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The Last 40 Rebounding Leaders: Will We Ever See Another Dennis Rodman?

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The Last 40 Rebounding Champions: Will We Ever See Another Dennis Rodman?

According to history, you have a one out of four chance of someone on the Detroit Pistons leading the league in rebounds. Since 1982, nine times a member of the Pistons led the league in rebounding. Outside of Moses Malone, Kevin Garnett, and Dwight Howard, there’s only one true rebounding king in the last four decades.

While Wilt Chamberlain will don the title of king rebounder, Rodman is in a league of his own when he led the league in rebounding eight consecutive seasons from 1991 to 1998. When Garnett and Howard went on their streaks, we thought we would see another version of Rodman. Instead, history goes to show that there will only be one Dennis Rodman to ever play the game.

1981-82 - Moses Malone - 14.7 RPG (Houston Rockets)

After reaching the NBA Finals in 1981, Malone recorded his second MVP award when he averaged 31.1 points and 14.7 rebounds. He lost out on the scoring title to George Gervin by just 1.2 points. He led the league in offensive rebounds (558) and minutes played (42.0). At the end of the season, Malone was named All-NBA First-Team, but the team suffered a first-round playoff exit despite averaging 24.0 points and 17.0 rebounds.

1982-83 - Moses Malone - 15.3 RPG (Philadelphia 76ers)

In the offseason, Malone signed a six-year, $13.2 million offer sheet with the 76ers. The team was coming off a 4-2 loss to the Lakers in the NBA Finals, where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dominated their big man duo of Darryl Dawkins and Caldwell Jones. Malone lived up to expectations by leading the league in rebounds for the third straight year. With Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, and Bobby Jones in the fold, the 76ers lost one game in the playoffs to capture the NBA championship. Malone was named Finals MVP when he outrebounded Abdul-Jabbar 72-30 in the Finals.

1983-84 - Moses Malone - 13.4 RPG (Philadelphia 76ers)

Malone was limited to 71 games due to ankle injuries, which was his fewest games played since 1977-1978. Malone scored 22.7 points but led the league in rebounding once again. His efforts landed him on the All-NBA Second Team. In the playoffs, Philadelphia was upset by the New Jersey Nets in five games, where Malone averaged 21.4 points and 13.8 rebounds.

1984-85 - Moses Malone - 13.1 RPG (Philadelphia 76ers)

In the 1984 Draft, the 76ers selected Charles Barkley, where he reported to training camp at 300 pounds. Malone mentored Barkley to get in better shape, where he made the All-Rookie Team. As for Malone, he made a record-setting fifth appearance at the top of the rebounding leaderboard ( later broken by Dennis Rodman). Malone finished third in the MVP voting with 24.6 points per game, which was the ninth-best in the league. Malone recorded his 10,000 NBA rebounds this season. The 76ers as a team made the Eastern Conference Finals but were ousted by the Celtics in five games.

1985-86 - Bill Laimbeer - 13.1 RPG (Detroit Pistons)

Laimbeer was one of the best outside shooting centers during his era. He ran a great pick and roll offense with Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. Head coach Chuck Daly loved his physicality and toughness, which helped him be a great rebounder. Laimbeer, a four-time All-Star, was a contender for the rebounding title from 1983-1987. In 1986, he captured the rebounding title. In 1989 and 1990, he was a part of the team’s championship teams.

1986-87 - Charles Barkley - 14.6 RPG (Philadelphia 76ers)

The tutelage of Malone paid off because the 76ers were all in on Barkley after the 1985-1986 season. In the offseason, the team traded Malone to the Washington Bullets. Barkley had some solid performances this season, recording 26 points and 25 rebounds in a 116-106 win over Denver. In the game, Barkley recorded 16 offensive rebounds. Barkley didn’t just lead the league in rebounding, but also offensive rebounds with 5.7 per game. Barkley also averaged 23.0 points. In the playoffs, the team lost in a five-game first-round series with the Bucks, where he averaged 24.6 points and 12.6 rebounds.

1987-88 - Michael Cage - 13.0 RPG (Los Angeles Clippers)

Cage enjoyed a successful career that spanned from 1984 to 2000, where he played for the Clippers, SuperSonics, Cavaliers, 76ers, and Nets. As a member of the Clippers, the highlight of his career was when he led the league in rebounding. Cage was contending with Charles Oakley, who was a member of the Bulls at the time. In the final game, Cage had to grab 28 rebounds to win the title over Oakley. He won the title by ending up with 30 rebounds.

