Skip to main content

The Most Points Per Game By Centers In The Last 40 Years: Shaquille O'Neal Raised The Bar Really High

The Most Points Per Game By Centers In The Last 40 Years: Shaquille O'Neal Raised The Bar Really High

Centers are playing a crucial part of the NBA game these days because they can do multiple things on the court at a high level including playing defense and scoring. As bigs who have the capabilities to play on the wings, Centers are essentially small forwards with extra muscle. More so than in any other era, Centers are basically small forwards with defensive capabilities.

We have seen over the past decade how elite Centers control the game on both ends of the floor and are mainly responsible for their team’s successes. Thanks to the new wave of incredible athletes and skilled players at the Center spot, some of the best offensive players play in stretch-four roles or occupy that position. These players include the likes of Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who both occupy that position for their teams.

Looking back at the last 40 years, here are the leading scorers in the Center position from 1982 until the 2022 season. Some names will appear more than once, and some other players managed to take offense to an entirely different level by dominating the scoring charts every year. Without further ado, here are the last 40 scoring champions at the Center spot in the NBA.

1982-83 - Moses Malone - 24.5 PPG (Philadelphia 76ers)

The late and great Moses Malone was a force for the Philadelphia 76ers, helping the franchise win the NBA title during the 1983 season in which the center captured Finals MVP honors as well. During the regular season, Moses averaged 24.5 PPG on 50.1% shooting from the field and 76.1% from the line, along with leading all players in rebounds at 15.3 RPG.

1983-84 - Moses Malone - 22.7 PPG (Philadelphia 76ers)

Moses’ name will appear on this more than a few times because he is one of the most consistent paint scorers we had ever seen. The center averaged 22.7 PPG on 48.3% shooting from the field and 75.0% from the line, making it difficult to stop him from getting whatever he wanted at the rim. At age 28, Moses was right in his prime as he made his 7th straight NBA All-Star Team and 8th overall including his ABA selection in 1975.

1984-85 - Moses Malone - 24.6 PPG (Philadelphia 76ers)

Moses Malone is one of the all-time great centers, and his dominance during the 1980s was certainly impressive when looking at his scoring and rebounding stats. In 1985, Moses all centers in scoring at 24.6 PPG and all players in rebounds at 13.1 RPG. Thanks to his aggressiveness at crashing the offensive glass, no big man scored the ball better than Malone during the year.

1985-86 - Moses Malone - 23.8 PPG (Philadelphia 76ers)

One of the most unstoppable players in the paint, Moses Malone was truly unguardable when he had a position down low. Due to his size at 6’10” and 215 lbs, Moses was a monster at getting putback layups and might be the greatest offensive rebounder of all time. Nailing 45.8% of his field goals, Moses would not be denied when he had the ball near the rim and he finished 7th in the NBA in scoring during the season.

1986-87 - Moses Malone - 24.1 PPG (Washington Bullets)

The following year, Moses Malone once again led all centers in scoring and finished with a very solid scoring average of 24.1 PPG on 45.4% shooting. Moses made a living from the post and around the basket, and by making his eleventh All-Star Team, the 1987 season was one of his best ever. Quite frankly, there have been only a handful of unstoppable post scorers in the NBA and Moses ranks among the very top.

1987-88 - Hakeem Olajuwon - 22.8 PPG (Houston Rockets)

Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the greatest players in the 1990s and of all time, but his 1988 season saw him average 22.8 PPG on 51.4% shooting which ended up leading all centers. Hakeem was a monster in the paint, and even though he played against other elite bigs including Moses Malone and Patrick Ewing, he was unstoppable when he had a strong position down low.

1988-89 - Hakeem Olajuwon - 24.8 PPG (Houston Rockets)

It was only fitting for Hakeem Olajuwon to dominate the scoring charts at the center position. The Dream went ballistic during the season, averaging 24.8 PPG on 50.8% shooting for the Houston Rockets. Get used to seeing Olajuwon’s name appear on this list because he will appear many more times in the 1990s, thanks to his extremely gifted footwork and handles.

1989-90 - Patrick Ewing - 28.6 PPG (New York Knicks)

During the 1990 season, Patrick Ewing led all Centers in scoring by averaging 28.6 PPG for the New York Knicks. There was truly no comparison to him at his position during the year when it came to scoring because Ewing’s consistency in the paint set him apart. The next-highest scoring center was Hakeem Olajuwon, who managed 24.3 PPG for the Houston Rockets.

1990-91 - Patrick Ewing - 26.6 PPG (New York Knicks)

In his fifth All-Star season at age 28 for the New York Knicks, Patrick Ewing averaged 26.6 PPG on 51.4% shooting from the field. These are certainly elite numbers for a player that was not the bulkiest of players, but he knew how to get it done in the paint against opposing centers. Thanks to Ewing’s scoring, the New York Knicks made the playoffs when they did not have the roster to compete at the time.

