The Top 10 NBA Defenders of All-Time

The Top 10 NBA Defenders of All-Time

The Top 10 NBA Defenders of All-Time

Photo by Sue Ogrocki / AP

The NBA has a long history, and it's not only about the stats when you try to define great defenders. However, the defensive intensity in their legends has an immutable characteristic that will keep them forever as integral figures of basketball lore. Here, we go in deep with the careers and defensive chops of the most elite defenders who ever played a basketball game.

1. Michael Jordan

  • Position: Shooting Guard
  • NBA Career: 1984-2003
  • DPOY 1988
  • NBA All-Defensive First Team selection: 9
  • Total steals: 2,514

One of the most impressive parts of Michael Jordan's game wasn't all his offensive skills but what he did on defense. His knack for executing when the stakes were at their all-time high was not exclusive to offense, though. He disrupted the game with his ability to get whites into passing lanes and off their spots defensively without even recording a steal. Jordan played stellar defense throughout his career, so he should be remembered as one of the best defenders ever.

2. Ben Wallace

  • Position: Center
  • NBA Career: 1996-2012
  • All-NBA Defensive Team: 6 selections (5 First Teams)

Ben Wallace was a defensive giant, standing just 6'9" but playing way bigger than his size. He was an absolute beast defensively because of his motor that never stopped. His incredible strength and athleticism, in general, made him one of the most feared defenders in NBA history. His back-to-the-basket dominance, ferocity in the paint, and nightly containment stopped him from straying too far off that path.

3. Dennis Rodman

  • Position: Power Forward
  • NBA Years: 1986-2000

His defense was excellent, making him one of the All-NBA Defensive Team mainstays based on versatility and pure skill. The fact that Rodman could defend such polarizing players, from tiny, quick point guards to the biggest men ever to play in a basketball jersey, demonstrates just how versatile and world-altering his impact on defense truly could be. His Defensive Player of the Year honors and NBA titles reinforce how much he has impacted a team's success just by his sheer defense.

4. Rudy Gobert

  • Position: Center
  • NBA Experience: 2013-present

Rudy Gobert has become a known defensive commodity possibly greater than any player of this era. 3x Defensive Player of the Year, 6x NBA All-Defensive First Team, it's hard to argue with Gobert as one of the best rim protectors today. Gobert is one of the better rim protectors in today's NBA, which has kept his status as a top defender.

5. Gary Payton

  • Position: Point Guard
  • NBA Years: 1990-2007

Gary Payton, aka "The Glove," was an absolute pest as a perimeter defender. He was an outstanding perimeter defender due to his tremendous footwork, quick hands, and tenacity. Payton could stop so many great scorers and then go toe-to-toe with a legend like Michael Jordan shows how good of a defender he truly is. As a floor general, his Defensive Player of the Year adds to this by highlighting just how good he is at that end and what an impact he has on games.

6. Tim Duncan

  • Profile: Power Forward/Center
  • NBA Years (1997-2016)

His eight All-Defensive First Team and seven All-Defensive Second Team nods, and his 15 total speaks to the same defensive prowess. In addition, his quality as a rim protector and overall defensive versatility distinguish him from other stalwarts on that side of the floor who changed games on both ends.

7. Tony Allen

  • Position: Shooting Guard
  • NBA Years Played: 2004-2018

He made six All-NBA Defensive Team selections thanks to his defensive tenacity and capacity to disrupt opponents' scoring opportunities. Even Kobe Bryant has said that Allen was his toughest defender, highlighting how good of a player he is on this side of the ball.

8. Hakeem Olajuwon

  • Position: Center
  • NBA Career: 1984-2002

 A dominant force, especially blocking shots and taking control of the paint on defense, is why Hakeem Olajuwon has a well-deserved place in the borders discussion regarding some of the best NBA defenders. His impact as a defensive stalwart is evidenced by his two Defensive Player of the Year awards and nine All-Defensive Team selections.

9. Scottie Pippen

  • Position: Small Forward
  • NBA Years: 1987-2004

When people talk about the best defenders in NBA history, Scottie Pippen is always brought up because of his defensive versatility and how much he helps any team on both ends. His tenacious defense led to multiple All-NBA Defensive teams, solidifying his role on that side of the ball.

10. Bobby Jones

  • Years Played in NBA: 12
  • Position: Power Forward

There has never been a player like Bobby Jones who affected the course of an NBA basketball game.  His defensive ability and what he meant to the game further support his place as one of the best defensive defenders in the history of the NBA.

 

This is a collection of the top 10 NBA defenders of all time, and they each left an undeniable effect on how the game would be played through their defensive prowess. They have changed how we see defense in the NBA and secured themselves spots among basketball's all-time elite defenders.


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