Which NBA franchise has had the best big men of all-time?

Dwight Howard’s press conference with Houston Rockets legends attending was the impetus for trying to figure out which NBA teams have the best big men of all-time. The quotes by Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabar about Howard not living up to the hype in Los Angeles helped as well.

So which NBA team had the best big men of all-time?

6. New York Knicks

The Knicks will always be best-known for Patrick Ewing, but Willis Reed had the biggest moment of any big man in team history and was part of the team’s last championship run. Tyson Chandler also has to be part of New York’s roster of great bigs because he has won a championship in Dallas and is one of the best centers in the league now.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

Moses Malone won Philly’s last title with Julius Erving, but many also remember Darryl Dawkins for his crafty game, shattering backboards and awesome nickname of “Chocolate Thunder” given to him by Stevie Wonder (of all people).

Wilt Chamberlain and Malone are the only ones to make this list for two teams. Wilt played in Philly for many years, but only four were with the Sixers. He won one NBA championship with the 76ers in 1967.  And, of course, Dikembe Mutombo made his best run with Allen Iverson in reaching the NBA Finals in 2001, and is the only guy on this list with his own GEICO commercial.

4. San Antonio Spurs 

David Robinson and Tim Duncan combined for two championships and three MVPs. Duncan also went on to win two more titles. Artis Gilmore was recently inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame as well, and he played five solid seasons with the Spurs, leading them to three playoff appearances and reached two All-Star games.

3. Boston Celtics

Bill Russell’s 11 rings say it all for him. After Russell, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish have to be part of the Celtics’ roster of great big men after combining with Larry Bird to win three championships. Kevin Garnett also has to be part of the picture as “the man” for Boston’s last title in 2008. Bill Walton helped out “big” in his Sixth Man of the Year award year for one of those Bird championships in 1986.

2. Los Angeles Lakers

This list has to to start with Wilt “the Stilt” Chamberlain and his stellar play for many years and one championship alongside Jerry West. Then, the other obvious names are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who teamed with Magic Johnson for five championships, and Shaquille O’Neal, who partnered with Kobe Bryant for three. The only controversial name may be Andrew Bynum.  But, he dominated when he got two rings with the Lakers. Pau Gasol deserves mention too for those last two titles and for the part he played in making Bynum look so good.

Vlade Divac can’t be forgotten. He helped lead the Lakers to six playoffs in seven seasons and helped Johnson get to his last Finals appearance, losing to Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in their first championship season.

Houston Rockets big men

1. Houston Rockets

Dwight Howard has made the difference, as he puts Houston over the top besting all other NBA teams for the best collection of big men of all-time. It is up to Howard to maintain Houston’s spot atop the others. He will need multiple NBA Finals appearances and a championship to do so. Hakeem Olajuwon and his two championships are remembered for including Clyde Drexler with him for one of them and for his shakes and bakes in the post. And, don’t forget the original Twin Towers of Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson paired together.

Yao Ming makes the list for his eight All-Star appearances and awesome battles with Shaq. Then, there’s Moses Malone on his original NBA team, which he took to five straight playoff appearances and an NBA Finals loss to the Celtics. Elvin Hayes gets an honorable mention for finishing his career where he went to college. He also played for the Rockets when they were in San Diego, before moving to Houston.

It is the variety and contemporary nature of the Rockets that seals the deal.  Without Sampson and Ming, the nod would have to go to the Lakers.

Getting all of those Rocket ‘big men’ together at the same time in one room was like seeing all the living U.S. Presidents at one time. It’s a rare occurrence, but Howard’s presser brought it together (but still no Malone in the pic above).

Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com

Which NBA franchise has had the best big men of all-time?

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About Howard M Alperin

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  1. Sorry, but I’d have the Lakers way ahead of the Rockets on this one. If I made a list of the greatest centers of all time, Wilt, Kareem and Shaq would ALL rank ahead of any of the Rockets centers (Hakeem would be my top one of that group). Yes, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are in that mix. So are Vlade Divac, Dwight Howard (he did lead the NBA in rebounding his one year with LAL) and Sam Perkins. Connie Hawkins didn’t have the greatest Laker career, but was a Hall Of Famer. Maurice Lucas, Spencer Haywood and Mychal Thompson were also Lakers.

  2. Howard M Alperin says:

    I agree on Vlade Divac, especially for his passing game and shifty work underneath offensively using the backboards. I will add him. thanks. the others I would pass on. I’d say that some are in the hall of the very good.

  3. Howard M Alperin says:

    what about Marcus Camby, should he have a spot on the Knicks. He helped on one good run to the Finals when Ewing went down and NY lost to the Spurs.

  4. Rob Duren III says:

    I pick the Lakers as having the all-time best big men ever !!! Just don’t forget to add Dave Robisch,Chuck Nevitt & Swen Nater to the list of Laker big men !!!

  5. George Shouse says:

    I’m guessing that anyone who calls Wilt “the stilt” does not know much about him or is intentionally using a nickname that Wilt hated to devalue him. And how do you leave out George Mikan? You’ve got Elvin Hayes for San Diego so it can’t be a MN vs CA thing. So, why is there a shot-blocking rule? Why is there a 3-second rule? Why was the lane widened? Mikan and The Dipper.

  6. reality check says:

    You’ve got to be kidding? Houston’s not even number 2 because that horror would go to Boston, FYI, Howard has played more games for the Lakers then he has for Houston, so at the very least he would be a push between the 2 teams. The Lakers top 3 of Shaq, Kareem, and Wilt blow away any thing Houston can put out there. Heck the combo of Mikan, Vlady, and Pau are more impressive than and 3 combo that Houston can put together. Those 3 alone have 7 Ships compared to all of Houstons big men combined of 2 Ships. Get real

  7. You forgot George Mikan. He led the Lakers to their first 5 championships!

  8. Broseidon says:

    I kind of threw up in my mouth when he mentioned Tyson Chandler.

