The Best Defensive Players in NBA HistoryThe guys who weren't just flashy scorers (if at all) but really knew how to intimidate an offense.
The Top Ten
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?
Your ignorance of the competition in Russell's era doesn't count against him. He had many talented players besides Chamberlain to contend with and his dominance is unsurpassed. - Billyv
No doubt best winner in nba history, because of defense and athleticism
It is believed by many that if blocks were a recorded stat during his playing time, that Bill Russell would've averaged double digits in blocks per game, add that to the 15.1 points per game, and the 22.5 rebounds per game, more than likely Bill Russell averaged a triple double throughout his career.
I'm a pretty short guy in basketball terms, but this guy taught me how to be a great defensive player. Never overpursuing (putting yourself out of position to make a play), getting in the right spot for a rebound and ultimately shutting down any consistent points against you.V 26 Comments
Hakeem was a complete and versatile defenders. You could not run pick an roll with Hakeem. He could legit guard any player on the floor, even the fastest point guards and shut them down and get turnovers off them. Very agile and quick player with long arms. Combined that quickness and instincts from playing soccer goalie as a youth helped him find steals in the lane and strip balls in the paint. That why he was top 10 in steals all time, getting 2 -2.6 steal per game a year for five years. Compare that Kobe Bryant at 2.2 SPG only once. That quickness also allowed him surprise players and get into position for blocks, recover from being out of position of being potentially beat to get blocks.
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.
Yeah the dream had unparalleled footwork. shaq out muscled him but Dream finessed him. dream shake!V 11 Comments
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.
Dennis has shut down everybody on the inside/short/mid-range when the NBA was at it's most competitive. A stat that is not measured is forcing the best players to pass the ball to someone else because they were being to well guarded and reducing the team's overall point totals and Rodman did that to EVERYONE and every Team. Now, Larry Bird did torch Rodman from the outside in his rookie season, but Rodman learned quickly and became the Best Defender and one of the best Rebounders of all time.
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.
He could defend anyoneV 30 Comments
I saw Jordan's entire career. I grew up in Boston and was a huge Celtics and Larry Bird fan. I also played basketball my whole life thru college. Michael Jordan is by far the best basketball player of all time, people can argue for #2 but there is a big gap between #2 and #1.
Every night, when it came time to take over the game, he took the game over. Every single night! There was no answer for this guy, plain and simple. The Detroit Pistons of the late 80's were probably the greatest defensive team of all time and Isaiah Thomas said Jordan made them look like high school kids. His defense doesn't get the recognition it deserves because they usually put Pippen on the other teams best defender. That wasn't because Pippen was a better defender, it was to keep Jordan fresh for the offensive end. But when Jordan locked you down that was it! Your scoring streak and hot hand quickly cooled! He was smothering on defense, quicker and more explosive than Pippen. If somebody had a good game ...more
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.
His defense game was better than offense, watch his last move in Chicago at 1998, stealing the ball from one of the best players ever in the Nba and take one of the best shots in the history of the NBA 20 secinds later..It was a combination of his greatness in the those 2 relms...Jordan is the GOAT by far from JamesV 13 Comments
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.
He was the best all around defenderV 22 Comments
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!
The Glove is definitely the best defensive guard in NBA history, locked down 3 positions at point guard, and didn't take risks. If you watched tape you would know he's a better defender than Jordan.
His shoes always on the floor and moving and his mind was completely in the game.V 16 Comments
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
He invented the finger wag because of all the shots he blocked
Yes.. best defensive player dikembe mutomboV 4 Comments
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.
Best defensive center of all time. Had the quickness to pick pocket guards, strength to hold back over sized centers like Shaq, and led his team to an NBA championship just off his defense. Very underrated player and should be higher on this list.
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.
Ben wallace is the goatV 12 Comments
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.
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. - bishop.moore07
KG blocks, steals, rebounds, all sorts of stuff. The crowd is like KG did this and that. Steals now Blocks now and Rebounds Now
beastV 5 Comments
Lebron has a better defensive rating than a lot of people above him on this list including Michael Jordan per season and also a better defensive box plus minus.
