Top 10 shot blockers in NBA history

Profile Picture: Andrew Champagne

March 2nd, 2021

Today’s NBA may be a shooter’s paradise, but there are still few plays more exciting than when a defender steps up and blocks a shot. Shot-blocking is an art form perfected by some of the best big men in the history of the game, and in this article, we’ll spotlight the top 10 on the NBA career list.

One important note: Blocked shots were not officially tracked as statistics until the early-1970’s. This means top-tier rim-protectors from the game’s earlier eras, such as George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell are not on this list, and that one member of the top five should almost certainly be higher-ranked than he is.

10. Tree Rollins

Position: Center
Teams: Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic
Career blocks: 2,542

I mean, when a guy is nicknamed Tree, you sort of expect them to show up here, no? Such is the case with the man born Wayne Rollins, who led the NBA with 4.3 blocks per game during the 1982-83 season. Oddly, he didn’t earn an All-Defensive First Team selection for that performance, but he did get that nod the following season, when he averaged 3.6 rejections per contest.

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Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire)

9. Shaquille O’Neal

Position: Center
Teams: Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics
Career blocks: 2,732

The man of many nicknames wasted no time in establishing himself on both ends during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 1992-93. That included an average of 3.5 blocks per game, which would be his career-best clip when he retired nearly 20 years later. He also averaged three per contest during the 1999-2000 season, which concluded with him winning the first of his four NBA championships.

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Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks leans over with his hands on his knees during an NBA game against the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire)

8. Patrick Ewing

Position: Center
Teams: New York Knicks, Seattle Supersonics, Orlando Magic
Career blocks: 2,894

Considered by some to be the best player of his era to not win a championship, Ewing also became one of the NBA’s best-ever shot-blockers despite never once leading the league in that category. He averaged two or more blocks per game in each of his first 14 seasons and finished in the top-five in the league on seven occasions.

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David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs talks to the media after practice. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMI)

7. David Robinson

Position: Center
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Career blocks: 2,954

The man known as "The Admiral" missed two seasons of his career to military service, but he made up for lost time when he took the league by storm in 1989. He averaged better than three blocks per contest in each of his first seven seasons and was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year following the 1991-92 campaign.

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Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett defends on San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan. (Photo by Mark Halmas/Icon Sportswire)

6. Tim Duncan

Position: Power Forward
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Career blocks: 3,020

Duncan became the sixth player in NBA/ABA history to record 3,000 career blocks, and it’s no surprise that honor fell to someone nicknamed "The Big Fundamental." How consistent was Duncan? Consider this: With the exception of his final season, he averaged at least 1.5 blocks per game in every one of his campaigns. How did he become an elite defensive player? Perhaps he can credit some of that to playing with Robinson.

5. Mark Eaton

Position: Center
Team: Utah Jazz
Career blocks: 3,064

Few players have made a career out of being big as much as Eaton, a 7’4” center who averaged just six points per game over an 11-season career with the Jazz. What he did as well as anyone, however, was protect the rim. He averaged 5.6 blocks per game in 1984-85, and led the league in that category four times in five seasons during the mid-1980’s.

4. Artis Gilmore

Position: Center
Teams: Kentucky Colonels, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics
Career blocks: 3,178

The ABA’s all-time leader in blocked shots, Gilmore announced his presence with authority in 1971-72, when he averaged an incredible five blocks per game. He came to the NBA in 1976, and while his peak years were probably with the ABA’s Colonels, he remained a strong interior presence through the 1980’s for the Bulls and Spurs.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. (Photo by Christophe Elise/DPPI/Icon Sportswire)

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Position: Center
Teams: Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers
Career blocks: 3,189

Kareem should probably be at least second on this list, but his first four NBA seasons came before blocks were officially tracked as statistics. Even so, he’s third on the career list due to the 16 seasons he played once they were being counted. He led the league in that category four times, including thrice in his first five seasons after joining the Lakers in 1975.

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Hornets guard Speedy Claxton bottom gets pushed down by Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo. (Photo by Larry Smith/Icon Sportswire)

2. Dikembe Mutombo

Position: Center
Teams: Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets
Career blocks: 3,289

Known as much for his trademark finger-wag as his shot-blocking expertise, Mutombo spent nearly 20 years serving as one of the league’s best defensive centers, and that’s no small statement considering he went up against the likes of Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, and David Robinson. He led the league in blocks for three seasons in a row in the mid-90’s and was a productive rotation player into his 40’s.

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Shaquille O'Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers and Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets. (Photo by Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire)

1. Hakeem Olajuwon

Position: Center
Teams: Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors
Career blocks: 3,830

There’s a reason "The Dream" remains revered among NBA big men, many of whom have trained with him during off-seasons. Olajuwon was a complete player who shined on both ends of the floor. He averaged a double-double over 18 seasons, and led the league in blocked shots three times in a four-season stretch beginning in 1989-90.