Best NBA Shot Blockers Ever- Who’s The Best Blocker in NBA History?

best-nba-shot-blockers-ever

15 minutes

Last Updated: December 7, 2023

Scott Kostov

Ranking the best NBA shot blockers ever is hard. For so long, this game has revolved around a generational big man. Now, even with the focus on 3-point shooting, guys like Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren are poised to be the next faces of the league.

This is because, for decades, the role of the big guys was fairly simple. Tower over or power through anyone for a high-percentage shot. On the other end, their role was to stifle any drives to the basket. That’s why many of the players on this best NBA shot blockers list also appear on our best NBA defenders ranking. Now, let’s unwind. 

Best NBA Shot Blocker Ever?

The best NBA shot blocker ever has to be Dikembe Mutombo. Usually, dominant defensive players have an aura and an intimidating factor about themselves. Mutmobo fits these criteria to a T. Not only do the numbers back this up but so does the eye test.

Even if we remove the iconic Winger Wag out of the equation, the math is simple. Dikembe Mutombo is ranked second on the all-time NBA leaderboard with 3289 blocks. The brother played for 18 years, participated in 1200 NBA games, and averaged 2.8 blocks per game for his career. That’s just obscene defensive production.

Keep in mind that these are not inflated statistics. Dikembe played during the 2 decades when the league had the slowest pace ever recorded. On average, there were way fewer shots per game being launched. And he still managed to block nearly 3 per game for 2 decades.

Let alone the fear and humiliation factor. Players were deliberately shooting bad and off-balanced mid-range shots instead of contesting Mutmobo at the rim. The advanced numbers also back this up. 

Dikembe is fifth all-time in block percentage with 6,28. That means that Dikembe blocked 6,3% of the shots the enemy team shot during his 36,836 career minutes on an NBA court. Everyone else on that list played 2-300 fewer games than Mutombo, which makes his defensive proficiency at the later stages of his career even more impressive. 

Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo, the iconic Congolese-American center, is widely celebrated as one of the NBA’s most dominant defensive players in history. His legendary finger wag became a symbol of shot-blocking prowess and is etched in the memory of basketball enthusiasts forever.

Over his illustrious 18-year career, Mutombo secured an impressive 3,289 blocks. This is the second-highest tally in NBA history, trailing only Hakeem Olajuwon. Definitely, one of the best ways to solidify your legacy as one of the best NBA shot blockers ever.

Mutombo’s defensive excellence was not merely a product of longevity. Although becoming one of the oldest NBA players ever surely contributed. He stands seventh all-time in career blocks per game and fifth in block percentage.

He recorded 2 seasons with over 4 blocks per game, 8 seasons with at least 3 blocks per game, and an impressive 11 seasons with more than 2 blocks per game. These numbers aren’t just staggering. They reflect the consistent defensive impact Mutombo brought to the court.

His shot-blocking prowess was a result of his defensive instincts, remarkable wingspan, and impeccable timing. Mutombo’s defensive repertoire earned him 4 NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards and 8 All-Defensive Team selections. His influence extended beyond statistics, as he became a model for stars transitioning to role-player status, contributing to his team’s success well into his 40s.

Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish recorded more blocks than Mutombo after the age of 40. The ’90s were filled with dominant big men like Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, and David Robinson, but Mutombo led the league in blocks for three consecutive seasons facing them.

Top 5 Best NBA Shot Blockers Ever

Big disclaimer here. You can make a list of any NBA statistic, throw in Bill Russel and Wilt Chamberlain on it, and nobody would bat an eye. That’s how great and generational talents they were. Russel was probably the best defensive big man to ever play the game. Those 2 probably averaged more than 6 blocks per game.

But the NBA started tracking this statistic in 1973. Just a few months after Chamberlain played his last NBA game. By then, Russel had retired for 4 years. So we’re not taking them into consideration.

02. Mark Eaton

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You can’t teach height. That’s a must-have if you play on becoming one of the best NBA shot blockers ever. But Mark Eaton was different. After struggling to get off the bench in high school and college, Eaton had a life-changing pep talk from one of the legends of the game.

At the UCLA campus, Wilt Chamberlain met up with Eaton and changed his life forever. Instead of trying to do everything, Wilt urged Eaton to become the best at one thing. And that was defending the rim.

