The top NBA rebounders have been the make or break for plenty of teams throughout the league’s history.
If you look up the basketball-specific definition of the word rebound, you’ll find a very simple and concise meaning: a recovery of possession of a missed shot. That narrow interpretation mirrors its generally unappreciated and unglamorous nature.
When people look up basketball highlights on YouTube or wherever they go, they often hunt for flashy passes, ankle-breaking crossovers, or thunderous dunks that bring fans out of their seats. The only time rebounding gets spotlighted is when it leads to one of the aforementioned highlight plays or when a player is on the precipice of recording a triple-double.
Part of the issue lies in the stat’s simplicity; we’re basically talking about grabbing the ball after a missed shot. What’s the big deal if we ignore something that any tall, lanky player that’s in the right place at the right time can accomplish?
The truth is, mastering rebounding takes more than just the proper height, weight, wingspan or some combination of all three. It requires knowledge of positioning and a tough, determined mindset. Players that excel at rebounding on both ends of the floor are a tremendous boon to their respective teams, as they can create extra scoring chances and help jumpstart fast break opportunities.
Every franchise has employed at least one player who dominated the glass at some point. But who are the greatest rebounders for each club? Well, that’s what we’re going to find out.
Best rebounder in Atlanta Hawks history: Bob Pettit
While it’s easy to forget since he played during a time when the NBA was trying to gain traction nationally, Bob Pettit is one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. As of 2018, he ranks eighth in career points per game, 13th in win shares per 48 minutes (WS/48) and 20th in Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
His relatively short playing career — which lasted 11 seasons — precluded him from accumulating the gaudy counting stats that others on this list have. But make no mistake, he was one of the all-time great frontcourt players.
At 6-foot-9 and 205 pounds, Pettit excelled as a scorer — he averaged at least 20 points per game every season of his career — and as a rebounder. How good of a rebounder was Pettit?
Well, when he retired, the only players that averaged more rebounds per game than Pettit were Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. You’re doing something right when your name is mentioned in the same breath as the preeminent big men of your era.
Drafted second overall in the 1954 NBA Draft, the former LSU standout spent his entire career with the Hawks organization (the team was located in Milwaukee and St. Louis when Pettit played for them).
As of 2018, he still holds the franchise records for total rebounds (12,849) and rebounds per game (16.2). Pettit was a force on the glass; he never averaged less than 12.4 boards and is one of only five players to average 20 in a single season.
Pettit’s legacy suffers from both the passage of time and from playing during the same time as Chamberlain and Russell, but there’s not questioning the two-time scoring champ’s greatness, especially when it came to grabbing rebounds.