1991-92 - Patrick Ewing - 24.0 PPG (New York Knicks)

Patrick Ewing has to be one of the greatest New York Knicks players ever, because he was so capable of carrying an offense on his back through inside scoring. The center averaged an impressive 24.0 PPG on 52.2% shooting from the field and 73.8% from the stripe, and he even led the Knicks to the 4th seed in a competitive Eastern Conference led by the Chicago Bulls.

1992-93 - Hakeem Olajuwon - 26.1 PPG (Houston Rockets)

Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon led all centers in scoring during the 1993 season, and his closest competitor in that regard was Patrick Ewing who finished with a 24.2 PPG average. Olajuwon was supremely skilled for his size, as he had unstoppable moves on the block that left defenders frozen. The Dream also led the NBA in blocks by averaging 4.2 BPG.

1993-94 - David Robinson - 29.8 PPG (San Antonio Spurs)

At age 28, David Robinson continued his dominance from mid-range and on the block for the San Antonio Spurs. He posted a league-leading 29.8 PPG with San Antonio through 80 games and finished off the 1994 season by averaging 50.7% shooting. Interestingly, the superstar center also chipped in an impressive 4.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 3.3 BPG which showcased his elite two-way play.

1994-95 - Shaquille O’Neal - 29.3 PPG (Orlando Magic)

The era of elite big men continued, as Shaquille O’Neal led all players in scoring at an impressive clip. There was no answer for the 22-year-old phenom that was taken No. 1 overall in the 1992 NBA Draft, as he put up an impressive 29.3 PPG on 58.3% shooting, efficiency which came as a result of O’Neal’s desire to be the most dominant scorer in the game.

1995-96 - Hakeem Olajuwon - 26.9 PPG (Houston Rockets)

One of the greatest paint scorers ever, Hakeem Olajuwon continued his tear during the 1996 season by posting 26.9 PPG on 51.4% shooting from the field and 72.4% from the free-throw line. The Dream continued to be an elite spot-up scorer and could also create his offense when needed in the post, a reason why he made his 11th All-Star Team for the Houston Rockets.

1996-97 - Hakeem Olajuwon - 23.2 PPG (Houston Rockets)

The 1997 season marked yet another time when Hakeem Olajuwon ranked 1st among centers in scoring the basketball. The Dream was impressive during the year, posting 23.2 PPG on 51.0% shooting from the field and 78.7% from the free-throw line. Very few big men could score like Olajuwon, and he made it obvious when he carried to fool defenders with his “Dream Shake” and create unlimited scoring opportunities, even at age 34.

1997-98 - Shaquille O’Neal - 28.3 PPG (Los Angeles Lakers)

Shaquille O’Neal is easily one of the greatest scorers in Los Angeles Lakers and even NBA history because he was a premier All-Star at the center position, and could get buckers from inside through brute force and aggression. The center averaged 28.3 PPG on 58.4% shooting from the field, strong numbers for a player that appeared in 60 games and averaged 36.3 MPG.

1998-99 - Shaquille O’Neal - 28.3 PPG (Los Angeles Lakers)

For yet another year, Shaquille O’Neal led all centers in scoring thanks to his mix of incredible size and also his soft touch around the rim. The big man was unstoppable at 7’1” and 325 lbs, which made him a capable option to punish opposing centers. The superstar center averaged 28.3 PPG during the lockout-shortened season and only finished second to Allen Iverson in overall scoring in the league.

1999-00 - Shaquille O’Neal - 29.7 PPG (Los Angeles Lakers)

The 2000 season was the start of Shaquille O’Neal’s unreal dominance in the league, as The Diesel led all players in scoring and also captured the regular-season MVP award as a member of the Lakers. The physical specimen found it too easy to score against any opponent, and the Lakers rose the big man until the end of the year when they won the NBA title. But during the year, there was no question about who the best offensive player in the league was.

2000-01 - Shaquille O’Neal - 28.7 PPG (Los Angeles Lakers)

In the midst of Shaquille O’Neal’s dominance, the Lakers were the undisputed best team in the NBA. The superstar center was a contender for the MVP award, finished 3rd in scoring behind Allen Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse, and capped off the year with a championship and Finals MVP trophy. One of his best seasons ever, Shaq was a dominant force in the paint unlike anyone since Wilt Chamberlain.

2001-02 - Shaquille O’Neal - 27.2 PPG (Los Angeles Lakers)

One year after winning MVP and also capturing his second straight championship, Shaq continued his dominance by leading all big men in scoring and finishing second in the NBA behind Allen Iverson. O’Neal would win his third straight title at the end of the year, and his dominant inside scoring was the main reason why the Lakers were so dominant for as long as they were.