After a dominant 12-year career, Eaton is arguably the best blocker in NBA history. His 3,5 blocks per game for his career are an NBA record that will probably never fall. He recorded 3064 blocks in his 875 NBA games. That’s good enough for him to be fourth on the all time NBA blocks leaderboard.

His 6,92 block percentage is good for third all time, even better than Mutombo. This formidable 7’4″ center, etched his name in NBA history with an unparalleled ability to guard the basket. His defensive prowess during his first seven seasons was truly remarkable, boasting an impressive average of 4.2 blocks per game. Notably, his peak performance in the 1984-85 season set an enduring NBA record with a career-high 5.6 blocks per game. 456 blocks during a single season. The next-best mark doesn’t even break 400.

Within that seven-season span, Eaton claimed two Defensive Player of the Year awards, secured spots on five All-Defensive teams, led the league in blocks four times and earned a well-deserved All-Star selection. Remarkably, he even made appearances in MVP voting during the 1984-85 and 1988-89 seasons, showcasing the extent of his influence on the court.

03. Alonzo Mourning

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With so many of the NBA’s best centers playing in the 90s, it’s not hard to recognize why a generational talent like Alonzo Mourning gets easily forgotten. But we’re here to correct that. So put some respect on his name.

At 6 ’10”, Alonzo Mourning became a dominant center in the NBA’s golden era for the position, when most stars towered over 7 feet. Before his health issue led to a kidney transplant, Mourning was a force to be reckoned with on the court.

From the 1992-93 to 1999-2000 seasons, Mourning showcased his prowess by averaging an impressive 21.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, and an outstanding 3.1 blocks per game. During this period, only Dikembe Mutombo and Shawn Bradley matched Mourning’s shot-blocking output.

He led the NBA in blocks twice during that period and won back-to-back NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards in 1999 and 2000. 7 All-Star appearances, 2 All-Defensive First Team nods, and 2 All-NBA recognitions. Alonzo had the NBA in a chokehold at the turn of the century. 

However, the 2002-03 season marked a significant hiatus for Mourning due to health issues. Upon his return, he embraced a diminished role but continued to exhibit defensive excellence. Over his final five seasons, he maintained an impressive average of 2.2 blocks in just 19.4 minutes per game.

Mourning’s journey took an additional turn when he contributed as a solid role player to the 2005-06 Miami Heat NBA championship run. Despite limited playing time, he averaged 1.5 blocks in only 11.0 minutes per game while maintaining a positive plus-minus in five of six games. 

04. Hakeem Olajuwon

If you’re one of just 4 NBA players to ever record a quadruple-double, you were probably a great defender. Doing it more than once is a completely different story. But Olajuwon is more than one of the best NBA shot blockers of all time.

Hakeem Olajuwon made the low post game look like art. Despite being renowned for his Dream Shake and offensive prowess, he also made an irreplaceable impact on the other end. He stands out as one of the premier shot-blockers in NBA history, especially during seasons where he secured the Defensive Player of the Year honors, 

Hakeem’s proportions only made one end of the spectrum. He had great defensive instincts and amazing speed to boot. His lateral quickness was remarkable for a 7 footer, he had one of the fastest second and third jumps and most importantly, he hated losing.

All of this resulted in him leading the league in blocks per game on three separate occasions, boasting four of the top 20 marks for single-season blocks per game. Notably, he holds the all-time record for total three-block games by a substantial margin.

Across regular-season and playoff games, he blocked at least three shots in an incredible 757 games. That’s more than half of his 1238 career NBA games. To put this in perspective, Tim Duncan, second on the list, achieved this feat in 621 games. 

He’s the all time NBA leader in blocks with 3830, and that applies to the playoffs as well. During his absolute peak, Olajuwon won 2 Defensive Player of the Year awards in back-to-back seasons in 93/94. 

In 1994, Olajuwon led the Rockets to the NBA finals against the Knicks where he averaged 4 blocks per game and held Patrick Ewing to 36% shooting from the field.

05. David Robinson

Another extremely versatile player joining Olajuwon on that exclusive quadruple-double list is the Admiral. Despite missing 2 years of his career to complete military service with the Navy, David Robinson came into the NBA as one of the best athletes to ever grace the hardwood.

