When we think of the best defensive players in NBA history, the most obvious names pop up immediately. These include Bill Russell, Dennis Rodman, Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen, and Michael Jordan among others. but there are some all-time great defensive players that did not get their just due by winning a Defensive Player of the Year Award.
To honor these great defensive players, it is time to rank the top 10 players of all time who have not won a Defensive Player of the Year Award.
10. Tony Allen
3x NBA All-Defensive First Team (2011-12, 2012-13, 2014-15)
3x NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2010-11, 2015-16, 2016-17)
His aggressive defense and an unbelievable knack for bothering the best offensive players earn him a top 10 place. Allen’s defense helped the Celtics win an NBA title in 2008, and he formed a key component of the suffocating Memphis Grizzlies Grit’ N’ Grind era led by himself and Zach Randolph.
9. Bruce Bowen
5× NBA All-Defensive First Team (2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08)
3× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03)
Bowen is mainly remembered for his defensive enforcements for the San Antonio Spurs. Bowen was a heck of a defender, using a mix of craftiness and physical strength to bother some of the best scorers in the league. His battles with Kobe Bryant were certainly memorable in the playoffs, and he’ll forever be regarded as one of the best perimeter defenders that the Spurs have ever had.
8. Jason Kidd
4× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1998-99, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2005-06)
5× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1999-00, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2006-07)
Jason Kidd is one of the greatest all-around point guards that we have ever seen. He was strong, quick, explosive, and had tremendous defensive awareness. Kidd could bully most point guards in the post and had very powerful arms and hands that allowed him to poke the ball away from ball handlers. Even as he aged, Kidd’s defensive leadership helped the Dallas Mavericks win an NBA title in 2011.
7. Dennis Johnson
6× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1978-79, 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82, 1982-83, 1986-87)
3x NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1983-84, 1984-85, 1985-86)
Johnson was the bruising defensive point guard that won three NBA titles with the Boston Celtics. Making a whopping 9 All-Defensive Teams, Johnson was a fantastic defender who made lives tough for any players coming up the floor with the ball. A Hall of Famer and 5-time All-Star, Johnson averaged 0.6 BPG and 1.3 SPG over a successful 14-year career.
6. Bobby Jones
8× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1976-77, 1977-78, 1978-79, 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84)
1× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1984-85)
Bobby Jones was a 9-time All-Defensive Team performer, who is the first-ever Sixth Man of the Year winner as well. A Philadelphia 76ers legend, Jones made 8 All-Defensive First Teams in a row, and his role as a defensive specialist earned him an NBA title with the Sixers in 1982. While many Hall of Fame members are known for their defense, Jones is in because of his dominant defensive abilities.
5. Chris Paul
7× NBA All-Defensive First Team (2008-09, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17)
2× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2007-08, 2010-11)
Anytime we analyze Chris Paul’s greatness, his defensive leadership always gets recognized first. CP3 was an unbelievable defensive player despite being very miniature. He was surprisingly strong and was extremely quick at playing passing the lanes and staying with his man. Chris Paul was a 6-time steals leader who averages 2.2 steals a game for his career. Anytime Chris Paul was on the floor, his team would automatically get a defensive boost.
4. Scottie Pippen
8× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99)
2× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1990-91, 1999-00)
Michael Jordan won a Defensive Player of the Year Award, but Scottie Pippen never did. This is actually very surprising because Pippen was meant to be the defensive specialist while Jordan was the scoring specialist. While MJ clearly deserved his award, Pippen should have had at least one Defensive Player of the Year award because he could guard for positions with relative ease and could pick anyone up the length of the court. Pippen is easily one of the top five defensive players ever to not have won the DPOY award.
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
5× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1973-74, 1974-75, 1978-79, 1979-80, 1980-81)
6× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1969-70, 1970-71, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1977-78, 1983-84)
Kareem’s defense seems to have been overshadowed by his unbelievable offensive ability. Abdul-Jabbar was an amazing defensive player, who completely dominated the post throughout his whole career. The legendary big man was 7 ft tall, which made blocking shots and affecting any weak shots very easy for him. But what made Kareem particularly impressive was his defensive awareness because he knew how to bother any of the big men trying to score in the post and had an unbelievable 2.6 blocks per game average for his career.
2. Kobe Bryant
9× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1999-00, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11)
3× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2000-01, 2001-02, 2011-12)
Kobe was an unstoppable offensive player, but he quietly will go down as one of the greatest defensive players of all time. Kobe didn’t do anything too flashy on defense, but he loved guarding the opposing team’s best player and was a great off-ball defender.
Kobe was a master of playing passing lanes and knowing where the defense would set up on offense. There is a reason why he made a total of 12 All-Defensive teams throughout his career, but he still never managed to capture the DPOY Award.
1. Tim Duncan
8× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1998-99, 1999-00, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2004-05, 2006-07, 2007-08)
7× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1997-98, 2003-04, 2005-06, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2012-13, 2014-15)
Without a doubt, Tim Duncan is the greatest defensive player of all time to have never won a Defensive Player of the Year award. Even if we were to bring Tim Duncan out of retirement, he can still defend the rim better than half the league.
Duncan just had a knack for being a completely dominant defensive player, since he knew how to move his feet and bother any shots that came his way. The Spurs built around Tim Duncan for nearly two decades, and it was Duncan’s defense that allowed them to form a dynasty. Legendary coach Gregg Popovich still raves about Tim Duncan to this day and it is obvious why.