As the era of “positionless basketball” progresses, the importance of a solid starting center (or power forward) has remained crucial for NBA teams.
These players are involved in offense, defense, rebounding, and just about everything in the paint. Increasingly, they're even coming into the fold beyond the arc. A solid seven-footer can give teams putback dunks, second-chance opportunities, and rejections on the defensive end of the floor — all crucial parts of the game.
A franchise big man can alter the direction of your franchise. Bill Russell’s arrival drove the Celtics to be the greatest dynasty in NBA history. Shaquille O’Neal’s acquisition instantaneously turned the Lakers and Heat, respectively, from mediocre to contending teams. And Anthony Davis has turned the Pelicans from an awful team, to a slightly less awful team. The possibilities are limitless with a franchise center, perhaps more so than with any other position on the NBA floor.
When it comes to the greatest of all time argument, there is a ton of room for debate. Unlike the greatest overall player of all time, which is Michael Jordan and not LeBron James, there are several players that can make the case for greatest center or power forward of all time. Bill Russell and his 11 championships make a solid case. As does Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his all-time scoring record. Wilt Chamberlain, who once averaged 50 points per game one season, deserves some consideration for that post as well.
But Complex Sports has resolved to end this debate once and for all, with 100 percent accuracy and without any need for dissent. So without further adieu, here are the 35 greatest centers and power forwards in NBA history.