For old school basketball fans, defense could be considered as somewhat of a lost art in today’s NBA. Some would argue that teams and players aren’t quite as committed as they once were to the defensive side of the game.
Whether it’s because of the rule changes, the softer calls, or the refs proclivity for calling technicals, it’s clear that the league has wanted to improve the flow of offense.
All all 30 teams this 2020-21 season are all averaging over 103 points per game, two of which are averaging 120 points per game: the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks.
10 years ago, during the 2010-11 season, there were only 11 teams averaging over 100 points per game and not one averaged over 110 points per game.
20 years ago, during the 2000-01 season, there were only four teams that averaged over 100 points per game and the Sacramento Kings, who were the league leader in points per game at that time, averaged 101.7 PPG.
Nowadays, only a few players in the league will be remembered for their defense once they decide to retire.
Recently, one of the best defenders in the league made a bold statement about his status as a defender.
Draymond Green stated in an interview that he’s the greatest defender in the rich history of the NBA.
This obviously sent the NBA world buzzing with some saying that he’s right and others saying that he has lost it.
One of the guys that had quite a reaction is Tony Allen. He responded to Green by tweeting;
Green then clapped back by saying;
I was waiting on you to stamp me Big homie, but your stamp book started running low in 2015 when we used you against your team on the way to my 1ST championship. https://t.co/mDHfltdfZ0— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) March 23, 2021
And then Allen finished the twitter feud with;
Obviously, Allen had all the rights in the world to react since he himself is a great defender and is one of the best of the last decade.
Allen is a three-time All-Defensive First Team member and three time All-Defensive Second Team member. He may not have the awards to back him up but the fact that the late, great Kobe Bryant called him the hardest defender he ever faced, is saying something.
With this whole Defensive GOAT conversation popping out, it got me thinking? Who are the guys that could claim the title?
This is obviously an opinionated piece but let’s try to have some fun and let me know who I missed out on.
- Dennis Rodman
- Tim Duncan
- Kevin Garnett
- Dwyane Wade
- Sidney Moncrief
- Joe Dumars
- Alvin Robertson
- Dennis Johnson
- Kobe Bryant
- Ben Wallace
- LeBron James
- Walt Frazier
Michael Jordan is considered by many as the Greatest of All-Time.
He will always be more famous for his scoring, and rightly so, but he was also a supremely feared defender. He’s got a great resume to be considered the best defender, especially in the wing.
For his career, he’s a former Defensive Player of the Year (1988), he’s a nine-time All-Defensive First Team member and a three-time steals champion.
He finished his career as the best blocking guard in history with 893 career blocks and third in steals leader in history with 2,514 behind only Jason Kidd (2,684) and John Stockton (3,265).
He’s the only player to have 200 steals and 100 blocks in one season, and it happened back in 1987-88 season when he recorded 259 steals and 131 blocks.
He had two seasons where he had over 100 blocks, 125 blocks in 86-89 and 131 blocks in 87-88.
Six seasons where he had over 200 steals. From 86-87 to 1990-91 and 92-93 season.
Jordan averaged 2.3 steals and 0.8 blocks in his 15-year career.
Jordan’s defensive skill made him the best scorer and the best defender at one point in his career. One of the many reasons why so many people define him as the NBA’s best overall player.
Gary Payton got the nickname “The Glove” for a reason.
The NBA Hall of Famer proved that despite being the point guard of the team, which usually means he’s the smallest player on the court, his game is bigger than anyone. Especially, on defense.
For his career, Payton is the only point guard in NBA history to win a Defensive Player of the Year (1996). Other than that, he’s also nine-time All-Defensive First Team member and a steal champion as well.
Payton was simply a man on a mission night in and night out.
He plays defense with his game and his talking. All you need to do is watch how he controls the game with his actions and words.
Payton averaged 1.8 steals for his career, at one point he even averaged 2.9 steals in a season. He’s only behind Jordan in total career steals with 2,445.
It’s a crime that two players included in this list doesn’t have a Defensive Player of the Year award under their belt.
One of those guys is Scottie Pippen.
However, despite the fact, Pippen still has a case for the Defensive GOAT simply because his defense did not only result in to titles but he became an inspiration to the other defensive greats like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Pippen is an eight-time All-Defensive First Team member and two-time All-Defensive Second Team member. He led the league in steals back in 94-95 season.
