFebruary 8, 2011

Dwight Howard: Where Does He Rank Among the Best Centers in NBA History?

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    BOSTON - MAY 28:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic gestures as he runs up court against the Boston Celtics in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 28, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Dwight Howard: Does Magic Big Man Crack the Top 10 Centers Ever?

    The Orlando Magic struck gold in 2004 when they chose a slender high school kid from Atlanta, Georgia in the NBA draft. That kid quickly progressed into a full-blown man named Dwight Howard.

    Howard is an extremely athletic center with a nose for rebounds and dunks. While he is still improving as a player each and every season, Howard is making an impact and carving out his place in NBA history.

    Where does Howard rank among the 20 best centers in NBA history? Read on to find out.

    As always, let us know what you think. Where do you think Howard ranks among the other centers in the history of the league?

20. Walt Bellamy

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    Career Stats: 20.1 points, 13.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 4x NBA All-Star

    Why Is He Not As Good As Howard?: Walt Bellamy had a long 14-year NBA career after which he was elected to the Hall of Fame. He had one of the greatest rookie seasons in NBA history, but he was named to just four All-Star teams and never played on a team for more than four seasons.

    Bellamy was never able to live up to his rookie season. He is still a great center but not anywhere close to the level of someone like Dwight Howard.

19. Bob Lanier

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    Career Stats: 20.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 6x NBA All-Star

    Why Is He Not As Good As Howard?: Bob Lanier had the largest foot in the NBA when he played in the league, but aside from that he was just another good center. 

    He made six All-Star teams and had his jersey retired by both the Pistons and the Bucks. He was a very nice guy that didn't do anything special to differentiate himself from the other players in the league.

18. Elvin Hayes

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    Career Stats: 21.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 12x NBA All-Star, 3x All-NBA first team

    Why Is He Not As Good As Howard?: Elvin Hayes spent most of his career stuck between power forward and center. He was a little too small to be a center but skilled enough and strong enough to play the position when needed.

    Hayes did win an NBA championship, but he constantly struggled in the clutch during his career. He would be ranked higher, but he wasn't a true full-blown center.

17. Artis Gilmore

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    Career Stats: 18.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 6x NBA All-Star, ABA MVP

    Why Is He Not As Good As Howard?: Artis Gilmore spent his best years in the ABA playing for the Kentucky Colonels before moving to the NBA after five seasons. 

    Gilmore's numbers were outstanding in the ABA, but when he moved to the NBA his numbers dipped because he was playing against better talent.

16. Robert Parish

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    1990:  Center Robert Parish #00 of the Boston Celtics focuses on the rim as he leaps for a slam dunk during a Celtics game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.   Mandatory Credit: Allsport USA/ALLSPORT
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Career Stats: 14.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 9x NBA All-Star, 4x NBA champion

    Why Is He Not As Good As Howard?: Robert Parish was an extremely good center over the length of his 21-year career. That's just the problem though; he was good, never great.

    As a Laker fan, I always hated Parish, but his consistency was something to marvel at.

15. Nate Thurmond

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    Career Stats: 15.0 points, 15.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 7x NBA All-Star, 3x NBA All-Defense

    Why Is He Not As Good As Howard?: Nate Thurmond might be the most underrated player in NBA history. He was the third best center of his division, but that's only because the guys he was going up against were Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.

    Thurmond was a great defender, but he was never the dominant player that Howard has been at times during his young career.

14. Wes Unseld

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    Career Stats: 10.8 points, 14.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 5x NBA All-Star, 1969 NBA MVP, NBA champion

    Why Is He Not As Good As Howard?: Wes Unseld perfected the art of the outlet pass. He was fantastic at grabbing rebounds and hitting players streaking to the hoop.

    Unseld was never a dominant scorer, but he was a good defender. Howard might not be a dominant scorer, but he is better than Unseld ever was.

13. Patrick Ewing

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    7 Nov 1997:  Center Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks shoots the ball during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.  The Lakers won the game 99-94. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn  /Allsport
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Career Stats: 21.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 11x NBA All-Star, All-NBA first team

    Why Is He Not As Good As Howard?: Patrick Ewing was a disappointment in the NBA. With all the tools and athleticism he displayed in college at Georgetown, Ewing could have been at the top of this list if his knees hadn't given out.

    Dwight Howard is the next step in evolution from Ewing. Not only is Howard a similar player to what Ewing was in college (a defensive athletic freak), but now he is also learning from Ewing, who is a coach on the Magic.

12. George Mikan

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    Career Stats: 23.1 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 4x NBA All-Star, 7x champion

    Why Is He Not As Good As Howard?: George Mikan was the most dominant player in the NBA during his career. However, he was the product of a different time.

    If Mikan was in the NBA today, he would get killed as a result of a lack of mobility and athleticism. Dwight Howard would have feasted on Mikan.

11. Dave Cowens

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    Career Stats: 17.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 7x NBA All-Star, 2x NBA champion, NBA MVP

    Why Is He Not As Good As Howard?: Dave Cowens was all about effort. He might not have been the most athletic or skilled player in the NBA, but he worked harder than pretty much any other guy in the NBA during his career.

    Cowens would have given Dwight Howard quite a tough time, but the Magic big man would have feasted on the lack of athleticism from the Celtics big man.

10. Willis Reed

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    Career Stats: 18.7 points, 12.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 7x NBA All-Star, 2x NBA champion, NBA MVP

    Why Is He Not As Good As Howard?: Willis Reed's defining moment of his career was a four-point performance in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Reed was considered one of the best Knicks in NBA history.

