The Best NBA Defenders of All Time

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Basketball’s premier defenders have the ability to stop players from shooting, deflecting passes or disrupting passing lanes.

These players possess the unique ability to guard multiple positions, keeping their team never out of the game. Although they don’t get as much recognition for their defense as other greats, they have been an important factor in helping teams win games.

The Best NBA Defenders of All Time
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Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace may not have had much offensive production, but he’s one of the greatest NBA defenders ever. A shot blocker and skilled rebounder, Wallace has earned four Defensive Player of the Year awards as well as being named to five All-NBA first teams.

His best season came in 2002-03 when he averaged 15.4 rebounds per game and 3.5 blocks per contest. Additionally, he was an integral part of Detroit’s 2003-2004 championship team which upset the heavily-favored Los Angeles Lakers in five games.

After a brief tenure with the Chicago Bulls, Wallace signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to replicate his success in the NBA; however, he did help improve their defense by playing limited minutes but being an integral part of it.

Wallace hails from White Hall, Alabama and attended a junior college for two years before transferring to Virginia Union – a Division II school where he played for former NBA star Charles Oakley. At Virginia Union, Wallace posted double-doubles and led the Panthers to an NCAA Division II Final Four appearance.

He was an average player at the start of his career, but he quickly made a name for himself as an effective defensive force after signing with the Washington Bullets in 1996. As part of their winning team that won the 1998-99 title and reached the NBA All-Star Game in 1999, he eventually traded to Detroit Pistons and became one of their premier defenders – holding opponents to just 96.7 points on average. He earned induction into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and is widely considered one of the top three NBA defenders ever since.

Scottie Pippen

In an NBA dominated by spectacular dunks and buzzer-beaters, it’s easy to overlook the defensive aspect of the game. Yet good defenders have always been essential components of an NBA team’s success; whether they were able to force turnovers, block shots or slow down opponents with relentless pressure.

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Scottie Pippen is a prime example of this principle. The 6-8 small forward led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships during the 1990s and has since earned himself induction into the Hall of Fame. He’s widely considered one of the greatest nba defenders ever, earning him widespread admiration amongst fans and peers alike.

He was a versatile player who could run the floor like a point guard, attack the boards like a power forward and shoot like a shooting guard. His athleticism and work ethic made him an excellent defender, able to use his strength and length to stop opposing players in their tracks.

His defense was particularly strong during the 1990s, as he helped guide the Bulls to their first three-peats. Throughout his career, he earned 10 All-Defensive Team nominations – 8 on the first team.

Pippen led the league in steals during his career, averaging 2.9 per game. Although he never earned the Defensive Player of the Year title, his efficiency as a defender allowed him to keep his team in games. Indeed, he outranked Michael Jordan when it came to Defensive Win Shares and had the highest Steal Rate among 6-8 or higher players during that span.

Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo was a star defensive player in the NBA for 18 seasons, earning two championship titles and being second only to Hakeem Olajuwon as an all-around performer.

In 1991, the Denver Nuggets selected him with the fourth overall pick and he quickly rose to stardom. In 1994 he helped lead his team to its first playoff berth; two years later he was part of the key players on the team that reached the finals in 2001.

Dikembe was renowned for his skills as a player, but he was also known for his philanthropic efforts. In 1997 he established the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve living conditions in his home country of Democratic Republic of Congo.

He was a member of Basketball Without Borders and traveled to Africa to promote the sport and bring awareness to issues in that region. In 2009 he was appointed NBA Global Ambassador, an honor which saw him travel around the globe celebrating the game and participating in charitable activities.

His charitable works earned him the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2001 and 2009.

After retiring, Mutombo continued his commitment to his native Democratic Republic of Congo by volunteering his time and resources. He served as a spokesperson for international relief agency CARE and was the first Youth Emmissary for UNDP.

David Robinson

David Robinson was born in Key West, Florida and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. His father Ambrose served in the Navy and their family often relocated due to his job duties.

At age six, he attended a special school for gifted children and graduated as a high school senior with a degree in mathematics. Following that, he fulfilled his promise to serve two years in the Navy before joining the NBA.

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While at Annapolis, Robinson led his team to three NCAA tournament appearances and earned himself College Player of the Year honors. Following graduation, he was selected as the first pick in the 1987 NBA draft by San Antonio Spurs.

Robinson quickly established himself as one of the Spurs’ top defenders and played an integral role in helping them win two NBA championships. Additionally, he earned Rookie and Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1990-1991.

He earned the distinction of NBA Most Valuable Player for 1994-1995, serving as a great leader and mentor to his teammates in the locker room.

He was an invaluable asset to the San Antonio Spurs, widely considered as one of the greatest NBA defenders ever. An expert shot blocker, his speed and size allowed him to lock down opponents both inside and outside the paint. Additionally, his impeccable timing made him a highly effective player.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett was an outstanding defender in his time, one of the best players of his generation and widely considered one of the greatest NBA defenders ever. His skill level allowed him to defend bigs as well as smaller guards and forwards with ease, plus he had remarkable rebounding ability which enabled him to secure rebounds in the paint.

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He was the first player drafted directly out of high school and began his NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves. His leadership on the team earned him eight consecutive playoff appearances as well as a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2004, for which he was named NBA MVP.

In 1997, he inked a six-year extension with the Timberwolves worth an amazing $126 million. Later that same year he joined the Boston Celtics and helped them win their second NBA championship in 2008.

In 2011-12, the Celtics started off slowly but ultimately finished strong to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in five years. Unfortunately, they were ultimately defeated by Miami Heat in seven games, prompting them to rebuild around younger players by trading Garnett and Paul Pierce with Brooklyn Nets in 2012.

Hakeem Olajuwon

In a world of spectacular dunks and buzzer-beaters, it’s easy to overlook the defensive side of basketball. However, there have been some legendary defenders in NBA history who played an essential role in helping their teams secure victories. Each has left behind an indelible mark on their teams’ history.

Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the best defenders in basketball history. He earned 9 All-Defensive selections, 2 Defensive Player awards and was twice an NBA champion while playing for Houston Rockets – leading them to back-to-back titles.

Olajuwon is renowned for his dream shake, spin moves, ball fakes and silky-smooth jumpers but it was his defense which truly set him apart. In fact, he holds the NBA record for blocks with 3,830 blocked shots – an astounding feat!

He was an outstanding rebounder, averaging more than 22 rebounds per game. Furthermore, his defensive skillset was renowned; he could defend both guards and centers with ease.

Russell was an undisputed powerhouse in the paint and one of the greatest centers in NBA history. His presence on court was undeniable, often blocking shots when his team needed it most.

Russell won 11 NBA championships during his career and is widely considered to be one of the greatest players in basketball history. He revolutionized how centers should play, leading many to call him one of basketball’s all-time greats.