His defensive greatness was in full effect in the 1991 NBA Finals, where he guarded the great Magic Johnson to help the Chicago Bulls win their first franchise title.
For his career, he averaged 2.0 SPG and 0.8 blocks. He’s sixth in total steals leaders in history with 2,307 and has a total of 947 blocks in his entire career.
Before the era of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili took over San Antonio, there was only one star that the Spurs relied on: David Robinson.
Throughout his career, the 7’1 big-man proved that he can do just about everything on the court. Think of him as the bigger version of LeBron James.
Not only can he swat shots of guys like Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing to name a few but his agility and quickness also allows him to keep up with some of the guards in the 90s.
His versatility was in full effect back in 1994 as in a game against the Detroit Pistons, he put up a rare quadruple-double with 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 blocks.
Robinson won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1992 and was selected in the NBA All-Defensive team eight times (4x First, 4x Second).
In his DPOY year, he averaged a career-high of 2.3 SPG and 4.5 BPG. He finished his career averaging 1.4 SPG and 3.0 BPG.
Robinson is sixth in all-time blocks leaders in NBA History with a total of 2,945 blocks in his 15-year career.
In the 90s, there is one player that everyone wanted to dunk on, and that was Dikembe Mutombo.
Dubbed as “Mount Mutombo”, the NBA Hall of Famer is known best by sending shots of whoever dared to come in to the paint.
His famous finger wag was the next thing players saw after he sent a shot to the fourth row.
His defensive prowess was in full display against the Seattle Supersonics back in the 1994 playoffs, where he had 31 blocks in a five-game series to help his Denver Nuggets take the series 3-2. He averaged 6.2 BPG in that series.
Mutombo is one of two players who won the Defensive Player of the Year award four-times in his career. The other is Ben Wallace.
He’s also five-time All-Defensive team member and a three-time block champion. He’s second for most career blocks total in NBA history with 3,289.
He had two seasons where he averaged over four blocks per game. In 93-94 (4.1 BPG) and 95-96 (4.5 BPG). For his career he averaged 2.8 BPG.
Hakeem Olajuwon was the best defensive big man in the 90s.
In his time as “the man” for the Houston Rockets, Olajuwon dominated the league and was the best player in NBA during the Michael Jordan’s hiatus.
His time as the top dog the league may have only lasted two seasons, but his place among the pantheon of defenders will never be in question.
His defensive brilliance was in full display in March 1990 when he recorded a rare quadruple-double.
Against the Milwaukee Bucks, Olajuwon put up 18 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists and 11 blocks.
He almost put up two quadruple-double performances that month but the record showed that against the Golden State Warriors earlier that month, he only came up short with one assist and only finished with 29 points, 18 rebounds, 11 blocks, nine assist and five steals.
Olajuwon is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year awardee from 92-93 to 93-34. He’s also a nine-time All-Defensive team member (5x First, 4x Second) and a three-time blocks champion.
Olajuwon averaged four blocks per game in three separate seasons. In 89-90, he averaged 4.6 BPG, 91-92, he averaged 4.3 BPG and in 92-93, he averaged 4.2 BPG. It would’ve been four seasons but in 90-91, he only averaged 3.9 BPG.
He finished his career with 3,830 total blocks which puts him first in career blocks. He averaged 3.1 BPG and 1.7 SPG in his 18-year career.
The last man on this list is the second-man to not win a Defensive Player of the Year, Bill Russell.
In his defense, the only reason why he didn’t get a DPOY is because it didn’t exist yet during his time.
There’s no record of how many blocks or steals he averaged in his 13-year career from 1956-1969 but it’s certain that his defense is his main calling card.
The only official defensive accolade he got was an All-Defensive First Team selection back 1968-69 season. But a perfect example of his defensive greatness is that he’s the only one who was actually able to stop the late, great Wilt Chamberlain, hence why “The Stilt” only has two titles compared to Russell’s 11 rings.
Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, David Robinson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar some of the greatest bigs in the NBA history but they all bowed down to Russell. He’s still got a case not just as the greatest defensive big man of all time but the greatest center of all time.
Did I forget someone? Who do you think is the Defensive GOAT? Sound off below in the comment section!