    Reed would have given Dwight Howard a run for his money, but I think Howard would have won out on athleticism.

9. Dwight Howard

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    NEW ORLEANS - FEBRUARY 16:  Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic completes a dunk in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, part of 2008 NBA All-Star Weekend at the New Orleans Arena on February 16, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackno
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Career Stats: 17.9 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 5x NBA All-Star, 2x Defensive Player of the Year

    Why Here?: Dwight Howard falls here because the guys behind him would have struggled to keep up with either his strength or his athleticism.

    All of the guys ahead of Howard are the best centers in NBA history.

8. David Robinson

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    SAN ANTONIO - JUNE 6:  David Robinson #50 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots a layup during Game two of the 2003 NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets at SBC Center on June 6, 2003 in San Antonio, Texas.  The Nets won 87-85.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly ac
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Career Stats: 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 10x NBA All-Star, 4x All-NBA, 2x NBA Defensive Player of the Year, NBA MVP, 2x NBA champion

    Why Is He Better Than Howard?: David Robinson—or the Admiral, as he is known—was one of the most versatile centers in the NBA during his 14-year NBA career. He could not only score and carry an NBA team, but he was also one of the best defensive big men.

    Robinson was more polished on offense than Howard, and he played during a time when there was much tougher competition at the center position.

7. Moses Malone

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    Career Stats: 20.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 13x NBA All-Star, 3x NBA MVP, NBA champion

    Why Is He Better Than Howard?: Moses Malone is the last player in the NBA to average 20 points and 15 rebounds for an entire season. Kevin Love has a chance to do that this year, but Dwight Howard has yet to accomplish that feat.

    Malone had a storied career, but he played on nine teams over the course of 21 NBA seasons.

6. Bill Walton

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    Career Stats: 13.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2x NBA All-Star, NBA MVP, 2x NBA champion

    Why Is He Better Than Howard?: Bill Walton had his career robbed by injuries. When he was in his prime, Walton was one of the best centers in the league. His basketball IQ still rivals even the best ever to play.

    A healthy Walton in his prime would have destroyed Dwight Howard. Watch film of Walton when he played at UCLA, and you will see just how skilled a player he was when healthy. Right hand, left hand, it didn't matter—he could score from anywhere at anytime. 

5. Shaquille O'Neal

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    LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 3:  Shaquille O'Neal #34 of the Los Angeles Lakers slam dunks during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on December 3, 2002 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 101-91.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackn
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Career Stats: 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 15x NBA All-Star, 8x All-NBA first team, NBA MVP, 4x NBA champion

    Why Is He Better Than Howard?: Shaquille O'Neal is the most dominant player in the NBA for the last generation. However, because of his size, playing basketball to his full potential was too difficult.

    2000 Shaquille O'Neal would have shut down Dwight Howard. Howard probably would have been able to score against Shaq, but there is no way he would have held O'Neal under 30 points.

4. Hakeem Olajuwon

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    19 Jun 1994: HOUSTON ROCKET HAKEEM OLAJUWON LOOKS TO THE HOOP PAST NEW YORK KNICK PATRICK EWING DURING FIRST HALF ACTION OF GAME 6 OF THE NBA CHAMPIONSHIP AT THE SUMMIT IN HOUSTON, TEXAS.
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Career Stats: 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, 12x NBA All-Star, 6x All-NBA first team, 2x NBA All-Defensive Team, NBA MVP, 2x NBA champion

    Why Is He Better Than Howard?: Hakeem Olajuwon was an unbelievable talent. He was not only one of the best defensive big men in NBA history, he is also fairly high on the scoring list.

    Olajuwon would have killed Howard with his up and under move. He also would have been able to keep Howard away from the hoop and prevent him from scoring.

3. Wilt Chamberlain

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    Career Stats: 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 13x NBA All-Star, 4x NBA MVP, 2x NBA champion

    Why Is He Better Than Howard?: Wilt Chamberlain was one of the most dominant players in NBA history. His stats are unbelievable. However, the stats lie a little. Chamberlain had a tendency to disappear in big games, and he played in a different era, where he could get the stats because of the style of play.

    Chamberlain would have been able to bully Howard inside and prevent him from making much of an impact on offense.

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    1989:  Center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots a hook shot during the Lakers versus Seattle Supersonics game at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.     Mandatory Credit: Tim DeFrisco/ALLSPORT
    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Career Stats: 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 19x NBA All-Star, 10x All-NBA first team, 6x NBA MVP, 6x NBA champion

    Why Is He Better Than Howard?: Yes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a little bit of a wuss, but he is also the all-time leading scorer in NBA history, and he had an unbelievable sky hook that was close to a guaranteed basket every time.

    Kareem's length would have negated Howard's strength. Yes, Howard would have been able to push Kareem out of the key, but that doesn't mean the former Laker wouldn't be able to score at will over the much shorter Magic star.

1. Bill Russell

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    Career Stats: 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 12x NBA All-Star, 5x NBA MVP, 11x NBA champion

    Why Is He Better Than Howard?: Bill Russell was the most dominant defensive player in NBA history. Not only was he the centerpiece of 11 champions, but he also is one of the few players ever to create a mismatch on the defensive side of the ball.

    Russell is the perfect version of Dwight Howard. Howard has been a good defender for nearly his entire career, but he has never come close to Russell. If Howard becomes half the player Russell was, he will be a sure-fire Hall of Famer.