1988-89 - Hakeem Olajuwon - 13.9 RPG (Houston Rockets)

In his first full season as the leader of the Rockets, he lived up to expectations. The Rockets finished with a 45-37 record under new coach Don Chaney. Olajuwon led the league in rebounds and finished a whole rebound ahead of runner-up Charles Barkley. Olajuwon added 24.8 points and 3.4 blocks as well. In the playoffs, Olajuwon averaged 37.5 points and 16.8 rebounds in a four-game series, which included a playoff record for points with 150. The Rockets were eliminated by Seattle 3-1 in the first round.

1989-90 - Hakeem Olajuwon - 14.0 RPG (Houston Rockets)

The season was a disappointment for Houston. The team finished 41-41 and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Lakers. Olajuwon stood out individually by leading the rebound chase by two full rebounds over David Robinson. Olajuwon joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton as the only players to ever lead the league in rebounds and blocks that season. He also became the third player in NBA history to register a quadruple-double that season.

1990-91 - David Robinson - 13.0 RPG (San Antonio Spurs)

Robinson was a frequent contender in this category against some great talent. In 1991, he finally broke the mold and saw his name at the top. Robinson’s season featured being selected January Player of the Month when he averaged 27.0 points and 14.5 rebounds. The Spurs won 55 games but were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the Warriors.

1991-92 - Dennis Rodman - 18.7 RPG (Detroit Pistons)

This was the first breakout season where Rodman made a remarkable leap in his rebounding skills. Rodman collected 1,530 total rebounds to go with 9.8 points per game. Rodman became the first player to total at least 1,530 rebounds since Wilt Chamberlain recorded 1,572 in 1972. Nobody has come close to this mark in recent years. The closest person was Kevin Willis, who grabbed 1,258 rebounds that same season. In the March 1992 game, Rodman collected a career-high 34 rebounds. However, the Pistons were eliminated by the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs.

1992-93 - Dennis Rodman - 18.3 RPG (Detroit Pistons)

The following season was difficult for Rodman. Rodman considered head coach Chuck Daly as a second father to him. Rodman and his wife, Annie Bakes, were going through a divorce. Rodman faced some adverse times, even falling asleep in a truck where police found him after doing a welfare check. Rodman somehow led the league in rebounding despite fighting these demons. Although he had three years on his deal, the Pistons traded him to the Spurs after the season’s end, where the team won just 41 games.

1993-94 - Dennis Rodman - 17.3 RPG (San Antonio Spurs)

Rodman joined a team built around All-Star center David Robinson, and a supporting cast of Dale Ellis, Willie Anderson, and Vinny Del Negro. Playing as a power forward, Rodman led the league in rebounding and made All-Defense. It was also the same season that Rodman began to shave his hair and dye it in eye-popping colors in red, purple, and blue. Despite a 55-win season, the Spurs were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

1994-95 - Dennis Rodman - 16.8 RPG (San Antonio Spurs)

Rodman faced tension with the Spurs front office this season. Rodman was suspended for the first three games of the season, took a leave of absence on November 11, 1994, and then was suspended again in December. After missing 19 games, Rodman returned and put on one of the best rebounding seasons we have ever seen. Normally, Rodman would not have qualified for season records for missing time, but by grabbing 823 rebounds, he surpassed the league minimum of 800 to qualify. The Spurs won 62 games, which was the best record in the league. However, Rodman showed insubordination, such as sitting on the floor with his shoes off during a timeout. The Spurs lost in the Conference Finals to the Rockets, who were outplayed by Hakeem Olajuwon.

1995-96 - Dennis Rodman - 14.9 RPG (Chicago Bulls)

The Spurs couldn’t stop Olajuwon in the playoffs, who averaged 35.3 points per game, which led to Rodman questioning head coach Bob Hill’s playcalling. With that said, Rodman was traded to the Bulls for Will Perdue, who had a huge void at power forward with Horace Grant leaving. The gamble on Rodman paid off when the Bulls won a league record of 72 games. Despite struggling with calf problems, Rodman grabbed 20 or more rebounds 11 times this season. He was a tenacious defender, but his behavior remained the same, which included an incident where he headbutted referee Ted Bernhardt. All was well when the Bulls won the championship though.

