NBA playoff season is in full swing and there have been a number of big steals so far. In honor of this, here are the top 10 best NBA defenders of all time. The list goes in descending order from David Robinson to Magic Johnson, with each player’s stats for their career on the bottom.

The NBA is full of great defenders, and this list should let you know which you should be most pleased to see on your own team. The guys on this list are all great strategically and tactically, and they should be able to lead their team to a championship. Some of the players on this list may not be the fastest and strongest players, but their ability to think and to react to what’s going on makes them great defenders.

What is a defender in basketball?

A defender is a player who guards the opposing team’s offensive players. They try to stop them from scoring by blocking shots, stealing the ball, and forcing turnovers.

Alternatively, we can tell, a defender is a player assigned to guard a specific player on the opponent’s team. A key defender is a player that a team relies on to “stop” the opponent’s best player.

What does defensive rating mean in NBA?

Defensive rating is a statistic that represents the number of points a player’s team allows per 100 possessions while he is on the court.

That means Defensive rating is a statistic that measures a player’s ability to prevent opposing players from scoring. It is a measure of a player’s defensive contribution, and it is calculated by subtracting a player’s percentage of personal fouls from 100.

List of the Top 10 NBA Defenders of All Time

In the history of the NBA, there have been many greats when it comes to guards and big men. Who are the best NBA defenders of all time? Here is a list of the 10 best NBA defenders:

10. Metta Sandiford-Artest (Ron Artest)

Former NBA Player Metta Sandiford Artest
Metta Sandiford-Artest

Born on 13th November 1979, Metta is commonly known simply as Ron Artest. In 2011, he changed his name to Metta World Peace. He was drafted in the first round of the 1999 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls as 16th overall. Throughout his career, World Peace has been known for his unorthodox behavior and volatile temper, which has led to him acquiring the nickname “The Panda’s Friend”.

Metta Sandiford-Artest is an NBA defender. He played for the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, and Los Angeles Lakers, etc. He is an NBA champion in 2010.

Ron Artest is a 6’7″ small forward from La Salle Academy High School in Manhattan, New York. He played college basketball at the University of St. John’s.

9. Bruce Bowen

Former NBA Player Bruce Bowen
Bruce Bowen

His defensive skills were unmatched in the NBA. He is known for his 3-point defense. He was able to lock down the best shooters in the game; he is the best example of shot-blocking.

Bruce Bowen is a retired American professional basketball player. He was born in 1971 and was drafted in 1993. He was a three-time NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs. In his 16-year NBA career, Bowen played with the Spurs, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, etc.

He was an NBA defender and a defensive specialist that was known for his ability to shut down the best offensive players in the league.

Bowen was awarded 5-time NBA All-Defensive First Team and 3-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team. He is best known for making clutch defensive plays and being a pest to the stars on the other teams.

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8. Dikembe Mutombo

Former NBA Player Dikembe Mutombo
Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo is a 7’2″ center from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is the best shot-blocker in the history of basketball. He has a wingspan that is longer than most players.

The NBA Defender Mutombo was the 4th overall pick in the 1991 NBA Draft. He was drafted by the Denver Nuggets. He played for the Nuggets for five seasons before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks. He also played for the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, and Houston Rockets.

Four times NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award winner, Dikembe Mutombo was one of the most intimidating figures in the game, blocking shots with his outstretched long arms.

7. Michael Jordan

Former NBA Player Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He has won six NBA championships, five MVP awards, fourteen NBA All-Star Game appearances, three All-Star Game MVP awards, two Olympic gold medals, and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996. MJ was the ultimate leader on the court.

Jordan is a shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. He was born on 17th February 1963 and grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina. He attended Emsley A. Laney High School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He was drafted 3rd overall in 1984 by the Chicago Bulls. He has won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year title in 1988, and nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team.

6. Bill Russell

Former NBA Player Bill Russell
Bill Russell

William Felton Russell is a retired African-American basketball legend, hall of fame inductee, and considered one of the best basketball players of all time. 

In his 13-year playing career in Boston Celtics, Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships, the most in the NBA in the 1950s and 1960s. He won five of them when he was named MVP in all five of those years. In addition, he won five more in the playoffs. In the six years that he was an active player, he did not miss a single game for the Celtics.

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5. Kawhi Leonard

NBA Player Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard is a two-time NBA champion and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He is a 6-foot-7, 225-pound small forward who is known for his defensive prowess. When Kawhi Leonard hits the floor, you can pretty much guarantee something great is about to happen for the San Antonio Spurs.

Leonard is a professional basketball player who played for the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors. Now he plays for the Los Angeles Clippers from 2019.

He was born on 29th June 1991 and hails from Los Angeles, California. Despite his relatively short NBA career, Leonard is already a defensive great. He has been named to the NBA Defensive Player of the Year two times in 2015 and 2016. He is also has been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team for the three seasons from 2015 to 2017.

In addition to his defensive abilities, Leonard was also named two times NBA Finals MVP in 2014 and 2019 for his role.

