Rebounding has become an overlooked statistic in the last few years because the role of the big man has been greatly diminished by the desire of the National Basketball Association to highlight more exciting guard play. Last year was the first season in league history that no player averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Only a few players still play under the basket, and even less of them take pride in doing the dirty work under the rim.
10. Hakeem Olajuwon - Olajuwon is remembered for his immaculate footwork, his ability to dominate through blocking shots, and his scoring prowess in the post, but Olajuwon was a great rebounder too. His teams regularly were amongst the league leaders in defensive rebounds and total rebounds. Though noted for his flashiness on the offensive side of the basketball, it was his reliance on sound fundamentals in rebounding that led him to two rebounding titles. He finished his career in the top ten of total rebounds.
9. Kevin Garnett - Kevin Garnett is grossly underrated as a rebounder. In his youth, he was known for his boundless energy, his zeal for the game of basketball, and of course, his immense natural talent. He was one of the few big men like Wilt, Robinson, Olajuwon, and Shaq who could move like a guard despite being a giant. In his latter years through the present, he is known for his defensive intensity. But, Garnett was also a premier rebounder in his prime. He used his energy and intensity to create more possessions for his team. And, Garnett is currently number 10 on the list of total rebounds.
8. Dwight Howard - This is the strongest man in the NBA and one of the biggest. Dwight Howard is actually disappointing as a rebounder from the standpoint of his talent level. However, that does not diminish what he has already achieved in getting the basketball off the rim. He is one of only three of his contemporaries to win multiple rebounding titles (Howard has won 5). And, he has a healthy career average of 12.9 rebounds per game.
7. Nate Thurmond - Nate Thurmond never won a rebounding title, but his career also ran parallel to some of the most dominant glass cleaners in NBA history. Thurmond used his expansive wingspan and explosive leaping ability to pull down boards. The big man averaged 21.3 and 22.0 rebounds per game during the 1966-67 and 1967-68 NBA seasons, but he is often forgotten because he played behind Wilt Chamberlain in his first season and played against Chamberlain and Russell throughout his career. Thurmond is one of five players to average more than 15 rebounds for his career.
6. Moses Malone - Old Moses has been accused of padding his rebounding stats by throwing the basketball off the backboard to himself. But regardless of his tactics, he was one of the best rebounders that ever lived. Moses specialized in offensive rebounding. He pulled down rebounds for several teams and won five consecutive rebounding titles, six total, in his career.
5. Elvin Hayes - Though “Big E” never averaged 20 rebounds in a season, he won two rebounding titles and still ranks fourth on the all-time rebounds list. He too was overshadowed by Wilt Chamberlain, and faced great rebounders like Nate Thurmond and Russell. But, Elvin Hayes was the model of consistency on the glass. He averaged at least 11 rebounds per game for the first twelve seasons of his career, and averaged 18+ twice in his 16 years in the NBA.
4. Jerry Lucas - Jerry Lucas is one of five men to average 20 rebounds in a single season and one of three to average 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same season (he did that twice). More remarkably, he grabbed 20 rebounds per game despite often playing out on the floor on offense. Jerry Lucas never led the league in rebounding, but he had a career average of 15 rebounds per game. He was an incredibly productive and consistent rebounder.
3. Bill Russell - Russell was the ultimate winner and the ultimate defender. He prided himself on making hustle plays and creating the decisive play in games, so he sacrificed some personal stats to win games. But, Russell won some rebounding titles and he he never placed lower than third in his career. Russell has the second highest rebounding average in NBA history and has 10 seasons where he averaged at least 20 rebounds per game. He is one of only two players to average twenty rebounds per game for their career.
2. Wilt Chamberlain - Wilt Chamberlain may be the best player that ever played, and that is at least partially because of his proficiency at rebounding. Wilt Chamberlain holds just as many rebounding records as he holds scoring records. He holds the NBA records for total rebounds, single season rebounding average (27.2 rebounds per game), single game record for rebounds (55 rebounds), career rebounding average (22.9 rpg.), and total rebounding titles. He completely dominated his era offensively and defensively.
1. Dennis Rodman - Though Dennis Rodman never averaged more than 18.7 rebounds per game and has a career average of 13.1 rebounds per game, he is the most prolific rebounder that ever played the game of basketball. Dennis Rodman is the leader of more advanced statistics like total rebounding percentage by a large margin, winning the award 8 years consecutively. He also has 7 consecutive years of winning the rebounding title, a NBA record. Dennis Rodman dominated the boards in an era where there were fewer misses and when there were better rebounders in the league. The numbers that Chamberlain and Russell posted were inflated because their teammates missed more shots and they towered over their competition. Rodman was an average-sized power forward, but he made up for his size with supreme athleticism, unparalleled hustle, and most importantly, desire.