1996-97 - Dennis Rodman - 16.1 RPG (Chicago Bulls)

Rodman averaged just 5.7 points but won his sixth consecutive rebounding title. Rodman made news when he tripped over cameraman Eugene Amos and kicked him in the groin. Despite not receiving a technical foul, Rodman had to pay $200,000 in settlement money and the league suspended him for 11 games. Rodman lost $1 million in salary over this. He also missed three other games due to suspensions over technical fouls. Rodman struggled to slow down Karl Malone in the NBA Finals as well, but he did enough to win a second championship in Chicago.

1997-98 - Dennis Rodman - 15.0 RPG (Chicago Bulls)

Rodman won a record-setting seventh rebounding title with 15.0 per game with 4.7 points. He grabbed 20 or more rebounds 11 times. His best game was against the Hawks, where he totaled 29 rebounds. Another time, Rodman grabbed 15 offensive rebounds against the Clippers. Despite a controversial decision to wrestle Hulk Hogan during the NBA Finals, Rodman shut down Karl Malone in the Finals and the Bulls completed the three-peat.

1998-99 - Chris Webber - 13.0 RPG (Sacramento Kings)

Webber never wanted to go to the Kings, but the team made the move by trading for Webber in exchange for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe. Webber had his best years in Sacramento. In his first year, a lockout-shortened season, Webber ended Dennis Rodman’s reign. The Kings made the playoffs but were knocked out by the Jazz in the first round.

1999-00 - Dikembe Mutombo - 14.1 RPG (Atlanta Hawks)

The year before, Mutombo was told he could not give the Mutombo finger wag anymore. After a period of protest, Mutombo complied with the new rule. In his first full season in Atlanta, Mutombo averaged 11.5 points and led the league in rebounding to go along with 3.3 blocks. On December 14, 1999, against the Timberwolves, Mutombo’s best game was on display when he scored 27 points on 11-for-11 shooting, grabbed a season-high 29 rebounds, and recorded six blocks in the win.

2000-01 - Dikembe Mutombo - 13.5 RPG (Atlanta Hawks/Philadelphia 76ers)

At the trade deadline, the Hawks traded Mutombo to the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers for Pepe Sanchez, Toni Kukoc, Nazr Mohammed, and Theo Ratliff. The week before, Mutombo played in the All-Star game and pulled down 22 rebounds. During the 2001 playoffs, Mutombo and MVP Allen Iverson led the team to the NBA Finals. To get to the Finals, Mutombo scored 23 points, grabbed 19 rebounds, and blocked seven shots in a pivotal Game 7 against the Bucks in the Conference Finals. Despite losing to the Lakers in the Finals, Mutombo signed a four-year, $68 million extension to stay.

2001-02 - Ben Wallace 13.0 RPG (Detroit Pistons)

Wallace’s 7.6 points were the most points per game for a season, while he also led the league in rebounding and blocks. His play earned him Defensive Player of the Year and was named All-NBA Third Team. The Pistons won 50 games and would defeat the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round against the Celtics, Wallace finished Game 1 with 19 points and 20 rebounds. He managed to grab 20 or more rebounds two out of 10 games. The Celtics would end up winning the series.

2002-03 - Ben Wallace - 15.4 RPG (Detroit Pistons)

Wallace would win another Defensive Player of the Year. He increased his rebounding by 2.3 rebounds and the Pistons would win 50 games once again. In the first round, the Pistons won a tough seven-game series over Orlando. After beating the 76ers in six games, the Pistons would fall to the Nets in a four-game sweep. Wallace averaged 16.3 rebounds in the playoffs, reaching 20 or more rebounds four times.

2003-04 - Kevin Garnett - 13.9 RPG (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Garnett won the league MVP with 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.2 blocks. With a franchise record in wins (58), the Timberwolves met the Lakers in the Conference Finals. The team might have defeated the tandem of Kobe Bryant and Shaq had Sam Cassell not been lost to a back injury. Garnett’s reign as rebounding king would only be the beginning.

2004-05 - Kevin Garnett - 13.5 RPG (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Garnett had a great overall season, including scoring a career-high 47 points to go with 17 rebounds in a 122-115 loss. Garnett was named All-NBA Second Team, but he couldn’t lead the team back to the playoffs. The Timberwolves failed to make the playoffs for the first time in eight years with a record of 44-38. While he did lead the league in rebounding, the frustration would begin to build for Garnett in Minnesota.