4. Dennis Rodman

NBA Player Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman is an NBA Defender that has played for several teams including the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Dallas Mavericks, etc. He is the only person to have won 7 consecutive rebounding titles.

While a defensive specialist, Rodman was a five-time NBA champion, winning three consecutive titles from 1996 to 1998 with the Chicago Bulls. He was a two-time defensive player of the year and led his team in rebounding each season from 1990 to 1991. He was a member of the All-NBA Defensive First Team seven times and led the league in rebounding and field goal percentage once each.

3. Ben Wallace

NBA Player Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace is a retired American basketball player. He was known for his defense, and he was a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He played as a power forward and center. Wallace was a five-time NBA All-Defensive First Team and a four-time NBA All-Star.

In his entire career, Wallace played for the Washington Bullets, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Detroit Pistons.

Wallace was born on 10th September 1974, He played college basketball at Cuyahoga CC and Virginia Union. He starred in the NBA from 1996 to 2012.

2. Gary Payton

NBA Player Gary Payton
Gary Payton

Gary Payton, NBA Defensive Player of the Year, was a fierce competitor and one of the best defenders in the league. Payton was a defensive specialist and one of the best point guards in the league.

The Glove is the nickname of Gary Payton. He was NBA Champion with the Miami Heat in 2006, where he played from 2005 to 2007. During his time with the Seattle Supersonics, Payton won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1996 and was a 9 times all-star. In 1996, Payton was the #1 defender in the NBA. In addition to his defensive accolades, Payton was a leader on the court and a solid team player.

Payton is no doubt one of the top point guards in the history of the National Basketball Association. During his career, he has been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team nine times. He also holds the NBA record for the most times being named to an All-Defensive Team, again making him the top player in this category.

1. Hakeem Olajuwon

NBA Player Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon, formerly known as Akeem Olajuwon, is a Nigerian-American retired basketball player. From 1984 to 2002, he played the center position in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors.

The Dream is the nickname of Hakeem, two times NBA champion is one of the best defensive players in NBA history, Hakeem Olajuwon brought a new level of athleticism and skill to the position of center when he entered the league in 1984. Averaging at least 3.09 blocks in his career seasons, Olajuwon was one of the few centers in the game who could consistently alter shots at the rim.

12 times NBA All-Star, Hakeem also led the league in rebounding in each of his first two seasons, giving Houston one of the most dominant centers in the game. Olajuwon was the clear choice for the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1993 and 1994.

Special mentions:

Tim Duncan:

Timothy Theodore Duncan is a retired basketball player who played his entire 19-year career with the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA.

The 6-feet 11-inch power forward/center is widely considered to be one of the greatest players in NBA history. Duncan started out as a swimmer but switched to basketball in ninth grade. He played basketball for St. Dunstan’s Episcopal High School.

He is the five-time NBA champion and best defender of all time. With 3,020 career blocks, Tim Duncan is fifth on the all-time list behind Hakeem Olajuwon (3,830), Dikembe Mutombo (3,289), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (3,189), and Mark Eaton (3,064). That’s first to fourth place, all taken up by guys who played before blocks were officially recorded. Duncan has been named to the All-Defensive Team 15 times in his career, 8 times NBA All-Defensive First Team, and 7 times NBA All-Defensive Second Team.

Scottie Pippen:

Scottie Pippen is a retired basketball player that played in the National Basketball Association for 17 seasons. He played primarily as a small forward but has occasionally played point guard. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

He is often regarded as one of the best NBA defenders of all time. He has also been named to the All-Defensive Team ten times in his career.

Pippen, Michael Jordan’s teammate on the Chicago Bulls, is one of the best defensive players ever to step on the hardwood. He won the NBA champion title six times in his career.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Greatest Defender in NBA History

Who was the best defender in NBA?

There are many great defenders in the NBA, but the best defender would be Dikembe Mutombo. He is a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001), and he has been named to the All-Defensive First Team three times in 1997, 1998, and 2001.

Is Kobe a better defender than LeBron?

Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are two of the best players in the NBA, and it’s difficult to compare them in many ways. Kobe is a better defender than LeBron, but LeBron is a better scorer.
Kobe Bryant has been named to the NBA All-Defensive Team nine times, while LeBron has been named five times. The defensive award is voted on by opposing coaches, so this means that they believe Kobe is a better defender than LeBron.

Who is the best perimeter defender of all time?

Former NBA superstar Scottie Pippen was among the best perimeter defender of all time. In the NBA, Scottie Pippen was awarded the NBA All-Defensive Team Award 10 times in recognition of his humanitarian efforts. He was selected NBA steals leader in 1995.

Who is the best defensive player ever in the NBA?

Who is the best defensive player in basketball? The best defensive player in the NBA is most likely Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan was a 6 times NBA champion, 6 times NBA Finals MVP, 9 times NBA All-Defensive First Team, and Defensive Player of the Year in 1988. He had a career average of 3.16 steals per game and led the league in steals per game for three seasons.

In summary, NBA Defenders are needed on every team to succeed. To find the best defenders, you can look at their stats, but look at how they perform in big games, too. If your team’s best defender plays with passion, plays smart, and plays with heart, you know you have the best defender.