Episode three of ESPN’s last dance was focused on former Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman.
Rodman is considered as one of the best defensive players of all-time and one of the best rebounders to ever set foot on an NBA basketball court. The Worm led the NBA in rebounding for seven consecutive seasons from 1992-98.
But while Rodman’s rebounding numbers looked astronomical during his era, other players were dominant than the Worm off the glass. Comparing players from different eras is almost impossible but after a thorough review, we’ve come up with the list of the best rebounders in the history of the NBA:
1. Bill Russell
Bill Russell isn’t just the Lord of the Rings. He is also the Lord of the Boards. Russell is the winningest player in NBA history with a total of 11 NBA titles won. But he is also the first player in the history of the league to average at least 20 rebounds per game.
He ranks second overall in the NBA’s all-time rebounding list and considering the player in only a total of 13 NBA seasons, pulling down 21,620 boards is remarkable. Russell averaged at least 20 rebounds in 10 of his 13 NBA seasons. He holds the record for most rebounds in a half with 32 and his career-best 51 is second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s personal best of 55.
2. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain was one of the most dominant big men in the history of the game and holds the record for most points scored in a single NBA game with 100. But aside from his offensive prowess, Chamberlain was also a rebounding demon whose dominance off the glass was rivaled only by the great Bill Russell.
Chamberlain is the NBA’s all-time leading rebounder and is also the career-leader in rebounding average. He led the NBA in rebounding during 11 seasons and his 55 rebounds in a single NBA game still stands as the highest ever in the history of the league. He played in a total of 1,045 games, grabbed a total of 23,924 rebounds, or an average of 22.9 rebounds per game.
3. Nate Thurmond
Nate Thurmond was the 3rd overall pick in the 1963 draft by the San Francisco Warriors. He was a seven-time All-Star and was the first player to record a quadruple-double in the NBA. In 1965, Thurmond grabbed 42 rebounds in a single game. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell have ever grabbed more in one night.
Nate the Great averaged at least 20 rebounds in two different seasons. He is ranked 8th overall in total rebounds and fifth overall in rebounds per game. Thurmond, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell are the only players in the history of the NBA to pull down at least 40 rebounds in one game.
4. Moses Malone
Moses Malone was one of the most successful players to come out of high school. The third-round pick of the 1974 draft by the Utah Stars was a three-time NBA MVP and an eight-time All-NBA team member. Malone led the Philadelphia 76ers to the 1983 NBA titles and was named Finals MVP during that season.
Malone is the all-time leader in offensive rebounds at 6,731 for his career. He also ranks 5th all-time in total rebounds and third overall including his ABA statistics. His 7.2 offensive rebounds per game average during the 1979 season is the best in the history of the league. He also led the NBA in rebounding in six different seasons.
5. Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman finally enters our list at #5. The Worm joined the NBA as a first-round pick of the Detroit Pistons in 1986. He quickly became one of the best defensive players in the league as a member of the notorious Bad Boys team that won back to back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. He later joined Michael Jordan and the Bulls and won three more NBA titles with them.
The two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner led the NBA in rebounding in a record seven straight seasons, including a remarkable 18.7 rebounds per game during the 1992 season. He ranks 19th all-time in rebounding and 11th in rebounding average. Although he isn’t among the top in both lists, his knack to get the rebound is unparalleled. He is one of the scrappiest and hardest working rebounders ever and is the only non-center in the Top 5 of our list.
6. Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon was the top pick in the 1985 NBA draft where Michael Jordan went third. But despite MJ achieving more than him, the Dream justified himself as the #1overall pick with a Hall of Fame career where he won back to back NBA titles with the Houston Rockets and was a 12-time member of the All-NBA team.
Olajuwon is one of only nine players from the ABA/NBA to grab at least 4,000 offensive rebounds in his career. He is also ranked 11th all-time in total rebounds, and 28th in rebounds per game. The Dream is also a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year awardee.
7. Bob Pettit
Bob Pettit was the first recipient of the NBA’s MVP award and is one of two NBA players (the other is Kobe Bryant) to win the NBA All-Star game MVP four times. He was the second overall pick in the 1954 NBA draft. At 6-9, Pettit was also one of the best rebounding forwards in the history of the league.
He is the 14th best rebounder in the history of the game in terms of total rebounds but he played just 11 seasons. His 16.2 career rebounding average is third-best in the history of the NBA and he averaged 20.1 rebounds per game during the 1961 NBA season. He also holds the All-Star game record with 27 boards. Pettit averaged at least 20 points and 12 rebounds per game in each of his eleven NBA seasons.
8. Jerry Lucas
Jerry Lucas was the Cincinnati Royals’ territorial pick in 1962. He was the 1964 Rookie of the Year and MVP of the All-Star game in 1965. He finished his career with five All-NBA team selections and seven All-star game appearances. He won the NBA championship in 1973 with the New York Knicks.
Lucas wasn’t a big jumper nor was he a monster underneath the basket but he was a very excellent rebounder. He ranks 13th overall in rebounding and is well ahead of the likes of Bob Pettit and Charles Barkley. Lucas averaged at least 20 rebounds per game in two seasons. He also ranks 4th all-time with an average of 16.2 rebounds per game.
9. Elvin Hayes
Elvin Hayes was the San Diego Rockets’ #1 overall pick in 1968. He was the 1969 NBA scoring champion and was a 12-time NBA All-Star and a three-time member of the All-NBA First Team. He teamed up with Wes Unseld to lead the Washington Bullets to three appearances in the NBA Finals, winning the NBA title once in 1978.
In 1979, Hayes set an NBA Finals record with 11 offensive rebounds, a record that only Dennis Rodman has been able to match. Hayes ranks 4th in the NBA’s rebounding list and is 14th overall in rebounding average. He is one of the game’s best power forwards and one of the best rebounders in the history of the NBA.
10. Charles Barkley
An NBA rebounding list would not be complete without the Round Mound of the Rebound. At 6-6, Charles Barkley was an undersized forward who also looked overweight during some of his prime years. However, he was one of the most ferocious players on the basketball court and makes our list mainly because of his accomplishments despite his physical limitations.
Barkley averaged in double-digit rebounding throughout his career. He ranks 15th all-time in total rebounds and is 21st overall in rebounds per game. Barkley is one of only nine players from the NBA and ABA to pull down at least 4,000 offensive rebounds. He is 6th in that list and is the shortest player in the Top 10 of that list.