The art of rebounding begins with the mentality that every shot attempt will be a miss. Rebounders understand that each missed shot they grab gives their team an extra scoring opportunity while taking a chance to score away from their opponent. Rebounding is hard work and not for the faint of heart. The battle for rebounds in the paint is intensely physical and requires a hard hat for survival.
The top five rebounders in NBA history have outworked their opponents to secure 95,475 rebounds. Each member of this list has won at least one NBA Championship. As a group these men have grabbed 24 rebounding titles, 18 Most Valuable Player Awards, and 21 NBA Championships. All five of these rebounders are one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Here is a list of the five greatest rebounders in NBA history (as of April 15, 2010):
5. Moses Malone (16,212 Total Rebounds)
Teams: Buffalo Braves, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers (twice), Washington Bullets, Atlanta Hawks, and San Antonio Spurs
Malone entered the NBA at the age of 21 after spending two seasons in the American Basketball Association. A tenacious and ferocious rebounder, Malone operated in the paint for 19 NBA campaigns. The six-time rebounding champion (1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1985) won three Most Valuable Player Awards (1979, 1982, and 1983), and led the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Championship in 1983. Malone was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996 and in 2001 he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
4. Elvin Hayes (16,279 Total Rebounds)
Teams: San Diego Rockets, Houston Rockets (twice), Baltimore Bullets, Capital Bullets, and Washington Bullets
Hayes played in 1,303 of a possible 1,312 games during his 16-year NBA career. “The Big E,” though only 6-9, was such an aggressive player that he played center early in his career and even started at center for the West All-Stars his rookie season. Hayes, a 12-time All-Star (1969-1980), was the NBA’s leading rebounder twice (1970 and 1974) and helped the Washington Bullets win the NBA Championship in 1978. Hayes was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990 and in 1996 was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar formerly Lew Alcindor (17,440 Total Rebounds)
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers
Widely known for the most beautiful shot in basketball, the skyhook, Abdul-Jabbar was much more than a finesse player. “The Big Fella” was a focused professional who battled under NBA backboards for 20 seasons. Abdul-Jabbar won an NBA record six Most Valuable Player Awards (1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977, and 1980) and was selected to 11 All-Defensive teams (First Team: 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, and 1981; Second Team: 1970, 1971, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1984). The six-time NBA Champion (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988) was named Rookie of the Year in 1970 and was the NBA’s leading rebounder in 1976. In 1995 Abdul-Jabbar was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.
2. Bill Russell (21,620 Total Rebounds)
Team: Boston Celtics
William Felton Russell, one of the greatest winners of all time, led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA Championships (1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, and 1969) during his 13-year career. A consummate team player, Russell was a defensive stalwart whose ability to block shots, rebound, and totally control the paint anchored the Celtics’ defense. The 12-time All-Star (1958-1969) won four rebounding titles (1958, 1959, 1964, and 1965) and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times (1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1965). Russell was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 and in 1996 was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
1. Wilt Chamberlain (23,924 Total Rebounds)
Teams: Philadelphia Warriors, San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, and Los Angeles Lakers
Scoring 2,000 points in an NBA season is a major accomplishment. So what does one say about a man who grabbed more than 2,000 rebounds two seasons in a row? In just his second season in the NBA (1960-1961) Wilt Chamberlain set the all-time record for rebounds in a single season when he grabbed a mind-boggling 2,149 rebounds. The next season he followed that up with 2,052. Chamberlain led the NBA in rebounds a record 11 times (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, and 1973) and grabbed more than 1,900 rebounds in seven of those seasons. The two-time NBA Champion (1967 and 1972) was named Rookie of the Year in 1960 and won four Most Valuable Player Awards (1960, 1966, 1967, and 1968). In 1978 Chamberlain was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and in 1996 he was named one of the Greatest Players in NBA History.
Click here for profiles on the top five scorers in NBA history.
Click here for a list of the NBA’s all-time leading rebounders.
Information from Basketball-Reference.com, NBA.com: Encyclopedia, and NBA Universe.com was used for this article.