An elite center is the ultimate building block of any NBA franchise. With a dominant big man, teams can control the paint at both ends of the floor, win closely contested playoff battles, and ultimately bring home championships. The game of basketball is stacked with center lore: Bill Russell blocking shots to himself, Bill Walton throwing outlet passes, Kareem’s skyhook, and Shaquille O’Neal tearing down the basket support on a tomahawk jam.
Offensively, the greatest NBA centers of all time were unstoppable on the low block. A top-flight center would establish his position in the post, pin you on his back, and receive a lob entry pass for the easy score time and time again. With an unreal combination of size, speed, and agility, each great center could reach into his bag of tricks to wheel and deal down low with a collection of spin moves, drop steps, hooks, and turnaround jumpers.
At the other end of the floor, the greats were all intimidating rebounders and shot blockers. As the ultimate enforcer, a great center would perfect the no-layup rule. As the last line of defense, a top center would either swat your shot into the stands or get physical at the point of attack to knock you on your backside and into next week on the floor. When it all came together, the big man would be rewarded for his tough defense with a sweet pass that leads to yet another rim-rocking dunk. Here’s our list of 10 great NBA centers of all time.