By: Rob Botts
Rebounding is a combination of heart, athletic ability and technique. All three are needed to be exceptional at snatching that leather ball off the rim or back board. Or you could just be gigantic, and most of the time by the law of averages in relation to how close you are to the rim in terms of height, the ball when it is missed will mostly likely fall right into your King Kong sized mitts. That is rare, however.
There have been some truly great rebounders over the years; below are the top five ballers that are consistently mentioned in water cooler conversations between fellas and stat nerds who follow the NBA game.
Wilt Chamberlain 23,924
Bill Russell 21,620
Kareem Abdul Jabar 17,440
Elvin Hayes 16,279
Moses Malone 16,212
My apologies to Dennis Rodman who is around 11,000 for total rebounds and was a heck of a rebounder in is own right and time. But, this is about the best of all time. Sorry “Worm.”
Numbers can be tricky little suckers. They can be sly and let us interpret them in ways that fortify our own arguments, or they can destroy a point of view with their glaring truth. They can also be misleading. They look strong and powerful until you realize they have been inhabiting a world of relative ease. The latter making them appear bigger and badder than what they really are. I am going to now use some numbers to back up my argument while at the same time I’m going to toss aside numbers that just don’t hold up. Ah the power of choice.
The greatest rebounder in the history of the National Basketball Association is the one, the only, Mr. Bill Russell. Even though he is number two for all time number of balls rebounded and Wilt Chamberlain is number one, I have then reversed them in this “Best Series.” Wilt stood 7-foot-1 tall. A gigantic human being for his time and was extremely strong as well. Obviously I never saw either of these two men play, but am going off what I have read, heard in interviews and seen in old footage. Mr. Russell stood at 6-foot-9 tall.
Wilt “The Stilt”, as people used to affectionately call him, pulled down a record high 55 rebounds in a game back in the 1960s. He had the highest rebounds per game career average in the history of the league at 22.9. He averaged 27.2 rebounds for a single season. Wilt’s numbers in rebounding and scoring categories SHOULD have had people calling him Wilt “The Stat.” It never stuck and didn’t rhyme.
Even though Russell was shorter and weighed much less than Mr. Chamberlain, he pulled down 53 rebounds in a single game. ONLY two rebounds shy of a rebounding record he had originally held until Wilt broke it by snagging a couple more boards. Even though Chamberlain is in the number one position all time for number of rebounds, Russell is right behind him in the number two spot. ONLY 2,304 rebounds separate the two men. Also, Russell still holds the record for most rebounds in a half with 32 boards.
Even though Wilt was so much bigger than most of his opponents who guarded him, he was also a very good athlete, as well. AND since he had the ball in his hands a great deal on offense, it gave him prime offensive rebounding position if and when he missed inside. Russell, on the other hand, would use his incredibly quick jumping ability along with his perfect technique and position to pull every ball down in site if it didn’t fall through the basket. Mr. Russell was an amazing defensive force as well. And being that defensive juggernaut would sometimes take him OUT of prime rebounding position. Only his hustle and athleticism would enable him to get back into the play and rebound the shots that he himself had just previously altered.
What makes the best rebounder of all time? As previously mentioned, they must have the desire, the skill and the athleticism. Then they must play a great deal of minutes and have dudes miss a bunch of shots on both ends as well. If Wilt and Bill had played with guys on their team who could shoot like the current day “Splash Brothers”, their numbers might have really suffered on the offensive rebounding side of the ledger. Russell stands out from the rest because he wasn’t as big as the guys in the top five mentioned. He didn’t have the ball in his hands as much as the other guys and he was all over the place on defense, which made his rebounding results that much more incredible. He knew how to position his lower body and use his weight to move out bigger and stronger guys in the paint. When he grabbed a rebound he would often swipe it from side to side in such an aggressive manner, that it enabled him to snag more and more basketballs, because it actually intimidated so many other players who would have tried to gather those missed shots. He also possessed very good instincts for anticipating when the ball would bounce off the rim from studying previously taken shots by fellow ballers, during the game.
His mind was working in a very statistical/scientific manner that brought him the net results he was looking for. MORE REBOUNDS.
AND the title of the best rebounder of all time.