2005-06 - Kevin Garnett - 12.7 RPG (Minnesota Timberwolves)

The following season brought a lot of frustration for Garnett. Latrell Sprewell turned down a three-year extension and traded Sam Cassell for an ineffective Marko Jaric. The team won just 33 games. Despite Garnett’s play, the Timberwolves owned the second-worst record in the league. Garnett earned All-NBA Third Team, while the team missed the playoffs.

2006-07 - Kevin Garnett - 12.8 RPG (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Garnett led the league in rebounding for the fourth straight year but Minnesota was one of the worst teams in the league. This led to Glen Taylor finally admitting that he was listening to trade offers. Garnett was nearly traded for Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynam to join the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, but he was eventually traded to the Celtics, where he would win the 2008 championship. This also showcased a very weak rebounding class as Garnett's 2006 and 2007 totals were the second and third lowest of any rebounders in the last 40 years.

2007-08 - Dwight Howard - 14.2 RPG (Orlando Magic)

Howard was special around the rim. He won the Slam Dunk Contest after donning a Superman cape for one of his dunks. He led the Magic to their first divisional title in 12 years and a No. 3 seed in the playoffs. Howard recorded three 20-point/20-rebound games in the first round of the playoffs, which helped the Magic defeat the Raptors in five games. His series of 91 rebounds were more than the total rebounds by the Raptors frontcourt as a team. In the second round, the Magic lost to the Pistons in five games.

2008-09 - Dwight Howard - 13.8 RPG (Orlando Magic)

Howard led the league in blocks (4.2) as well as rebounds. Howard’s dominance carried over into the playoffs after a 59-win season. The Magic made the Eastern Conference Finals, where they defeated LeBron James and the Cavaliers 4-2. Howard had a playoff career-high 40 points and 14 rebounds in the decisive Game 6. In the NBA Finals, the Magic’s first appearance in 14 years, the Lakers were the better team and won in five games. Howard’s best showing came in Game 4, where he totaled 21 rebounds and a Finals record nine blocks.

2009-10 - Dwight Howard - 13.2 RPG (Orlando Magic)

The Magic got off to a strong start, winning 17 of their first 21 games to set a franchise record. Howard led the Magic to 59 wins and their third straight divisional title. The Magic nearly made a run back to the NBA Finals but were defeated by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen and the Celtics in the Conference Finals. Howard became the first player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounds and blocks in the same season twice, and for two years in a row.

2010-11 - Kevin Love - 15.2 RPG (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Despite the Timberwolves being one of the bottom feeders in the standings, Love had a consecutive double-double streak of 53 games. It was the longest streak since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976. Love beat out Moses Malone’s streak of 51 in 1979-1990. He was two games short of the record, held by Elvin Hayes (55) in 1973-1974. Love’s jersey that season became the highest-selling jersey since the days of Kevin Garnett. He was also named the league’s Most Improved Player.

2011-12 - Dwight Howard - 14.5 RPG (Orlando Magic)

Howard’s last season in Orlando was marred by distractions around his potential departure. Howard didn’t feel the team had a championship team. The season saw Howard break Wilt Chamberlain's single-game record of 34 free throw attempts on January 12, 2012. Howard made 21 of 39 attempts when the Warriors hacked him the whole game. He finished the game with 45 points and 23 rebounds in the win. The Magic didn’t live up to expectations, head coach Stan Van Gundy was fired, and Howard was traded to the Lakers.

2012-13 - Dwight Howard - 12.4 RPG (Los Angeles Lakers)

Howard wanted Hollywood, so the team traded him to L.A. Howard’s season was a disaster. He averaged the lowest point in his career, while his rebounding numbers are the lowest of any of the last 40 champions. Howard was named All-NBA Third Team after five consecutive First-Team Honors. His season was filled with distractions, including a back-and-forth relationship with Kobe Bryant. Howard left after one season, in what would be his final year leading the league in boards.

2013-14 - DeAndre Jordan - 13.6 RPG (Los Angeles Clippers)

Jordan joined some elite company this season. On April 29, 2014, Jordan became the first player with at least 25 points, 18 rebounds, and four blocks in a playoff game since Tim Duncan in 2008. Jordan was a prominent figure in “Lob City'' with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Jordan was the league’s most elite rim protector and rebounder. The Clippers lost to the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.

