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22 Greatest Defensive Gamers in NBA Historical past

22 Greatest Defensive Gamers in NBA Historical past


Protection does not look or really feel as enjoyable as scoring, particularly within the NBA. When youngsters see a high-flying dunk artist or an exhilarating passer, it makes them wish to get on the playground and emulate their favourite stars. The necessary factor to recollect is that no quantity of spotlight offensive performs can win you video games and championships with out defensive greatness to again it up.

These are the 22 finest defensive gamers in NBA historical past, from shot-blocking large males to versatile perimeter defenders. 

1. Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon 1
Picture Credit score: College of Houston Digital Librar/Wiki Commons.

Hakeem Olajuwon patrolled the paint with an athleticism and power by no means seen earlier than or since. Combining shot blocking, the flexibility to steal the ball, and a switchability throughout a time when facilities weren’t required to protect on the perimeter, Olajuwon’s defensive presence made him the very best participant ever on that finish of the ground and a two-time champion. 

2. Invoice Russell

Bill Russel
Picture Credit score: Wiki Commons.

Invoice Russell benefited from an period with no three-point line, which implies offensive gamers tended to assault the paint even after they knew Russell would swallow their photographs up each time. Even with this caveat, Russell’s protection pioneered the significance of the ability in basketball and was the idea for the best dynasty in NBA historical past. His leaping skill and intelligence made him the very best shotblocker of all time. 

3. Draymond Inexperienced

Draymond Green 1
Picture Credit score: Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Draymond Inexperienced is probably the most versatile defender in basketball historical past. Undersized at solely 6’6” or so, Inexperienced navigates the court docket with supreme ferocity and IQ, propelling the Golden State Warriors into the highest of the defensive rankings yearly with principally no different nice defenders on his group. He usually guards bigs and smalls on protection and serves virtually like a free security in soccer. 

4. Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan 1
Picture Credit score: Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Tim Duncan famously by no means received a Defensive Participant of the Yr award, proving the shortage of significance that accolade serves when evaluating expertise on the defensive aspect of the ground. Duncan completely shut entry to the basket down for 20 years with the San Antonio Spurs, usually serving because the catalyst of a group that routinely restricted opponents to round 70 factors per recreation. 

5. Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman
Picture Credit score: Tuomas Venhola – Personal work, CC BY-SA 1.0/Wiki Commons.

Dennis Rodman is the very best rebounder at his dimension in NBA historical past, however his protection went past cleansing the glass. Rodman launched a brand new sort of fashion to that finish of the ground within the Nineteen Eighties and Nineteen Nineties, initiating a novel velocity and quickness that gamers like Draymond Inexperienced would finally emulate within the current day on protection. 

6. Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen
Picture Credit score: Sea Cow, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Michael Jordan acquired a lot of the credit score for the Chicago Bulls’ success within the Nineteen Nineties, however Scottie Pippen virtually all the time defended the opposite group’s finest participant. This allowed Jordan to be at his finest on offense and preserve vitality. Pippen’s size and flexibility allowed him to close down anybody from Larry Fowl to Magic Johnson. Forwards like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have a number of Pippen of their defensive recreation at the moment. 

7. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls NBA (1954)
Picture Credit score: Chicago Bulls / Mark Carol Firm.

Michael Jordan’s aggressive protection on the perimeter within the early components of his profession separated him from different offensive-minded guards in NBA historical past. He is one of many solely gamers beneath 6’7” to ever win Defensive Participant of the Yr, and his massive arms and trash discuss acquired into his opponents’ heads incessantly. 

8. Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace
Picture Credit score: Jauerback, CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wiki Commons.

Ben Wallace completely demolished offensive attackers within the paint for the Detroit Pistons through the early 2000s. He fearlessly defended opposing facilities resembling Shaquille O’Neal even when he was a lot smaller and had no enterprise placing up such bodily resistance. Wallace is without doubt one of the solely gamers to win 4 Defensive Participant of the Yr awards. 

9. Dikembe Mutombo 

Dikembe Mutombo 
Picture Credit score: Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Dikembe Mutombo’s signature finger wag after a blocked shot served as an indication to his friends: enter the paint at your individual danger. Mutombo’s shot blocking is simply rivaled by gamers like Hakeem Olajuwon and Invoice Russell. He additionally received Defensive Participant of the Yr 4 occasions in his profession for groups just like the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks. 

10. Gary Payton

Gary Payton
Picture Credit score: Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Gary Payton stifled level guards and capturing guards the second they crossed half-court, making life depressing for others along with his large mouth and equally large recreation. The Seattle SuperSonics benefited tremendously from Payton’s exploits on protection, and Payton earned among the best nicknames in basketball: the Glove. 

11. Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett
Picture Credit score: Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Kevin Garnett’s brash angle and confidence degree, along with his elite leaping and velocity, made him the yin to Tim Duncan’s yang through the 2000s. Garnett introduced a aptitude to a protection that Duncan did not possess, making the soiled aspect of basketball way more enjoyable to observe. 