He is great at intercepting passes and swiping the ball in on-ball defense. You'll never see him coming but he is just behind you and about to swat your shot
Top ten defender he has a shot at making top ten all time steals and he's is better then Kobe Bryant no question
He is a godV 18 Comments
7'1" + 9'6" standing reach + 46" vertical, world record touching 13'6" next closest is 13'0" with plenty of guys touching 12'10". Wilt is physically an outstanding outlier in the history of humanity. No surprise he was averaging in the vicinity of 10 blocks per game for his CAREER to go along with 23 rebounds per game.
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.
Blocks were always an official "internal" stat for the Philadelphia 76'ers. For the 138 games that Wilt played for that organization, he AVERAGED an amazing 8.8 blocks per game, though it was not recognized by the NBA at the time.
BETTER THAN BILL RUSSELLV 11 Comments
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.
Better than a lot of people before him on this list
The skyhook most dominant shoot I ever seen by far
Kareem is the best...Plain and simple. He owned the key and rarely they exist highlights of non-centers making him look bad, except for the Doc J. 13 times all Defense, Won rebounding titles, embarrased Patrick Ewing who was much younger, Blocked shots of both The Dream AND Ralph Samson in the same game! Blocked Wilt's shot, then dunked in his face.Not too many people want to mention that though. For all his accomplishments, he still gets hate on for his defenseV 3 Comments
Well, he's better than Lebron that's for sure.
He blocks with left hand... Remember that ray allen, deron williams and the new guy in portland!
Kobe is the greatest perimeter lock down defender ever. Hi could defend 3 positions, that's why he was 12 times All defensive team.
12 All-Defense!V 12 Comments
YOU GONNA SAY HE AIN'T #1 HE LOCKED UP Lebron in the finals and took finals MVP and his huge hands and long wingspan makes him such a great defender. Also the stats prove it lead the league in steals in the 2015 NBA seasonand can play monster defense both off and on the ball!
The best perimeter defender in the league atm
Kawhi is the best defensive player in the game
He’s not just the best defender right now, maybe the best of all time, that’s saying a lot!V 8 Comments
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.
Way too low on this list...disappointed in all of you
Here lies the greatest defensive player of all-time. Ask ANY center that played against him and you will hear them all say Nate was the toughest. Only man able to block Kareem's sky hook. First man to record a quadruple double and would have had many more if blocks were recorded in his time. Even at 35, when he played against Celts in eastern finals in 76, Cowens said it was like having a curtain in front of him.
RIP Big Nate!
Toughest defender according to Larry Bird.
On the 1980's "Showtime" Lakers, his job was to stop the young MJ, and he did a great job.V 1 Comment
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
In the last 30 years, Spurs teams with Duncan had 3 of the 4 top best defense team rating allowing the lowest amount of buckets in 100 possessions. Duncan had the #1 individual defensive rating for seasons four seasons. He has x8 all defense 1st team x7 all defense 2nd team. Even the current old version is a solid defender. Just watch him carefully and he always made the right rotation, at the right time, and got one or two hands straight up to effects the shot. A strong man to man defender but excellent team help defender.
Great post dV 7 Comments
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.
Severely underrated. Offense is a lot about getting to spots and he was just too strong to be pushed away.
Incredibly versatile, naturally strong athletic defender, closest thing to Rodman since Rodman. Deservedly won DPotY award.V 3 Comments
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 Bowen was born to defend. He couldn't much of anything else, but man could he put a lockdown on players.
Bruce had as good defense as Jordan but was better because he never got caught with his cheating. He disrupted people so well.
Locked up LeBron and Dirk. Who else can say thatV 4 Comments
Should be ranked higher than Jordan and kobe but not higher than payton all time in defense. Some folks need to go back to AP NBA History and get their facts straight. This guy was the best defensive guard besides Payton and maybe a case can be made for some that aren't even on this list.
Steals were not recorded during his playing days, but he is likely in the top 3 all-time.
Come on men, he is the best defensive player in the league today
Kobe said he was the best defender he ever played against, not Lebron, not Leonard, not Artest, but Tony Allen.
1st team all defense
FIRST TEAM ALL DEFENSE!
Most blocks in history for a guard! Enough said!
Not really but if you say so
Amazing Player! Best Ever!
With consistent defensive performance, he should be in the top 20 by the end of the 2015-2016 season.
