The 10 best rebounders in NBA history
Scorers get most of the attention in the NBA, but their job often wouldn’t be possible without the big-bodied bangers battling in the paint. Their ability to clean the glass on defense and keep possessions alive on offense is critical to their teams’ success.
Join us now as we salute these brawny box-out artists by ranking the 10 best rebounders in NBA history.
10. Andre Drummond
NBA team: Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers
Accolades: 2x All-Star, 4x rebounding champ
The only active player to crack our list, Andre Drummond led the league in rebounding four times from 2016 to 2020, and is the first player to average 16 boards per game since Dennis Rodman accomplished the feat in 1997.
Drummond’s gaudy totals have slipped since being dealt to Cleveland last February, but he’s still a disruptive force that can turn the tide of a game with his rebounding alone.
9. Ben Wallace
NBA team: Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers
Accolades: 4x All-Star, 4x Defensive Player of the Year, 2x rebounding champ, NBA Champion
Ben Wallace probably would have finished dead last in any skill contest you could devise, but when it came to rebounding, he was in a class all his own. "Big Ben" averaged over 11 boards per game from 2001 to 2006, and won Defensive Player of the Year honors four times over a five-year period thanks in large part to his ability to clean the glass.
Wallace’s crowning achievement came in Game 5 of the 2004 NBA Finals when he dropped 18 points and 22 rebounds on Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers. His dominant performance sealed the series and brought L.A.’s dynasty to a crashing halt.
8. Elvin Hayes
Position: Power forward
NBA team: San Diego Rockets, Houston Rockets, Baltimore Bullets, Washington Bullets,
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 12x All-Star, 2x rebounding champ, NBA Champion
If this list were dedicated to the most clutch players in NBA history, Elvin Hayes wouldn’t be allowed within a 10-mile radius. Fortunately our focus is rebounding, and that’s an area where "The Big E" was something of a demigod.
The 6’9” bruiser led the league in board work in 1970 and 1974, and ranked in the top 10 in rebounding 14 times during his 16-year career. He presently ranks fourth overall on the NBA’s career list.
7. Bob Pettit
Position: Power forward
NBA team: St. Louis Hawks
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 2x NBA MVP, 11x All-Star, 4x All-Star Game MVP, NBA Champion
It’s fair to wonder how Bob Pettit would fare in the modern NBA, where players are stronger, bigger, are far less translucent. However, he did excel in his own era, averaging 15 rebounds per game or more in eight of his eleven seasons in the league.
Pettit never led the Association in boards, but his career mark of 16.2 rebounds per contest is the third highest in NBA history.
6. Artis Gilmore
NBA teams: Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 11x All-Star, ABA MVP, ABA Champion
Didn’t expect to see an ABA pioneer on our lists did you? Artis Gilmore led the American Basketball Association in rebounding in four of his first five seasons, and became a walking double-double upon entering the NBA in 1976.
By the time he retired 12 years later, "The A-Train" had become pro basketball’s all-time leader in defensive rebounds.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
NBA teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 19x All-Star, 6x NBA MVP, 6x NBA Champion
Most fans remember Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a harmless, hairless giant who launched high-arcing skyhooks from outside the key. And while that was certainly how he spent the twilight of his career, the player known as "Cap" initially made his mark as a hyper-athletic big man who swatted shots into the third row and dunked on punks with impunity.
The 7’2” Abdul-Jabbar averaged 15.6 rebounds in his first seven years in the league and finished his 20-year career with the third most boards in NBA history.
4. Moses Malone
NBA teams: Buffalo Braves, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Bullets, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 13x All-Star, 3x NBA MVP, NBA Champion, NBA Finals MVP
You don’t get a kickass nickname like "Chairman of the Boards" without hauling down your fair share of rebounds. The 6’10” Malone lived up to his moniker (and then some) by leading the league in rebounds six times over a seven-year span from 1979 to 1985.
His productivity fell off a cliff after age 36, but Malone still ranks fifth overall in career rebounds and second in offensive rebounding percentage.
3. Dennis Rodman
Position: Power Forward
Teams: Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 2x All-Star, 8x All-Defensive Team, 2x Defensive Player of the Year, 5x NBA Champion
Many of the players on our list are here because they outworked and outmuscled their opponents. Dennis Rodman certainly did that, but he also outsmarted them.
The five-time champ spent countless hours in practice studying his teammates' misses so he would know precisely where to position himself when they clunked a field goal in a game. He did the same thing during warmups with the opposing team to better understand the angles at which their misses would clank off the rim. That incredible attention to detail made Rodman a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and powered him to seven rebounding titles from 1992-98.
2. Bill Russell
Team: Boston Celtics
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 12x All-Star, 5x MVP, 11x NBA Champion
The Boston Celtics have produced 35 Hall of Famers, but William Felton Russell rises above them all when it comes to cleaning the glass. The five-time MVP led the Celtics in rebounding every year from the age of 22 to 34, and finished first in the league five times during that span.
But that’s not all! Russell also recorded 38 rebounds in a game 23 times, and set an NBA record on Feb. 5, 1960, when he corralled 49 boards against the Syracuse Nationals. We’d like to think the Nats later relocated to Philadelphia out of shame, although there were probably other mitigating factors.
1. Wilt Chamberlain
NBA teams: Philadelphia Warriors, San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 13x All-Star, 4x MVP, 2x NBA Champion
Wilt Chamberlain generated plenty of big numbers during his Hall of Fame career, but none are more impressive than the 23,924 rebounds he pulled down from 1959 to 1973.
48 years after his retirement, "The Big Dipper" still holds 21 different rebounding marks including highest career average (22.9), most seasons leading the league in rebounds (11), and most seasons with 1,000 or more rebounds (13). Just imagine how many more records he could have if he wasn’t also focused on bedding down every eligible woman on the eastern seaboard.