But Robinson didn’t become one of the best NBA shot blockers due to his chiseled physique. At 7”1”, Robinson could run and jump like a deer. In 1990, he was the Rookie of the Year. The following season, he led the league in rebounding. In 1992, he led the league in blocks. Following it up with a scoring title in 1994, Robinson was everywhere.

During his initial seven seasons, Robinson’s statistical achievements were nothing short of extraordinary. Averaging an impressive 25.6 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals, and a staggering 3.6 blocks per game. He showcased a rare blend of offensive and defensive skills. The pinnacle of his defensive prowess came in the 1991-92 season when he was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. He averaged a staggering 4,5 blocks and 2,3 steals per game that year.

Robinson is also in the top 10 of every blocking statistic that the NBA keeps track of. These include total blocks, blocks per game, block percentage, and career defensive rating. He’s also the NCAA’s all time leader in blocks in a single season with 207 rejections. A record that has stood the test of time since 1986.

His contributions as one of the best NBA rebounders ever also made a major impact. All of this helped Robinson claim 8 All-Defensive team nods throughout his career. He also made 10 All-Stars and 10 All-NBA teams, on top of his 1995 MVP and 2 rings.

Top 10 Best NBA Shot Blockers Ever

06. Shawn Bradley

best-nba-shot-blockers-bradley

Shawn Bradley was so much more than one of the tallest basketball players ever. He was also one of the most dominant and best NBA shot blockers of all time. Often remembered by modern NBA fans for YouTube clips of him being posterized, Bradley deserves a bit more respect for his basketball career. 

In his initial six seasons, Bradley demonstrated a well-rounded skill set. He averaged 11.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, and an impressive 3.4 blocks per game in just 29.0 minutes. Notably, he holds the top spot in all-time block percentage, blocking 7,8% of the shots his opponents took while he was on the court..

Although Basketball Reference’s play-by-play data only reaches back to 1996-97, Bradley’s career net rating swing of 6.3 surpasses notable stars like Kawhi Leonard (5.1) and James Harden (4.9). This statistic underscores Bradley’s influence on both ends of the floor, despite his lackluster production outside of blocked shots for a former #2 overall pick.

As a defensive anchor, Bradley’s significant presence, both vertically and horizontally, held exceptional value in the 1990s and 2000s. In his last year with the  New Jersey Nets, Bradley recorded a career-high of 4 blocks per game.

Even in his later years, particularly over his last five seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, Bradley continued to contribute significantly. When Bradley shared the floor with Dirk Nowitzki during this period, the Mavericks boasted an impressive plus-12.0 points per 100 possessions. This defensive prowess was evident as the team maintained a remarkable plus-7.3 points per 100 possessions when Dirk played without the 7’6″ rim protector.

Bradley’s towering presence around the rim helped the 2006 Mavs make the Finals and enabled Dirk Nowitzki to go off on the other end to claim the 2007 MVP award.

07. Theo Ratliff

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Do you know who has the second-highest block percentage of all time after Shawn Bradley? Well, it’s Theo Ratliff. The man who blocked 7,18% of the enemy shots while he was on the court. And he played in 810 NBA games for an average of 25 minutes. Gotta love players who make positive contributions by specializing in one thing. 

From the 1997-98 season to 2003-04, Ratliff maintained an impressive average of 3.3 blocks in just 31.7 minutes per game. This shot-blocking prowess made him a three-time NBA blocks leader in 2001, 2003, and 2004. Leading the league in three out of those seven seasons.

In his 16-season NBA career, Ratliff, primarily playing as a center, solidified his reputation as an excellent shot-blocker. His best year came in the 2003-04 season, where he recorded a league-leading 307 blocked shots. This remarkable accomplishment was achieved despite a mid-season trade to the Portland Trail Blazers, further highlighting Ratliff’s consistency and impact.

Beyond individual statistics, Ratliff’s on-court presence had a substantial impact on his team’s performance. Over the same seven-season stretch, teams with Ratliff on the floor had a plus-1.1 points per 100 possessions, highlighting the positive influence of his defensive skills. Conversely, when he was off the court, his teams experienced a minus-1.6 points per 100 possessions, further emphasizing the defensive value he brought to his squads.

Despite not receiving accolades such as the Defensive Player of the Year, Ratliff’s teammates recognized the significant value he brought to the team through his shot-blocking contributions.

Ratliff received recognition as an NBA All-Star in 2001 and earned two NBA All-Defensive Second Team nods in 1999 and 2004.

