The Best Defensive Players in NBA History

The guys who weren't just flashy scorers (if at all) but really knew how to intimidate an offense. Don't agree with the list? Vote for an existing item you think should be ranked higher or if you are a logged in, add a new item for others to vote on or create your own version of this list.

The Top Ten

Bill Russell
Simply amazing. If blocks were a recorded stat back then, I don't even know how many he would've averaged. And if the Defensive Player of the Year award had been around then, who knows how many he would've won?
No doubt best winner in nba history, because of defense and athleticism
Wilt chamberlain is the best. dumb ass. you do not even have him in the top ten.
[Newest]Probably the only player to hold Wilt Chamberlain under 50 points in one game.


2Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem had some of the best footwork and athleticism ever seen in a big man, and these natural talents have him a clear advantage over almost all other November in his day. He currently ranks top 10 in steals (not just centers, everyone! ) and holds the NBA record for most career blocks. He was a 2-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and 5x All-Denfensive First Team. Simply put, he was the most dominant defensive player not only of his time, but perhaps of all-time.
Wow. This guy was just an incredible defender. Blocks, rebounds, steals, and overall intimidation were factors in getting himself 2 DPotY awards.
Hakeem the dream all around defender 9th in steals all time as a center AMAZING, surpass isiah, iverson even bird, "Wake me when its over-THE DREAM HAKEEM OLAJUWON!
[Newest]Not 1 other player is in the top 10 in steals and blocks, and now offense you got to be out of your mind if anyone is doing that again.

3Dennis Rodman
Personally, Rodman just got on my nerves after his decision to "be himself". With Detroit, he was awesome, but then he just got so annoying and stupid. But you CANNOT deny this guy's ability to play defense. He's got 2 DPotY awards to show for it.
The dude was Jordan's size and he won numerous rebounding titles. Do I have to say anymore. He didn't have muscles or size on him, all he did was hustle.
The worm was simply one of a kind on defense, Jordan was the one who got rodman to come to the bulls because he hated playing against him.
[Newest]To me there is no contest. No other player not just led but dominated the defense stats for so many years. And he was the only player that could contain the best (i.E. Jordan).

4Scottie Pippen
Best all around defender ever, on and off the ball. Scottie is so underrated! He was the best defender on a team that had Jordan and Rodman! That's saying a lot! Chuck Daily said Scottie was the best player on the Dream Team! Players and coaches, who would know, are the ones who rank him so highly. Fans tend to underrate Scottie, partly because he played next the the greatest player ever.
Scottie Pippen could shut the best top scoring players down regardless of how good they were. Michael Jordan was a great defensive player, but he took a backseat to Pippen. I still think Scottie was the best defensive player I have seen. He was all over the court, and he stuck to you like glue.
Pippen racked up the steals and blocks but his help defense was legendary. He could be all over the court harrassing everybody. I still remember when he was the catalyst in shutting down Utah's pick and roll and holding the Jazz to 54 points in the '98 Finals. He took charge after charge on Karl Malone. No one would ever have the guts to step in front of someone as big as Malone but Pippen did it multiple times.
[Newest]Best on-ball defense you will see anywhere.

5Michael Jordan
His determination with his intelligence and steals makes him best in my opinion... Besides his intuition and blocks for a shooting guard was extraordinary
He steal if he wants to, he blocks if he wants to.
He can stop his oponent with his amazing steals and block, he thinks defense before the offense

6Gary Payton
Come on guys its simple only point guard to win defensive player of the year and got it more than Michael Jordan
He is a beast he held Jordan to 23 points if not best defensive player, best defensive point guard!
[Newest]It's the glove he should at least be 3

7Ben Wallace
4 DPotY awards! Dikembe Mutombo was the only other player to get 4! But the difference is that Mutombo got his 4 over a stretch of 7 seasons, while it only took Ben 5 seasons to do so, as both pairs of awards were back to back. I'm so glad to see Big Ben back in Detroit, even if he is getting old.
Any Players who blow by the team defense must be on watch for Ben Wallace since he would came out of nowhere. The only person who taught me that Defense can be fun in Basketball.
No question he's the best


8Dikembe Mutombo
4 DPotY awards! Big Ben is the only other player to accomplish that.
Greatest shot blocker ever in NBA history Can make guys like Kobe nervous coming and driving through the line because he will embrass you
Most blocks in NBA history

9Wilt Chamberlain
Leading shot blockier in NBA history; a shame the stat was not kept during his time as a player, but he averaged close to double figures in blocks.
Only Russell is close, but Wilt is still ahead.
55 rebounds in a game! :D This guy was simply a beast and an intimidating behemoth on defense. He was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team twice.
Blocks were not recorded officially during his career, but in his final year, the NBA was doing a few "test" games, and he had 26 blocks.

