Among the five basic skills of basketball, rebounding requires a unique blend of timing, determination, and physicality. On top of that, securing missed shots is not the sexiest part of the job, which is why not every basketball player can be a good rebounder, even in the NBA. This article lists the individuals who have established themselves as the best rebounders in NBA history, redefining the importance of controlling the boards.
What is the NBA Record for Most Rebounds?
The record for the most rebounds in a game is 55, amassed by the best rebounder in NBA history. At this point, you have to continue reading for a while to know who the record-holder is, but if you’ve been a basketball fan long enough, you’ll have a pretty good idea who the person is.
Here’s a rebounding tidbit: There are only two 50-rebound games in NBA history, and both happened in 1960. The aforementioned 55-rebound game occurred on November 24, 1960, while the other, a 51-rebound game, took place months before, on February 5.
17 Best NBA’s Rebound Leaders
Rebounding is a challenging skill to master. Height is not a requirement, but it sure does help! It also needs focus and a fondness for physicality, as most rebounding situations happen inside the paint. It requires players to compete fiercely for position, time their jumps accurately, utilize proper technique, and maintain focus throughout the game. The best rebounders in basketball history have mastered these aspects, making it one of the most awe-inspiring skills to witness on the court.
Here are some of the best rebounders in the NBA today and in its rich history.
Current Best Rebounders in NBA
1. Rudy Gobert, Center, Minnesota Timberwolves
Gobert is paid to defend the rim and rebound, and he’s pretty good at his job. The Stifle Tower, as they call him, collected the most rebounds in the league in the last five years. Gobert averaged at least 13.4 rebounds since the 2016-17 season and 11.6 boards for his career.
2. Nikola Jokic, Center, Denver Nuggets
Jokic collects stats like stamps and is the all-time leader for triple-doubles by a center. In case you didn’t know, that required him to grab rebounds, and the Sombor, Serbia native does just that. The Joker had the second-most rebounds in the last five years and averaged 11.4 rebounds during that span.
3. Andre Drummond, Center, Chicago Bulls
Call Drummond what you want, but the guy is a talented rebounder. He is currently third among active players in total rebounds, first all-time in rebounding percentage, and had a season where he averaged 16 rebounds a game. His days of playing starter minutes are over (6.6 rebounds in 12.7 minutes in 2022-23), but even with that, he’s still averaging 12.7 boards a game over his career. That’s more than the career averages of Gobert and Jokic!
4. Nikola Vucevic, Center, Chicago Bulls
Two of the best rebounders on the same team? Why not?
Vooch may have a reputation as a scorer, but he is one of the best at recovering missed shots. He is not the gobbler like Drummond is, but he is highly consistent, averaging double-digit rebounds in the last five seasons. Vucevic is averaging 10.5 rebounds in 823 career games, the same career rebounding average as Nikola Jokic.
5. Domantas Sabonis, Center, Sacramento Kings
Sabonis was the rebounding totals leader in the 2022-23 season and had the second-best per-game numbers behind Anthony Davis. Here’s another remarkable stat for the Gonzaga product: He has not pulled down less than 12 rebounds per game since becoming a full-time starter in 2019-20. If anything, that’s an argument for Sabonis being the best rebounder in NBA right now.
Retired Best Rebounders in NBA
1. Wilt Chamberlain
Remember the 55-rebound game? This guy was the culprit. Not only was Wilt the owner of the most rebounding totals of all time, but he also had the most rebounds per game in NBA history (22.9). And if you think that’s it, you’re dead wrong! The Big Dipper also owns the record for most rebounds in a playoff game with 41. Without any reservations, Wilt is, without a doubt, the best rebounder in NBA history.
2. Bill Russell
If there’s someone who could match Wilt’s rebounding ability drop per drop, it’s Bill Russell. The other 50-rebound game, 51 to be exact, was his doing. He averaged 22.5 rebounds for his career and owns the record for most rebounds in the postseason (4,104). Russell never averaged less than 20 rebounds per game in the postseason and once pulled down a shade under 30 rebounds a night (29.9) in Celtics’ 1961 championship run.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem wasn’t at the level of Wilt and Russell as far as rebounding, but he was still elite. He never averaged less than 14 boards in his first seven seasons, peaking at 16.9 in 1975-76. Cap hasn’t hit double-digit rebounding averages from 1981-82 until he retired in 1989, but the longevity was enough to put him No. 3 all-time on the rebounding list.