This combination of accolades and statistical achievements cements Theo Ratliff’s legacy as one of the best NBA shot blockers to grace the hardwood. 

08. Tree Rollins

best-nba-shot-blockers-rollins

If your nickname is Tree, you better be towering over defenders. Standing at 7 ft 1 in and weighing 275 pounds, Tree Rollins carved out a formidable reputation as a defensive stalwart during his NBA career.

Over the first decade of his professional journey, Rollins displayed an impressive shot-blocking prowess, averaging 4.1 blocks per 75 possessions. This mark trailed only Mark Eaton and George Johnson over that span, highlighting Rollins’ significance in rim protection. Guess that explains his seventh best all time block percentage of 6,24.

In the 1982-83 season, Rollins led the league with an average of 4.3 blocks per game, accomplishing this feat in just 30.9 minutes of play. Despite his remarkable defensive contributions, this season is unfortunately remembered for an on-court incident during the postseason. 

Following a dunk in a first-round series between the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, Rollins clashed with Danny Ainge, involving an elbow to the face and a memorable finger-biting incident in the ensuing scuffle.

Notably, on February 21, 1979, Rollins blocked a career-high 12 shots in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Throughout his career, he finished in the top three in blocked shots six times.

He led the league in blocked shots during the 1982-83 season, averaging an obscene 4,3 rejections throughout 80 games. And he only played in 31 of the 48 possible minutes each game. Despite this impressive defensive resume, he finished second in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award voting that season.

While it’s obvious to everyone that Tree Rollins deserves more recognition as one of the best NBA shot blockers of all time, that’s why we are here.

09. Marcus Camby

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Marcus Camby quickly developed a reputation as a troublemaker. He wasn’t afraid of throwing his weight around or getting technical fouls. But I guess that mindset is necessary to become one of the best NBA shot blockers and be a premier interior NBA defender.

Marcus Camby showcased his dominance as a rim protector from the 1996-97 season through 2012-13. Leading the league in blocks per game for four seasons, including three consecutive with the Denver Nuggets in the mid-2000s, Camby’s impact extended beyond individual achievements.

Those high-octane Nuggets teams with a young Carmelo Anthony maintained a top-10 defense under Camby’s influence, despite their run-and-gun approach. Camby was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the 2006–07 season, after averaging a career high in steals. Camby’s impact during that season was extensive.

His 3,3 blocks per game led the league that year but it wasn’t even his best outing. From 2004 to 2008, Camby averaged over 3 blocks in every season. But it still wasn’t enough to top the 3,7 rejections per game he recorded in his sophomore season with the Toronto Raptors.

His well-rounded defensive skill set contributed significantly to Denver’s playoff berth by winning the Northwest Division multiple times. In addition to his Defensive Player of the Year award, Camby is a four-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team and ranks 12th on the NBA’s all-time career blocks list. 

10. Manute Bol

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Being the only player in NBA history to have more blocked shots than points scored has to land you on this list. Such is the case with one of the tallest players to ever suit up on an NBA court. If you’re 2,3 meters tall and have a wingspan of 2,6 meters, becoming one of the best NBA shot blockers is a natural progression.

Manute Bol’s shot-blocking prowess during his peak is nothing short of extraordinary, with statistical feats that remain unmatched in NBA history. In his first seven seasons, Bol consistently recorded more blocks than field-goal attempts, averaging an impressive 3.6 blocks and 2.7 points in just 19.5 minutes per game.

He quickly made a name for himself, averaging a career-high 5 blocks per game in just 26 minutes of action as a rookie!! Unfortunately, he would play more than 20 minutes per game in only one more season throughout his career. 

And he led the league in blocks in that year as well with 4,3 rejections per game in just 22 minutes of action. Analytics can provide a bit of context to how obscene these numbers are.

During his first 7 years, Manute registered a league-leading average of 6.6 blocks per 75 possessions. This dominance was exemplified by a considerable gap, with David Robinson’s 4.0 blocks per 75 possessions trailing as a distant second.

Standing at a towering 7’7″ with an 8′ 6″ wingspan, Bol’s shot-blocking range was described by Bill Walton as “pretty far and pretty high,” a testament to his unique defensive skills. His physical attributes, combined with his shot-blocking instincts, made him a sight unlike any other in league history.

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