Good defensive player, high basketball IQ allows him to read plays and be in good position to try and stop them. Hustles to make defensive plays.
I'm ready for Vince Carter to poster his trash talking self and maybe get him to shut up once and for all. Steph and Klay are what make your team lol
Today he maube the best defender both help.and individual.defense. he can guard anyone in the nba right now..
DpotY, that season he had 4.5 blocks per game to go along with 2.3 steals per game, and yes that is an all-time NBA record for Bpg + Spg in a season (not counting Wilt and Russel). Consistently around 3.5 Bpg and 1.6 Spg for 6 other seasons. Really should be around #10-11 ahead of easily ahead of Lebron, Kobe, Garnet, Jerry West, Bruce Bowen, Wade, and Nash... and probably Moses Malone and Artest as well
DPotY 91-92, in that year he averaged 4.5 Bpg + 2.3 Spg which is all-time NBA record for Bpg + Spg in a season (not counting Wilt and Russel). Also averaged 3.5 Bpg + 1.6 Spg for the OTHER 6 of his first 7 seasons. Really should be around #10-11.
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.V 1 Comment
Best Ole defender as he would just let people go right past him all the time
No he is good.
Stockton always seem to be underrated in these kind of lists. Unfortunately, that's what you get for not trash talking, not showboating, and making simple and effective decisions. He can't afford to be wasteful at his size.
Absolutely loved watching John's explosive basketball playing! No better ball stealer!
How is Stock not higher?!?!? All time steals leader? That is ALL heart and hustle.
Evidently, people need a lesson in defense. J.S. is the all time leader in steals and has a third more than most of the other leader including Jordan. The only other player that compares with him is Jason Kidd.V 1 Comment
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.
He's just a beast that's all I can say
The only player other than Rodman to stop Akeem.
James is a great defender
His defensive style has never seen before, he is in a different level.
This guy should be #1 - b4tm4n333
godV 1 Comment
Why is he even on this list? LOL
LOL...you can't be serious. This guy can score and that's it!
He's the bes playa ever to pla the game that's y he's the goat
One of the toughest defenders at the guard position
5.56 Blocks per Game! Maybe Russell had more, but nobody has had higher numbers since the records have been kept
What! Lebron and Wade over one of the greates shot-blockers in history?V 1 Comment
He's so good he was in a McDonalds advert with Jordan
A brilliant all rounder, should be much higherV 1 Comment
Oh my HE SAYS GET THAT CYLINDER THING OUT OF THERE ON EVERY BLOCK
Come on how was he not on before
This dude was a joke, I'm sure his name being here is a joke, but seriously this guy couldn't defend a statue
The best defender I've ever seen play. The real GOAT
The White Mamba is the greatest player to ever step on a basketball court, he singlehandedly carried the Celtics to the finals and carried them the whole series, he also locked down every player he guarded
His 700 block per game and 600 steals per game make the greatest defender of all time! AND LETS NOT FORGET HIS 800 POINTS PER GAME AND WHEN HE KNOCKED DOWN 600 THREES IN ONE GAMEV 2 Comments
Excellent shot blocker and excellent dunk and layup. Probably the best Center ever
How is he down here?! He is awesome at blocking - qwee
The man won DPOY THREE years in a ROW! One of the most dominant defensive big men in his heyday with the Magic. Should be WAAY higher.
For a couple of years...probably the best player I ever saw.V 1 Comment
Before he hurt his ankle he was great. Watch YouTube videos of him.
Eliminated guys from the floor to the point where they simply would not get the ball. He never got tired and could lockdown for the whole game while scoring 20 or more every night
An anchor on the great Celtics teams one of the best defenders on the teams that featured Bill Russell
Hondo at 55 would be 55. Prime top 10.
He stole the ball!V 1 Comment
He can make you have no where to go on the court!
Related ListsGreatest Defensive Players in MLB History Best NBA Defensive Players of the 2017-2018 Season Best Defensive & Rebounding Players On NBA 2K12 Best Defensive Ends In NFL History Best NFL Defensive Players
8 years, 239 days old
Top Remixes (12)
2. Dikembe Mutombo
3. Michael Cooper
2. Hakeem Olajuwon
3. Dikembe Mutombo
2. Hakeem Olajuwon
3. Gary Payton
View All 12