2014-15 - DeAndre Jordan - 15.0 RPG (Los Angeles Clippers)

Jordan recorded a career-high 27 rebounds with 22 points in a 115-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks on February 9, 2015. It was also a special season from a shooting perspective as Jordan recorded his first career three-pointer in the first quarter of that game. Jordan won All-NBA Third Team honors this season. He became the fifth player in league history to average at least 10 points, 15 rebounds, one steal, and two blocks. The last person to accomplish this was Moses Malone in 1982-1983.

2015-16 - Andre Drummond - 14.8 RPG (Detroit Pistons)

Drummond became the first player since Ben Wallace to record three consecutive double-doubles to start a season. Drummond was named Player of the Week after a 25-point, 29-rebound performance in a loss to the Pacers. He became the first Pistons player to record back-to-back 20/20 games since 1985. He recorded 29 points and 27 rebounds in the sixth game of the season, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to have three 20/20 games in the first six games. Drummond became the first player since Dennis Rodman to score a 30-point game with 20 rebounds. In late February, he recorded his 50th double-double, where he eventually led the league. Drummond led the Pistons to the No. 8 seed, their first playoff appearance since 2009.

2016-17 - Hassan Whiteside - 14.1 RPG (Miami Heat)

Before the season, Whiteside signed a four-year, $98 million to stay in Miami. He became the first player to go from a league minimum salary to a max-level contract. In the season opener, he dazzled with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocked shots in a win over Orlando. He later tied his career-high in points with 27 and grabbed 15 rebounds in a loss to the Spurs. Whiteside recorded his third 20-20 game this season, joining Rony Seikaly as the only Heat player with three or more. His season-high for rebounds was 25 on route to setting a single-season franchise record for rebounds in a season (936), which was two more than Seikaly in 1991-1992. He also became the first Heat player to ever record 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a season.

2017-18 - Andre Drummond - 16.0 RPG (Detroit Pistons)

Drummond recorded his 5,000 career rebound at the beginning of the season. At 24 years, 76 days, he became the second-youngest player to ever accomplish that feat, joining Dwight Howard. The Pistons started the year with a 9-3 record, their best start since 2005-2006. Drummond became the first player to grab at least 200 rebounds in the first 13 games since Dennis Rodman in the 90s. When Drummond recorded his 2,000th offensive rebound this season, he became the youngest to do so. After the All-Star break, Drummond recorded a 20-point, 20 rebounds, four steals, and four block game, becoming the first since Hakeem Olajuwon to total a line. Drummond led the league in rebounds with 12, becoming the first since Rodman to average a total so high and the second player to ever do it in the last 40 years.

2018-19 - Andre Drummond - 15.6 RPG (Detroit Pistons)

In November, Drummond recorded a 25-point, 24-rebound performance in an overtime loss to Miami. In January, Drummond recorded 11 offensive rebounds, 11 defensive rebounds, and 14 points to record his 11th career “Moses Malone triple-double.” Malone had a triple-double such as this 24 times, while Rodman had 17. Drummond later became the all-time leader in offensive rebounds in franchise history, passing the record held by Bill Laimbeer. In February, Drummond reached 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 100 blocks, and 100 steals for the fourth time in his career, the most ever by a player since 1973-1974.

2019-20 - Andre Drummond - 15.2 RPG (Detroit Pistons/Cleveland Cavaliers)

Drummond began the season with 32 points and 23 rebounds in a win over Indiana. He became the first player since Charles Barkley (1992) and George McGinnis (1977) as the only players to open a season this way. Drummond played just 49 games for the Pistons, averaging 17.8 points and 15.8 rebounds. He was later traded to the Cavaliers for Brandon Knight, John Henson, and a second-round pick. In eight games that season, Drummond averaged 17.5 points and 11.1 rebounds. It was enough for Drummond to claim his fourth rebounding title.

2020-21 - Clint Capela - 14.3 RPG (Atlanta Hawks)

On February 5, 2020, the Rockets traded Capela and Nene to the Hawks for Robert Covington and Jordan Bell in a four-team, 12-player trade. In his first full season with the Hawks, the team made the Conference Finals and he led the league in rebounding. Capela recorded his first career triple-double this season with 13 points, 19 rebounds, and 10 blocks in a 116-98 win over the Timberwolves. Capela led the league in offensive rebounds and was fifth in defensive. 


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