    If someone makes a top 5 best center list of all time, you don’t ask that person how many of em are lakers, you ask how many of em are not…

    Championships, mvps, records, TALENT…the Lakers overwhelm everybody else when it comes to Centers. Wilt and Mikan are enough to say they’re the best.

    Wilt,Mikan,Kareem, Shaq, Divac, Pau, Bynum…

  9. Roberto Martin says:

    Dumb article. Is this dude from Houston by any chance? The Lakers should’ve be number 1 AND 2!

    Bigs ring count playing WITH team:

    Abdul-Jabbar 5
    Mikan 5
    O’Neal 3
    Gasol 2
    Bynum 2
    Chamberlain 1

    Olajuwon 2
    Hayes 0
    M. Malone 0
    Sampson 0
    Yao 0

    I rest my case. Please revise your list!

    • James Welsh says:

      If you’re going by rings, then the Celtics are number one:
      Russell – 11
      Cowens – 2
      Parish – 3
      McHale – 3
      Walton – 1
      Garnett – 1

  10. The writer is a fool. Now I feel dirty for clicking on this link.

    Ask anyone who has any basketball IQ, and Lakers are a no brainer for best Bigs of all time with the Celtics in second.

  11. Was this guy drunk when he made Houston #1. Read a Basketball history book. The first famous big man was George Mikan, Ummmm Oh he was a Laker!!!!!. Followed by Chamberlan, Kareem, Shaq, Bynum and Gasol. Are you kidding.

  12. Are you kidding?!!!

  13. Roberto is correct,rings does count.

  14. just to answer some thoughts on the comments section: George Mikan was left off the list because he didn’t play in Los Angeles. Originally, when I wrote the article, Vlade Divac was left off and this was a mistake. Adding Vlade makes me want to switch the one and two on the list, but the article was mainly written with Dwight in mind as he is the one player still playing who is out there that can impact this list the most. If he wins a couple of championships, then Houston is still solid as the favorite pick. Like I mention, the underdogs were Ralph and Yao. If you add them with Moses, Hakeem and Dwight, I think they outshine Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, Divac, Bynum and Gasol, but not by much.

    • Dannyept1 says:

      Dwight can play all he wants even though he proves himself he is still not close to the list the Lakers have. On top of that there are 3 centers from the Lakers that are in the top 10 leading scorers in the NBA Olajuwon is 9th. Lakers 1 Celtics 2 the rest I dont care

    • You are obviously a Houston fan who doesn’t understand or appreciate NBA history. Kareem, Wilt, Shaq all are mentioned when discussing the greatest PLAYERS of all time. In that conversation for Houston? Only Hakeem. Howard is no Shaq, Kareem or Wilt. He’s a great player but not on the same level. Add Mikan to the conversation and this article is even more of a joke than it already is.

    • Cannibal1 says:

      This article made me laugh. And your comment defending it made me laugh harder. Im bored at work, thanks for the chuckle.

      Yao didnt even play his whole career, it was cut short. and when he did play, he didnt win a ring.

      Have you even noticed that EVERY SINGLE BIG MAN on the Laker list has wont titles with them (except Vlade, the guy you claim puts the Lakers over the top)? And you still defend Houston. Geez, I wonder where you are from hahahaha.

      Even without Vlade having a title, the Laker bigs still have more rings than Houston. Hell, SHAQ had more rings with the Lakers in 8 yrs than your entire franchise throughout history!

      Now let’s see what bullshit you post defending it further.

  15. Your a dumba** says:

    Your an idiot, if you add Howard to the Houston list, you have to add him to the Lakers list as well. And if your making the list based on Championships (because your giving Houston credit for Howard if he delivers 2 Championships) then the list would be Wilt =1, Kareem = 5, Shaq = 3, and Bynum =2 for a total of 11 vs Houston with Akeem = 2, and a long shot of Howard = fantasy = 2? Since when does 11 Championships out weigh 4 fantasy Championships?????? and thats not even including Mikan

  16. how many championships are taken away from lakers without Kobe? this list is more about seven foot centers.

  17. What an Idiot! Notice how Howard is the shortest in the picture above? You are obviously an ignorant D-bag with no knowledge of NBA history. Why did this site allow such a dipstick to scrawl his worthless opinion?????

  18. Roberto Martin says:

    Your a dumba** is absolutely right. You would have to add Dwight to the Lakers list which favors the Lakers even more. haha! There are so many flaws in this article that I am officially refusing to add more energy and thoughts to this debate. It’s a waste of time and completely pointless. Just get rid of this article and I’ll just pretend that this never existed. Deal?

  19. JTTrotter says:

    The list is completely wrong. The Celtics have had the best big men. The author shows that he is not a student of the history of basketball. At 6’9”, one of the top three centers of his era was Dave Cowens. He had great athleticism, was physical, highly skilled, and was one of the few centers of his era who could neutralize Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was the centerpiece of two Celtic NBA championships. A seven time All-Star, Cowens was NBA Most Valuable player in 1973. He played on Celtic teams during the years between the retirement of Bill Russell and the year of Larry Bird’s entry into the NBA. Dave Cowens is in the Basketball Hall of Fame and was one the list of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. Not including Dave Cowens when considering the teams with the best centers is unforgivable.

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