10Kevin Garnett
I used to hate KG for all of his trash-talking but you have to respect his presence on defense. He inspired lackluster defenders Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to actually care about guarding someone. Because of Garnett, Rondo is an expert pickpocket and, because of The Big Ticket, Avery Bradley made a name for himself based on defense alone. KG's defense made other players better on defense and that's why he should be in the top 5.


No one can match KG's intensity on defense! He turned Boston, which was the worst defensive team into one of the best defensive teams ever. He is one of the best defensive leaders in NBA History.
KG blocks, steals, rebounds, all sorts of stuff. The crowd is like KG did this and that. Steals now Blocks now and Rebounds Now
[Newest]Defensive anchor! This guy has both offensive and defensive fundamentals!

The Contenders

11Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
One of the greatest shot-blockers of all time. His career total of blocks is the 3rd highest of all time, and it doesn't even include his first 4 seasons, as the league did not start recording blocks until the 1973-74 season. Disappointing that he didn't earn any DPotY awards. He deserved at least one.

12Lebron James
He can guard all 5 positions
Lebron is a awesome perimeter defender. He should be rated higher

13Dwyane Wade
Most blocks in history for a guard! Enough said!

14Moses Malone

15Kobe Bryant
He blocks with left hand... Remember that ray allen, deron williams and the new guy in portland!
Umm duhh he's been on a bunch of 1st team and 2nd team defensive teams!
9 all defensive first teams. come on he is as good in defense as well as his offensive ability

16Alonzo Mourning
Wow. If you've seen this guy play defense, then you know why he's on the list. He's also got 2 DPotY awards to show for it.

17Bruce Bowen
The guy is good. He completely stopped Lebron James in the 2007 finals. Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, and even Dirk Nowitzki say that he is the most irritating guy to defend them.
Bruce had as good defense as Jordan but was better because he never got caught with his cheating. He disrupted people so well.
Bruce Bowen was born to defend. He couldn't much of anything else, but man could he put a lockdown on players.

18Jerry West

19Maurice Lucas

20John Stockton
Absolutely loved watching John's explosive basketball playing! No better ball stealer!
Most steals ever... could d up Jordan, Gary Payton, magic.. whomever

21Steve Nash

22Sidney Moncrief
First player to win the DPotY award! And he wouldn't allow somebody else to become the DPotY until he got himself 2 in a row.

23Nate Thurmond

24Mark Eaton
5.56 Blocks per Game! Maybe Russell had more, but nobody has had higher numbers since the records have been kept
A very large human being!

25Tim Duncan
How is Tim Duncan # 25 he's the all time leader in blocks in NBA Playoff history and the man is a machine on defense give me a break this list is way off how can half these guys be above Duncan
Spurs been top 5 Defense and in playoffs every year of his career, enough said... Oh yeah, 3 titles too

26Michael Cooper
On the 1980's "Showtime" Lakers, his job was to stop the young MJ, and he did a great job.

27Kurt Rambis
Come on how was he not on before

28Shaquille O'Neal
While Shaq has never won the DPotY award, he has been named to the NBA All-Defensive 2nd team 3 times. I personally think his ability to defend is matched by very few others.

29Josh Smith

30David Robinson

31Ron Artest
This is a top 5 defensive player of all time. At the very least he is a top 3 wing/guard defender. This is mind-boggling to have him off the top ten list.
No Ron Artest on this list?

32Grant Hill

33Tony Allen
Come on men, he is the best defensive player in the league today

34Brian Scalabrine

35Draymond Green

36Mo Cheeks

37Lindsey Hunter
Just watch game film of him in DET against Miami on Wade and the other series against Parker and so on. The guy was incredible! It went unnoticed bescause he didn't get the playing time!

38Shawn Marion
The guy is a Swiss army knife he does it all
Marion top 10? No way... Bowen before him
This is bull. He should be in the top 10. He shut down lebron in the finals

39Tayshaun Prince

40Kevin Durant

41Carmelo Anthony

42Manute Bol
An excellent shot blocker.

43Kawhi Leonard

44Chris Paul
One of the toughest defenders at the guard position

45K.C. Jones
He's OD- Original Defender, and excelled at it

46Elvin Hayes
87.6 defensive rating in 1974-75, which is the second highest single season rating ever, behind only Ben Wallace

47Jason Terry
Easily top 3 defender all Time

48Larry Bird
He's so good he was in a McDonalds advert with Jordan

49Dwight Howard
Excellent shot blocker and excellent dunk and layup. Probably the best Center ever

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This list was created 5 years, 175 days ago and has been voted on over 500 times. This top ten list has been remixed 8 times.

Updated Sunday, March 22, 2015

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