10. Hakeem Olajuwon – You may be surprised to see Hakeem Olajuwon on this list, but when the best centers in NBA history are mentioned, Olajuwon is never one of the first mentioned despite being the most skilled center to ever play basketball and among the leaders in almost every important statistical category. Hakeem Olajuwon is one of four people in National Basketball Association history with a playoff career average of at least 25 points and 10 rebounds per game, at 25.9 and 11.2 respectively. Hakeem combined the agility and deft, nimble moves of a guard with the size and raw power of a true center. He was an electrifying athlete, but also the most skilled big man to ever play in the National Basketball Association.
9. Alonzo Mourning – People often forget how dominant Alonzo Mourning was on the basketball court. They remember him as the intimidating shot-blocker and rebounder on the defensive side of the basketball that won a championship after returning to the game from illness. But, Mourning was a physical, warrior on both sides of the basketball before he succumbed to injury. In his first 3-4 years he had a soft jumper and jump hook, combined with the same tenacity and need for contact. He was a great shot blocker, a good rebounder, and a complete player.
8. Shawn Kemp – Before he ate his way out of the league, Shawn Kemp was one of the best pure athletes that the NBA ever saw. He was 6’10″ with long arms and a 40+ inch vertical. He was as quick as the guards on the wing, but had good footwork and unparalleled explosiveness. Kemp would drop-step and dunk on bigs, crossover and dunk on wings, or catch the ball and dunk on alley-oop plays. If he was near the rim, he would dunk the basketball. He took the Seattle Supersonics to the NBA Finals only to be stopped by Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
7. Robert Horry – Robert Horry has more rings than Michael Jordan. He has been a part of 7 different championship teams. Though he was never the superstar of any of the teams on which he played, his contributions and his knack for hitting big shots helped to stabilize those squads in panicked times. People remember him for the numerous clutch baskets that he has scored in the closing seconds of games where his team trailed. But Horry made the corresponding rebounds, blocks, steals, and assists that his team needed too. He was a fully rounded, talented, and intelligent basketball player.
6. Larry Johnson – Before tearing his both of his ACL’s, Larry Johnson was well on the way to a Hall of Fame career. Larry Johnson was what Shawn Kemp would be if you truncated that height down to about 6’7″, lengthened his arms, added a few muscles to that same explosive body, and gave him a nasty disposition.Larry Johnson was happy off the court, happy when played basketball, but when he was in the post, his game was mean. Like his former Hornet’s teammate Alonzo Mourning, he loved contact, but he was much more agile and explosive than Mourning. He had footwork that was superior to almost everyone in the league in the early nineties. His spin move was devastatingly effective and he often ended it with a vicious dunk and and evil laugh.
5. Mark Price – Mark Price was on his way to a Hall of Fame career before he tore his ACL. Price is one of the 5 people in NBA history to shoot 50%FG, 40% 3 pt.%, and 90% from the free throw line. He made splitting a double team instead of dribbling around it chic in the NBA. He was a rare player, both a good athlete and a pure shooter.
4. Glenn Rice – For two years, Glenn Rice was the most unstoppable player in the National Basketball Association. Not Barkley. Not Shaq. Not even Michael Jordan. Glenn Rice was a 6’8″ shooting guard with a pure stroke and a quick first step. Imagine Carmelo Anthony with a sweet jump shot like Ray Allen. He put up 50 points a few times in the same season with that jumper. He could shoot off of picks, pull up off the dribble, or post smaller guards. He won the All Star MVP in a game where Michael Jordan had a triple-double. In the same season he averaged 26.8 points per game and shot 47.0% from behind the 3 point line. For a small period in the late nineties, Glen Rice was the most difficult player to guard in the NBA.
3. Chris Mullin – Chris Mullin was a machine. He never stopped moving and shot the basketball in the exact same way every time it left his hands. He is another of the 5 people in NBA history to shoot 50%FG, 40% 3 pt.%, and 90% from the free throw line. Mullin was in constant motion from the time that reached the court until he left it. He scored with bigger, more athletic players denying him the basketball by retreating backdoor. He was one of the best players ever at using picks properly and it showed in his scoring averages which were well over 25 points per game during his prime in the the late 80′s and early 90′s.
2. Kevin Johnson – Kevin Johnson was Stephon Marbury without the hype and ego. He is remembered for dunking on Hakeem Olajuwon on the baseline in the playoffs, but his legacy is much greater than a quick first step and a lucky play at the rim. Kevin Johnson could penetrate into the teeth of the defense at will. He would dribble through his legs and blow by opposing guards like they were standing in cement. He worked harder than most players and learned to shoot short jumpers too, which made him nearly unstoppable. He has career averages of 17.9 points and 9.1 assists per game, and has multiple seasons where he hovered around 20 points and 10 assists culminating in his career best averages of 22.5 ppg and 11.4 apg. Kevin Johnson left all the flash and simply went by defenders to score or pass.
1. Elvin Hayes – The Big E is the most underrated super star to ever play in the NBA. He won a championship with the Washington Bullets. He has career averages of 21.0 points per game and 12.5 rebounds per game. In his best year, he averaged 28.4 and 17.1 respectively. He had quick feet, good footwork, and a soft jump shot. Hayes was one of the first big men to regularly take his man out on the floor and use his quickness. He was tall, strong as a bull, a great rebounder and versatile on the offensive end of the basketball court.