The 20 best NBA centers of all time

Ever since the game of basketball was invented, it’s been said that it’s a “big man’s game.” And although the game has evolved substantially over the years, we can’t help but feel like this statement still holds water. When it comes to basketball, there will always be a strong benefit to being taller than the people around you. This can’t exactly be said about other sports. There is something unique about the game itself that gives big men a slight advantage. When you’ve got a ten-foot hoop as the place where you’re trying to score, it makes sense that any extra inch helps. Still, being tall doesn’t guarantee any level of success in the NBA, which is why we must appreciate some of the greatest centers of all time for what they contributed to the NBA.

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In the modern age of basketball, the traditional center has lost value. The league has gotten faster, more athletic, and more versatile, and as a result, big men who thrive on half-court sets are of less importance. There is a movement towards something called “positionless” basketball, where you have a number of players on the court who can all more or less do the same thing. The amount of modern big men who have the ability to knock down a three point shot is staggering.


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Is this where the NBA is evolving now? Is there such thing as a center, or have we just relegated ourselves to just “bigger men” who can also run the floor and shoot from long distance. This wasn’t something that we tried to enforce – it happened naturally. When you have a player like Kevin Durant, standing at 6’11 and running the floor like he’s a point guard, that’s when things start to shift. When you have a player like Stephen Curry who launches up three pointers from no man’s land, only to drain them easily and consistently, it becomes clear that we’ve come to a paradigm shift in the NBA. The era of the traditional center may be coming to a close.

The truth is, we don’t really know what the future holds for the NBA players. But for now, it seems fitting to acknowledge all of the best centers we’ve ever seen play the game. Precisely at a time where it feels like their presence may be fading away, it may be crucial to pinpoint exactly why they were all so important to the game.

From the early ‘50s, to the new millennium, the league has been filled to the brim consistently with talented big men – and some are just exceptional. Think you can name all of them? Which centers do you believe are the best to ever play the game?

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