The position of center in the NBA is traditionally played by the tallest and most physically dominant player on the team. In the most basic sense, the center is responsible for defending the paint, rebounding, scoring near the basket, and setting screens to create scoring opportunities for their teammates.

Key Responsibilities

  • Rim Protection: The center is primarily responsible for protecting the rim and serving as the last line of defense. They aim to block shots, alter opponents' shots, and discourage penetration into the paint.
  • Rebounding: Centers are vital for securing rebounds, both offensively and defensively. They use their size, strength, and positioning to grab missed shots, giving their team extra possessions and limiting the opponents' scoring opportunities.

  • Interior Scoring: Centers are expected to score close to the basket using post moves, dunks, layups, and putbacks. They often rely on their size advantage to overpower opponents and finish plays efficiently.

  • Screen Setting: Centers play a significant role in the team's offensive strategy by setting screens to free up their teammates for open shots or drives to the basket. Their screens help create spacing and generate scoring opportunities.

  • Passing and Playmaking: While not as common as other positions, many centers possess solid passing skills. They can make accurate interior passes to teammates or even initiate offensive plays from the high post.

Qualities of a Great Center

  • Size and Physicality: Centers typically possess exceptional height, strength, and wingspan, allowing them to dominate the paint and intimidate opponents.

  • Defensive Presence: Great centers excel in rim protection, altering shots, and anchoring the team's defense. They can block shots, contest without fouling, and deter opponents from driving into the paint.

  • Rebounding Prowess: Elite centers are exceptional rebounders, using their size, positioning, and timing to consistently secure boards on both ends of the court.

  • Scoring Efficiency: The ability to score efficiently near the basket is crucial for centers. They should have a repertoire of post moves, be able to finish strong at the rim, and capitalize on offensive rebounds.

  • Basketball IQ: A high basketball IQ allows centers to read the game well, make smart decisions, and anticipate plays on both ends of the court. They should possess good passing skills and court vision.

Best NBA Centers of All Time

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Standing at 7'2", Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer. He played 20 seasons in the NBA, winning six championships and earning numerous individual accolades. He was known for his unstoppable skyhook shot and dominance in the paint.

  • Wilt Chamberlain: Considered one of the most dominant players in NBA history, Chamberlain was a 7'1" center known for his incredible scoring ability and rebounding prowess. He set numerous records and won two championships during his career.

  • Shaquille O'Neal: Standing at 7'1" and weighing over 300 pounds, Shaq was a force to be reckoned with. He won four championships and was a dominant inside scorer and rebounder. O'Neal's physicality and agility for a player his size made him nearly unstoppable in his prime.

  • Hakeem Olajuwon: Olajuwon was a skilled and versatile center known for his exceptional footwork and defensive prowess. He won two championships with the Houston Rockets and was a two-time NBA Finals MVP. Olajuwon's "Dream Shake" move in the post was legendary.