2002-03 - Shaquille O’Neal - 27.5 PPG (Los Angeles Lakers)

The most dominant player in the modern era, there was still no answer for The Diesel by the time the 2003 season rolled around. Despite playing next to a usage-heavy guard in Kobe Bryant, O’Neal dominated the paint as the best center in the game by posting 27.5 PPG on 57.4% shooting. Bryant actually finished second in the league in scoring (30.0 PPG) behind Tracy McGrady.

2003-04 - Dirk Nowitzki - 21.8 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)

Dirk Nowitzki was one of the early players who could stretch the court from deep and also score inside at a truly elite level. Arriving as a bonafide All-Star and superstar, Dirk Nowitzki was a unique scorer due to his outside shooter and also his ability to score anytime he wanted in one-on-one situations. His one-legged jumper was nice to watch, and his efficiency was also on point (46.2% FG, 34.1% 3-PT FG, 87.7% FT).

2004-05 - Amar’e Stoudemire - 26.0 PPG (Phoenix Suns)

The 2005 season saw the emergence of Amar’e Stoudemire as one of the most dominant scoring big men in the world. He put up 26.0 PPG for the Phoenix Suns, doing it through his unstoppable ability to score at the rim after receiving feeds from his superstar point guard, Steve Nash. While many will credit Nash’s incredible playmaking ability for Stoudemire’s excellent stats, the big man deserves credit for coming through as the go-to scorer for the team.

2005-06 - Chris Bosh - 22.5 PPG (Toronto Raptors)

At the young age of 21, Chris Bosh made his first All-Star Team in his third season by averaging 22.5 PPG for the Toronto Raptors. The talented big man was showing glimpses of promise by his second season, but his stats took a leap in 2006. Shooting 50.5% from the field and 81.6% from the free-throw line, Bosh had an excellent year for such a young player.

2006-07 - Chris Bosh - 22.6 PPG (Toronto Raptors)

A clutch shot-maker and talented offensive star, Chris Bosh averaged 22.6 PPG on 49.6% from the field and 34.3% from three for the Toronto Raptors. The center had every offensive trick in the book from jump shooting to fadeaway jumpers, and there was not much any defender could do against him in 2007. Of course, Bosh would make the All-Star Team, marking his second straight at the age of 22.

2007-08 - Amar’e Stoudemire - 25.3 PPG (Phoenix Suns)

Amar’e Stoudemire was part of the “7 Seconds or Less” offense run by Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash and competed at the center spot for most of the season. An excellent athlete and dominant scorer through the pick-and-roll, Stoudemire was a monster collecting bounce passes from Steve Nash and finishing through traffic. By the end of the year, Amar’e finished 5th in scoring at 25.3 PPG.

2008-09 - Chris Bosh - 22.7 PPG (Toronto Raptors)

Despite preferring to occupy the power forward spot and use his height to dominate, Chris Bosh was elite at the center spot and had a great season in 2009 by posting 22.7 PPG on 48.7% from the field and 81.7% from the foul line. A quick-stepped big man with an excellent mid-range jumper, Bosh carried the Toronto Raptors during the year thanks to his skilled all-around game.

2009-10 - Chris Bosh - 24.0 PPG (Toronto Raptors)

Chris Bosh was competing at a superstar level in 2010, and he would soon get the success he truly deserved by joining the Miami Heat and eventually winning two championships The All-Star center was one of the most consistent shooters and scorers at his position, putting up 24.0 PPG on 51.8% from the field, 36.4% from three, and 79.7% from the free-throw line.

2010-11 - Amar’e Stoudemire - 25.3 PPG (New York Knicks)

In his first season with the New York Knicks, Amar’e Stoudemire made a massive splash by giving Knicks fans something to be happy about with spectacular offensive play. Competing at the center spot for the majority of the year, Stoudemire finished 5th in the league in scoring despite sharing 27 games on the court with Carmelo Anthony (3rd in scoring) on the court.

2011-12 - Al Jefferson - 19.2 PPG (Utah Jazz)

Big Al Jefferson was a very strong scorer in 2012, and that was something we began to get used to. A strong post scorer, Jefferson was a force on the block but also possessed a consistent mid-range jump shot from mid-range. As a member of the Utah Jazz, Al Jefferson shot 49.2% from the field and 77.4% from the free-throw line, marks of a consistent scorer in the paint.

2012-13 - Brook Lopez - 19.4 PPG (Brooklyn Nets)

Despite being an average rebounder at best, Brook Lopez was a great scorer as the starting center for the Brooklyn Nets. Thanks to his incredibly soft touch around the rim and height at 7’0”, Lopez found it easy to score around the rim and also make shots from mid-range. The Nets were not a great team, but they made the playoffs thanks to Lopez’s scoring.