4. Elvin Hayes
The Big E was one of the more underrated legends in the sport. He was an undersized center, and yet, he once averaged 18.1 rebounds per game for a season. Hayes averaged double-digit rebounding in his first 12 years until Father Time caught up. One record he held was the most offensive rebounds in a Finals game, with 11 against the Seattle Supersonics on May 27, 1979. That record has since been tied twice by the next guy on this list.
The first power forward on this list, Rodman was an eccentric personality that resonates in his playing style. He was known to break down rebounding to a science, even watching how the ball rolls off the rim after each teammate’s missed shots.
The Worm is only No. 23 all-time in rebounding due to fewer games played, but his 13.1 rebounds per game rank 11th in league history. Besides anyone from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Rodman’s 18.7 RPG in 1991-92 is the highest single-season rebounding average in the NBA. He held a share of the NBA record for most offensive rebounds in the NBA Finals, which he did twice against Seattle in 1996.
6. Moses Malone
Malone led the entire NBA in rebounding for six seasons and was nicknamed “Chairman of the Boards.” He is the all-time leader in offensive rebounds, perhaps mainly because rebounding was not yet divided into two categories in Wilt and Russell’s time. Even so, Malone was a fearsome offensive rebounder, ranking third all-time behind Rodman and Andre Drummond in offensive rebounding percentage.
7. Tim Duncan
Duncan was one of only six players in NBA history to cross the 15,000-rebound mark. His longevity contributed to his rebounding totals, but he had a nine-season stretch where he grabbed at least 11 boards in a game. Combined with his rim protection, The Big Fundamental was no doubt one of the most effective interior operators in basketball.
8. Nate Thurmond
Thurmond ranks fifth all-time in rebounds per game (15.0) and 11th in total rebounds (14,464). He did not play as many games as Tim Duncan or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but he can gobble up rebounds with the best of them. The 6-foot-11, 225-pound center had two seasons where he averaged over 21 rebounds a game! There was a 10-season stretch where his lowest average was 13.8 boards, a testament to his tenacity on the glass.
9. Bob Pettit
Pettit was one of the earliest NBA superstars and had the recognition of leading the team that beat Bill Russell and the Celtics in a championship run. That happened in 1958 when Pettit played for the St. Louis Hawks.
Pettit ranks third all-time in rebounds per game (16.2) but was ranked further out in total rebounds because he only played 11 seasons. There were only four players in NBA history who averaged over 20 points and 20 rebounds in a season, and this guy was one of them.
10. Jerry Lucas
Speaking of those four players, they were Chamberlain, Thurmond, Pettit, and Jerry Lucas. Lucas did it in back-to-back seasons from 1964 to 1966. He ranks fourth all-time in rebounds per game (15.6) but only 17th in total career rebounds, as he only played less than 900 outings in a career that spanned 12 seasons.
11. Walt Bellamy
Bellamy had the third-best rebounding season for a rookie, averaging 19 rebounds a game on top of 31.6 points. That is just behind Wilt and Russell’s rookie seasons, where they averaged 27 and 19.6 rebounds, respectively. Bellamy did not achieve these rebounding numbers again, but he was still pretty impressive. He averaged 13.7 rebounds per game in his career, good for seventh all-time, and his 14,241 total career rebounds rank No. 14 on the all-time list.
12. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard was one of the most ferocious rebounders in the modern era. Over his career, which spanned 1,242 games, Howard is No. 10 all-time in total rebounds and No. 20 in rebounds per game (11.8). He led the NBA in rebounding five times, topping at over 14 rebounds a night in three seasons.
Wrapping Things Up: Best Rebounders in NBA History
Rebounding is primarily a big man’s skill. It is a vital but often underrated aspect of basketball because it shows physical supremacy and the willingness to do whatever it takes to win. That is why the better rebounding team usually wins a basketball game.
But while rebounding can be a team effort, it dramatically helps everyone if there’s one dominant force inside that could gobble up rebounds, like Pacman devouring all the dots and power capsules.
So, who are the best rebounders in NBA history? The list must begin with the two of the leaders of the NBA all time most rebounds, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Right now, Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic are probably the best, with Domantas Sabonis nipping at their heels. With big guys like thee on your team, it makes the jobs of all the other guys much easier.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.