10 Best Rebounders In NBA History: From Wilt To The Worm

Everyone loves the scorers. Whether it’s the NBA or a high school game, most of the eyes in the gym are on the players who puts the ball in the basket. Still, we know how devastating it can be when a team secures two or three consecutive offensive rebounds. Or when your team can’t make a shot but the defense gobbles up the rebound and never gives a second chance.

Even though a team can’t win a game with rebounding alone, it can certainly change the tide of a quarter, half, or the whole season. That being said, there have been some absolute studs in the NBA when it comes to rebounding. These 10 players are some of the best to ever do it. They are the kings of the boards.

10. Dennis Rodman

Career Rebounding Stats 

ORB

DRB

TRB

Career Total 

4.8

8.4

13.1

11,954

Player Profile

Listed Height

6 Feet 7 Inches

Weight

210 Lbs.

Dennis Rodman Highlights

When not chilling with North Korean dictators, Rodman was a stud on the boards. Between the on-court antics, fights, and off-court drama he managed to secure record numbers of missed shots down each season.

He was never a prolific scorer. In fact, his ability to put the ball through the hoop was somewhat average. Yet, he made up for it with his tenacity and skill on teh boards. Even at 6’7” he was impossible to box out. Even the 7-footers in the league couldn’t stop him from sniffing out rebounds all over the floor.

He averaged a stunning .414 rebounds per minute of playing time for his career. While leading the NBA in rebounds for seven seasons, Dennis Rodman also managed to snag five NBA championships.

Image source: NBA.com

9. Dave Cowens

Career Rebounding Stats 

ORB

DRB

TRB

Career Total 

3.0

9.8

13.6

10,444

Player Profile

Listed Height

6 Feet 9 Inches

Weight

230 Lbs.

Dave Cowens Highlights

At 6’9” Dave Cowens was undersized for playing the center position. He didn’t let that stop him from being one of the most dominant rebounders in the 70s.

What he lacked in height he made up for in hustle. Cowens’ effort each and every night should serve as an example for young players that skill isn’t the only thing that makes a great player.

While grabbing .351 rebounds per minute throughout his career he could also score the ball and play D against solid offensive players.

Perhaps what helped him make this list was his incredible anticaptory rebounding skills. Even before the ball hit the rim, Cowens would be moving to where the rebound would fall, ready to gather it up.

Image source: NBA.com

8. Charles Barkley

Career Rebounding Stats 

ORB

DRB

TRB

Career Total 

4.0

7.7

11.7

12,546

Player Profile

Listed Height

6 Feet 6 Inches

Weight

252 Lbs.

Charles Barkley Highlights

Charles Barkley might be popular now for arguing it out with Shaq on TNT’s NBA halftime show but back in the day he was popular for his skill on the court.

Actually, it was his size more than skill which helped him become one of the game’s best rebounders. One of many nicknames, “The Round Mound of Rebound” is fitting considering he weighed in at 252 pounds.

Most football players would be happy with his 6’6” stature. For basketball, it was practically unheard of. When competing for rebounds, it’s just not possible to stop a man with 30-40 pounds on you.

Of course, this all helped him average over 12 rebounds per game and snag over 12,500 in his career.

Image source: NBA.com

7. Walt Bellamy

Career Rebounding Stats 

ORB

DRB

TRB

Career Total 

X

X

13.7

14,241

Player Profile

Listed Height

6 Feet 11 Inches

Weight

225 Lbs.

Walt Bellamy Highlights

Big man hall-of-famer Walt Bellamy played in an era where rebounds weren’t even separated as offensive and defensive. It was only in his last two seasons (73-74, 74-75) that the stats became officially tracked.

That didn’t stop him from corralling rebounds with the best of them. His 6’11” height allowed him to simply outreach other players on the court in a way not many can.

To put things in perspective, he was originally drafted by the Chicago Packers. The who? While playing throughout the 60s and early 70s he was often one of the tallest players on the floor, helping him grab plenty of rebounds game in and game out. Even if they didn’t record them separately.

Throughout a fourteen year NBA career, Walt Bellamy remained extremely consistent. Though he started out grabbing 19 rpg in his rookie season, he ended just under 10 rpg. That consistency is hard to find in players with a long career. 

Image source: NBA.com

6. Wes Unseld

Career Rebounding Stats 

ORB

DRB

TRB

Career Total 

3.5

8.4

14.0

13,769

Player Profile

Listed Height

6 Feet 7 Inches

Weight

245 Lbs.

Wes Unseld Highlights

Not everyone will recognize the name Wes Unseld. Remember the part about no one paying attention to the rebounders? Even though he sported a stellar afro and claimed the Rookie of the Year award and MVP in the same season, Unseld is a somewhat forgotten player.

In the golden age of the 60s and 70s NBA he actually played for part of the same period as Walt Bellamy when they didn’t record offensive and defensive rebounds separately. Though he doesn’t boast a name as well-known as some other players on this list, Unseld has his fair share of awards and accomplishments.

For one, he was inducted into the NBA hall of fame in 1988. Along with his hulking size, Wes Unseld’s desire to win was unmatched. He was willing to do whatever it took to get a notch in the W column.

Modern day players can thank him for pioneering the outlet pass following a defensive rebound to start fast breaks. The likes of Kevin Love and Ben Simmons can attribute their trademark moves back to him.   

