Defending is a skill that not every player, including many NBA superstars, have in their arsenal. In basketball, judging defenders is not an easy task, given their different sizes and positions they operate in.
Naturally, big players have more obligations at the defensive end than perimeter players or forwards as the physical statures of the former are conducive to more defensive duties. Perimeter players and forwards, on the other hand, also have defensive responsibilities, but they can't be deployed to protect the rim, for example.
Top 10 defensive players in NBA history
Nevertheless, the NBA has been graced by some of the finest defensive players in the competition's rich and illustrious history.
In this article, we will take a look at the top 10 defensive players in the NBA based on the impact they had on the game and what they brought to their team's tables regardless of their physical attributes or defensive responsibilities.
Without further ado, let's get started.
Considering the vast talent pool on the defensive end of the NBA, there has to be an Honourable Mention list for several exemplary defenders who could not make it to our top 10 list. Some of them are as follows:
Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Joe Dumars, Larry Bird, Sidney Moncrief, Dennis Johnson, Bruce Bowen, Mark Eaton, David Robinson, Andre Iguodala, Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, Tony Allen, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Patrick Ewing, Michael Cooper.
#10 Anthony Davis
Many might think that Anthony Davis has been included in this list because he happens to be one of the finest active defenders in the NBA, but that is not the case.
Anthony Davis has been an extraordinary defender throughout his NBA career, and now that he is on a winning team, he is catching everyone's attention. His defensive displays during the 2020 NBA Playoffs were exemplary, and he was easily the best defensive player for the LA Lakers during the entire 2019-20 season.
His versatility, along with his shot-blocking ability, makes him one of the ten best defenders ever in the NBA. His battles with Nikola Jokic in the paint in the Western Conference Finals and then with Jimmy Butler in the NBA Finals were impressive, to say the least.
The NBA Defensive Player of the Year award eluded him this year, but he will undoubtedly be in the reckoning for it next year. Davis has been named in the All-Defensive NBA teams four times in his career and has led the league in blocks on three occasions while averaging 1.4 steals per game.
Quite simply, he is disruptive in defence, and that is an essential attribute to have in any winning team.
#9 Gary Payton
Arguably the greatest perimeter defender ever, Gary Payton is the only Point Guard to have won the prestigious NBA Defensive Player of the Year honor.
His defense was formidable against any opposing team. When his ability to get in his rivals' heads is added to the mix, one could imagine how difficult it was to run the usual offense against a defense led by Gary Payton.
In the 1996 NBA Finals against the Bulls, Payton's Seattle Supersonics fell in six games, but Payton and his crew held the Great Michael Jordan to 'just' 27 points per game on 41% from the field. That was just one of the shining examples of the Glove's defensive prowess.
Gary Payton was named nine times in the NBA's All-Defensive teams and was the Defensive Player of the Year in the 1995-96 season after leading the league in steals with 2.9.