12. Sidney Moncrief

Sidney Moncrief Basketball player
Picture Credit score: College of Arkansas, Razorback pupil yearbook – Public Area/Wiki Commons.

Sidney Moncrief proved that small gamers might influence a recreation on protection simply as a lot as forwards and facilities might. Moncrief constantly challenged the likes of Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson within the backcourt, forcing Milwaukee into the title chase towards extra proficient gamers and groups within the East.

13. Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard
Picture Credit score: CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Kawhi Leonard began his profession as a defensive specialist. Together with his wingspan, hand dimension, and calm demeanor, there was no participant within the league Leonard could not harass and make life laborious on him. Leonard centered extra on offense as his profession went on however stays a power on that finish in his present state. 

14. Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain
Picture Credit score: Fred Palumbo, World Telegram/Wiki Commons.

Wilt Chamberlain towered over attacking gamers within the Sixties, blocking almost 9 photographs per recreation, in response to basketball historians. Whereas Invoice Russell used a extra measured method on protection, Wilt needed to intimidate gamers and block photographs as far into the stands as attainable. 

15. Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard 1
Picture Credit score: Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Dwight Howard utilized his otherworldly leaping skill to its fullest extent on protection, profitable three Defensive Participant of the Yr awards and blocking photographs at a startling clip with the Orlando Magic through the 2000s. His menacing presence helped lead the group to the NBA Finals in 2009. 

16. Bobby Jones

Bobby Jones with the Denver Nuggets in the late 1970s
Picture Credit score: Wiki Commons.

Bobby Jones was the spine of the Philadelphia 76ers through the Nineteen Seventies and Nineteen Eighties. He supplied the little intangibles that the group wanted alongside Julius Erving and Moses Malone. Jones leveraged his 6’9” body and wingspan to protect gamers each bigger and smaller than him. 

17. Walt Frazier

Walt Frazier
Picture Credit score: All-Professional Reels – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Walt Frazier was considered one of two level guards within the Nineteen Seventies that used protection as a real calling card. Frazier headed off the opposing group’s finest guard initially of each possession, making life a lot simpler for teammates like Willis Reed to defend the paint for the New York Knicks within the midst of their two title runs. 

18. Jerry West

Jerry West with the ball
Picture Credit score: Barry Bregman/Wiki Commons.

Jerry West did not benefit from All-Defensive accolades early in his profession however nonetheless was named to 4 first groups after the introduction of the respect within the late Sixties. West knew what made different offensive gamers battle resulting from his personal adept capturing and passing and used this to his benefit towards gamers like Oscar Robertson and the aforementioned Walt Frazier. 

19. Dennis Johnson

Dennis Johnson
Picture Credit score: Steve Lipofsky, Personal Work -CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Dennis Johnson was the glue the Boston Celtics and Seattle SuperSonics wanted to win championships within the Nineteen Seventies and Nineteen Eighties. One of many greater guards of his time interval, smaller gamers at his place discovered it inconceivable to get round DJ when he patrolled the perimeter. 

20. David Robinson

David Robinson, member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, and honored philanthropist, spoke at the Civil Rights Summit AUSTIN, APRIL 9
Picture Credit score: Marsha Miller, Personal Work – CC By 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The Admiral will get ignored in favor of his friends like Hakeem Olajuwon, however he most actually set a normal for defensive excellence lengthy earlier than Tim Duncan took the baton within the 2000s. Robinson was named to eight All-Defensive groups and received Defensive Participant of the Yr in 1992. 

21. Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert playing for France in friendly game against Germany on 30 August 2015
Picture Credit score: Jan Fante – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Rudy Gobert’s three Defensive Participant of the Yr awards could also be a bit extreme when evaluating his defensive influence to contemporaries like Draymond Inexperienced or Kawhi Leonard. Nonetheless, Gobert maintains an elite rim presence in an age that attempted to oust the massive man from the NBA. 

22. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
Picture Credit score: Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Kobe Byrant stored profitable All-Defensive honors lengthy after his efficiency on that finish of the ground began to wane. His repute as an important defender was earned within the first half of his profession, although. Kobe’s aggressive drive allowed him to stop rivals like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, and others from overtaking him. 


Shawn Laib is a author who has cherished all issues popular culture from a younger age. Rising up taking part in basic Nintendo video games and being launched to a wide range of motion pictures and exhibits, he all the time loved analyzing and attending to the underside of the purpose of a narrative. As he went into highschool, basketball and sports activities basically turned a important focus. Shawn determined to place his expertise in English class to good use and majored within the topic space on the College of Washington, graduating with a B.A. in 2020. He started his freelance writing profession after faculty with websites like SUPERJUMP, Den of Geek, and Quote.com. He now stays a fixture with publications like The Guide and Wealth of Geeks.


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