1. Ben Wallace – Ben Wallace became the only undrafted player to be voted a National Basketball Association All-Star starter in the history of the game. He is one of four players in NBA history to lead the NBA in blocks and rebounds in the same season, one of three people to record 150 blocks and 100 steals in seven consecutive seasons, one of three people to average 15 rebounds and 3 blocks per game in a season, one of two players to be named Defensive Player of the Year four times, and the only man to record 1,000 rebounds, 100 blocks, and 100 steals for 4 consecutive seasons. Wallace dominated the painted area despite giving up several inches and pounds to his opponents. He could be the last pure shot blocker that the league will ever have.
2. Magic Johnson – Magic Johnson controlled basketball games with his deft passing and the frenetic pace that he created as the leader of the Showtime Lakers. He still has the highest career assists per game average in NBA history at 11.2 assists per game, and he finished his career as the all-time leader in assists in 12 years of basketball, though his record was eventually broken. Magic is still considered by almost every pro analyst to be the best passer that the National Basketball Association has ever produced. He pushed the ball at breakneck speed in the open court and was precise and decisive with his passes in the half court. Magic imposed his will on games by creating mismatches on the court and making easy shots for his teammates. He could rebound the basketball, start the fast break himself, and score or dish to the cutting big men. Magic dominated basketball with his penchant for getting his entire team involved.
3. John Stockton – Stockton was the model of consistency in his nineteen years in the NBA. He picked and rolled his way to the Hall of Fame and lulled his defenders to sleep with slow, deliberate movements and precision passes. Though he did not control basketball games with his pace, he did make the game infinitely easier for his teammates with his passing. His impact reached to controlling possessions. He rarely turned the basketball over to the other team, and he was consistently a leader in steals which meant added possessions for his team.
4. Dennis Rodman – Dennis Rodman transformed rebounding into an art form. Though he scored some buckets due to his athleticism, Rodman’s contributions were completely related to possessions and defense. He was equally adept at getting defensive rebounds as he was at procuring offensive rebounds. Rodman’s rebounding radius was anywhere from 8-10 feet from where he stood in any direction and he was a lock-down defender. Rodman could effectively shut down at least three positions, both forward positions and the center position against most 5′s.He was a five-time champion, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and a seven-time rebounding champion. If the basketball was near him, whether careening off of the rim or in an opponents hands, Dennis Rodman snatched it.
5. Scottie Pippen – The beauty of watching Scottie Pippen play basketball, was that his coach’s expectations of him changed in every game and therefore his contributions changed every night. One night he may be asked to score to create match-up problems on the offensive end in addition to his defensive duties. And, on every night, he was asked to guard the other teams’ best player in order to free Michael Jordan to score. He was often asked to facilitate and assist on plays. He had to rebound, and Pippen even had to block a few shots. He could and did guard 4 positions on the basketball court. And he shut down Hall of Fame players like John Stockton, slowed Magic Johnson, and competed against Charles Barkley in the NBA Finals. Pippen was an amazing athlete and possibly the most versatile player that the NBA has ever put on a court.
6. Wes Unseld – Wes Unseld was one of the most physical enforcers in NBA history. He played like a bull in a china shop and was one of two men to win Rookie of the Year, All Star MVP, and NBA MVP in their first season. Unseld was a bully that rebounded with ferocity and physicality. He added to this a unique ability to grab a board and outlet to guards on the run. His rugged rebounding and ability to start a break with the pass lead him to a NBA championship, the only one for the Washington Bullets.
7. Jason Kidd – Jason Kidd dominated the open court. He was a one man fast break, but also made his teammates better through his passing. He took the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back Finals with his superb passing and ability to speed up the game. Kidd pushed the fast break at breakneck speeds. He could change the pace of games and influence his teams success with his baseline to baseline speed and his ability to rebound from the point guard position.
8. Hakeem Olajuwon – Hakeem Olajuwon was a skilled, graceful, and dominant scorer, but his skill was not subjected to just the offensive end. Olajuwon was a freak athlete and dominated the defensive end too. Olajuwon, a center, is eighth on the NBA all-time steals lists. Every other player on the list is a guard. He is the all-time NBA leader on the blocks list and altered countless other shots. He made a porous Houston Rockets’ defense stout and resolute as the last line of defense. Hakeem Olajuwon’s versatility showed regularly in his insane stat lines. He is one of four people in NBA history to have recorded a quadruple double (double digit production in four of the five statistical categories: points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks). He is one of two players to have recorded a five by five (a total of at least five in each of the five categories). He was the only player to win NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP in the same season before Michael Jordan repeated the feat. Olajuwon led the league in rebounding twice and in blocks three times. He was the most skilled and complete center in NBA history.
9. Dikembe Mutumbo – Mutumbo is the purest shot blocker that the league has had in the modern era of basketball. His block radius extended past from the rim to the free throw line and he blocked everything that entered the paint. Dikembe blocked the top-seeded Seattle Supersonics out of the playoffs in 1995. He blocked a NBA playoff record 31 shots in 5 games for an average of 6.2 blocks per game. He is second behind Olajuwon on the all-time blocks list, led the league in blocks 3 times, and led the league 2 times in rebounding. He shares the record for most Defensive Player of the Year awards with Ben Wallace at 4.
10. Bill Russell – Bill Russell was the most dominant defensive force that the NBA has ever seen. The goal tending rule was instituted for him. People could not score with Russell under the rim. That did not change after the rule was instituted. Russell stands as one of the standards for defensive excellence. He led the league in rebounds for four seasons, was the first player to average 20+ rebounds per game, won the NBA MVP five times, and won eleven NBA championships. He excelled in man-to-man defense, weakside help defense, and shot-blocking. He was the most domineering defensive player that the league has ever known and its biggest winner because of it.