2013-14 - DeMarcus Cousins - 22.7 PPG (Sacramento Kings)

Finishing ninth in the NBA in scoring behind a mix of guards and forwards, DeMarcus Cousins started coming into his own as a franchise player during the 2014 season by posting 22.7 PPG for the Sacramento Kings. The powerful big man shot 49.6% from the field and 72.6% from the line, and he was not even taking three-pointers, a major part of his game these days. It would only be a matter of time before DeMarcus would go off offensively over the next few years.

2014-15 - DeMarcus Cousins - 24.1 PPG (Sacramento Kings)

At age 24, DeMarcus Cousins finished 5th in the NBA in scoring with 24.1 PPG behind two guards, and two forwards in Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Cousins was already considered one of the most talented scorers in the game in his first All-Star Team selection. Cousins was not quite competing for a championship with the Kings, but he was still an elite offensive player with the ball in his hands.

2015-16 - DeMarcus Cousins - 26.9 PPG (Sacramento Kings)

It was amazing how dominant DeMarcus Cousins was as the All-Star center for the Sacramento Kings because he brought size and elite skills in the post. A capable rebounder and passer as well, Cousins carried the Kings on his back with his ability to punish defenders inside and also shoot the outside shot. Cousins also finished 4th in the league in scoring behind Stephen Curry, James Harden, and Kevin Durant.

2016-17 - Anthony Davis - 28.0 PPG (New Orleans Pelicans)

Making the 4th straight All-Star Team with the New Orleans Pelicans, Anthony Davis dropped 28.0 PPG on 50.5% from the field, 29.9% from the three-point line, and 80.2% from the line. The talented big man was a natural power forward, but he occupied the center spot during the year and certainly did a fantastic job getting buckets at a superstar level.

2017-18 - LaMarcus Aldridge - 23.1 PPG (San Antonio Spurs)

Occupying the center position for the San Antonio Spurs during the year, LaMarcus Aldridge put up 23.1 PPG in a comeback season alongside a talented Kawhi Leonard who only managed to play 6 games during the year. Aldridge made his first All-Star Team since the 2016 season, and that was mainly due to Gregg Popovich's willingness to utilize him properly on the offense.

2018-19 - Joel Embiid - 27.5 PPG (Philadelphia 76ers)

By leading all centers in scoring, Joel Embiid carried the Philadelphia 76ers to the third seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to his ability to power the ball in the basket in the paint and also nail outside jumpers from the perimeter. Embiid shot an impressive 48.4% from the field and 80.4% from the free-throw line, strong shooting percentages from an elite big man that was also a defensive force.

2019-20 - Kristaps Porzingis - 20.4 PPG (Dallas Mavericks)

By leading all centers in scoring, including Nikola Jokic (19.9 PPG), Kristaps Porzingis scored an impressive 20.4 PPG on 42.7% from the field, 35.2% from the three, and 79.9% from the line. The man formerly known as “The Unicorn”, Porzingis shot a low percentage from the field because he never quite recovered from his injuries during his stint with New York. Still, Kristaps put up over 20 PPG for a Mavericks side built around Luka Doncic.

2020-21 - Joel Embiid - 28.5 PPG (Philadelphia 76ers)

Joel Embiid was certainly one of the contenders for the scoring title in 2021 because he finished 4th in the league in scoring thanks to a mix of post and perimeter skills. The 76ers superstar center was clearly coming for the scoring title because he continued to improve his ability to create his own offense and shoot over defenders with accuracy. At his size and skill, Embiid would soon win his first scoring title.

2021-22 - Joel Embiid - 30.6 PPG (Philadelphia 76ers)

This season, Joel Embiid finished 1st in the NBA in scoring by putting up 30.6 PPG on 49.9% from the field, 37.1% from the three, and 81.4% from the stripe. Even if Nikola Jokic won the MVP award in 2020, Embiid was arguably the best offensive player in the game because of his unstoppable ability around the rim and elite jump shooting skills from anywhere on the court. At 7’0”, Joel was clearly unguardable. 


The Most Points Per Game By Power Forwards In The Last 40 Years: Karl Malone Led The Scoring List 12 Times, Only Dirk Nowitzki Comes Close

The Most Points Per Game By Small Forwards In The Last 40 Years: Kevin Durant Is The Last One To Score Over 30 PPG

The Most Points Per Game By Shooting Guards In The Last 40 Years: Michael Jordan Dominated The Game Of Basketball As No One Else

The Most Points Per Game By Point Guards In The Last 40 Years: Only Three Players Averaged More Than 30 Points

NBA MVP Award Winners Per Position: Centers Have Historically Been More Valuable Than Guards And Forwards