Image source: NBA.com

5. Jerry Lucas

Career Rebounding Stats 

ORB

DRB

TRB

Career Total 

X

X

15.6

12,942

Player Profile

Listed Height

6 Feet 8 Inches

Weight

230 Lbs.

Jerry Lucas Highlights

Midwestern big man Jerry Lucas wasn’t as physically imposing as most of the other players on this list. Despite it, he had a long record of winning that continued in the NBA and landed him on any list of the best rebounders.

In high school, he led his team to 76 consecutive wins and won a championship in high school, college, the NBA, and even an Olympic gold medal.

In the 1964-65 season, Lucas became only the third player to post a 20-20 season, averaging over twenty in both points and rebounds. To put things in perspective, the only player ahead of Lucas in rebounds during his prime was Wilt Chamberlin (spoiler alert, he’s number one on this list).

Both during and after his career, he was well-known for his incredible memory. On the court it was used to memorize plays, defensive schemes, and opponent scouting. Off the court, he memorized the first 500 pages of the Manhattan phone book and wrote a bestselling book on improving your memory. He probably remembers all his stats better than any record book.

Image source: NBA.com

4. Nate Thurmond

Career Rebounding Stats 

ORB

DRB

TRB

Career Total 

X

X

15.0

14,464

Player Profile

Listed Height

6 Feet 11 Inches

Weight

225 Lbs.

Nate Thurmond Highlights

If players today think the likes of Joel Embiid or Rudy Gobert are imposing, they would have walked off the court if matched up against Nate Thurmond. This giant of a man played in your face with a rugged, physical style.

He holds the NBA record for most rebounds in a quarter with 18. Most players would be thrilled to end a game with 18.

Thurmond was also the first player to record a quadruple double. He put up a monster stat line of 22 points, 14 boards, 13 dimes, and an astonishing 12 blocks. Since then, only three other players have accomplished the feat.

Pound for pound, he possessed one of the best offensive and defensive skillsets that were heightened by quickness, big hands, and a smooth shooting stroke.

Though he never reached the stardom of Chamberlain or Kareem, Nate Thurmond was an incredible player by any standard.

Image source: NBA.com

3. Bob Pettit

Career Rebounding Stats 

ORB

DRB

TRB

Career Total 

X

X

16.2

12,849

Player Profile

Listed Height

6 Feet 9 Inches

Weight

205 Lbs.

Bob Pettit Highlights

When Bob Pettit was drafted from LSU no one thought he would have what it takes to make it in the NBA. They forgot to consider the hard work he was willing to put in on the court.

This would ultimately propel him to an impressive 11 straight All-Star Game appearances and an NBA title with the St. Louis Hawks. He would also claim Rookie of the Year and follow it with an MVP award in his sophomore season.

Teammates adored his willingness to go after rebounds and hustle for second-effort plays. In the 50s and early 60s, he became the first player ever to top 20,000 points, raising expectations for all those who came after him.

Along with his scoring barrages, he always managed to clean the glass. Throughout his career, Pettit never averaged less than 10 boards per game. In fact, his career average was 16.2. That’s good enough for third in league history behind Wilt and Bill Russell.

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2. Bill Russell

Career Rebounding Stats 

ORB

DRB

TRB

Career Total 

X

X

22.5

21,620

Player Profile

Listed Height

6 Feet 10 Inches

Weight

215 Lbs.

Bill Russell Highlights

Hopefully you already knew this name was coming and was going to be high up on the list. Mr. Bill Russell is statistically one of the best players basketball has ever seen.

He averaged .531 rebounds per minute played throughout his career. Russell also managed to grab 53 rebounds in a single game. Think about that. Players today get praised for grabbing 20-25 boards. He got more than twice that. 

Numbers like that led to him averaging more than 20 rebounds per game for his career, just one of two players to ever do so. In terms of championships, he is practically unmatched. As a part of the Boston Celtics dynasty in the 60s, Russell holds 11 NBA championship rings. He ran out of fingers to put them on.

In 13 years with the Celtics, he had a an 85% success rate of winning a championship. And people are tired of the Warriors winning. Just imagine playing against these guys for 13 years straight.

A lot of their success can be attributed to Bill Russell’s unworldly performance on the boards throughout his stint on the parquet.

Image source: NBA.com

1. Wilt Chamberlain

Career Rebounding Stats 

ORB

DRB

TRB

Career Total 

X

X

22.9

23,924

Player Profile

Listed Height

7 Feet 1 Inch

Weight

275 Lbs.

Wilt Chamberlain Highlights

Even if you didn’t know Bill Russell, you should definitely know Wilt Chamberlain. This 7-footer is one of the most prolific players in NBA history and for good reason.

He is well-known for being a fantastic, league-leading scorer. Chamberlain is still the only player to put up 100 points in a single game. Many even consider him to be the second best player in history.

Despite being one of the best to put the ball through the basket, he is the best to snag it on a miss as well. He holds 11 rebounding titles and averaged a league-leading 22.9 rebounds per game.

While piling up almost 24,000 of them in Philadelphia and L.A. Wilt cemented himself at the top of the rebounding leaderboards.

The likes of him is something the league won’t see for a long time, if ever again. A 7’1” frame loaded with 275 pounds made him absolutely dominant. His skills and court awareness elevated him from mere mortal to a basketball god.

Image source: NBA.com

Here is the key for the stats included:

ORB = Offensive Rebounds Per Game

DRB = Defensive Rebounds Per Game

TRB = Total Rebounds Per Game

Total= Total Career Rebounds