Maybe the greatest defensive force in history, and the cornerstone of the Celtics dynasty of the 1960s. The 6-9 Russell was an uncanny shotblocker and one-on-one defender who revolutionized defensive concepts with his ability to dominate a game on that end of the court. He always delivered in the postseason, thwarting foes from Wilt to West as Boston racked up 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons.
2 of 12Manny Millan/SI
The all-time playoff leader in scoring average, Jordan was also one of the all-time defensive greats. The nine-time first-team All-Defense selection wreaked havoc on playoff foes with his intensity. His steal of Karl Malone late in Game 6 of the '98 Finals, which set up his game-winning jumper, is one of the most memorable plays in NBA history.
3 of 12Richard Mackson/SI
Though more known for his flamboyant off-court lifestyle, Rodman was a rebounding machine and terrific one-on-one defender who won five NBA titles. The tattooed pogo stick helped lead Detroit's Bad Boys to crowns in '89 and '90, then joined the Bulls for their second three-peat ('96-'98). At 6-foot-8, Rodman was arguably the greatest rebounder of all time for his size.
4 of 12Manny Millan/SI
Drafted in the third round out of New Mexico, this spindly 6-7 forward would go on to help the Showtime Lakers win five NBA titles in the 1980s. Cooper, the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year in '87, was a one-man blanket who often guarded the other team's best scorer. Magic, Kareem and Worthy might have won the headlines, but Coop always played a key role.
5 of 12David E. Klutho/SI
The 7-0 Olajuwon rattled playoff foes with his defense as much as he did with his Dream Shake. He led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA titles in '94 and '95, and still holds the NBA playoff record for most blocks in a single game (10, tied with Mark Eaton). For his career, Olajuwon ranks second all-time in playoff blocks (to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and is in the top 25 in steals.
6 of 12Manny Millan/SI
Maybe one of the most underrated defenders, the 6-6 guard was a key player for several teams that went deep in the postseason. As a member of the Sonics in the `79 Finals, he blocked 14 shots in five games from the guard position and took home Finals MVP. DJ later joined the Celtics, helping Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to a pair of titles in '84 and '86.
7 of 12John W. McDonough/SI
This four-time Defensive Player of the Year did more than just make afro wigs and "Fear the `Fro" a staple of Deee-troit basket-ball. He also helped lead the Pistons to four straight Eastern Conference finals and two Finals berths. Though undersized at 6-9, Big Ben used his incredible strength and hustle to wreak havoc on playoff foes while helping Detroit win the '04 NBA title.
8 of 12John W. McDonough/SI
Known as Michael Jordan's sidekick, Pippen was a force in his own right on the defensive end. The 6-8 forward used his long arms and athleticism to raid passing lanes and stifle numerous playoff foes, most famously Magic Johnson in the '91 Finals. Pippen still hold the all-time playoff record for career steals with 395, 19 more than the runner-up, Jordan.
9 of 12Manny Millan/SI
Though he never won an NBA title, this four-time Defensive Player of the Year was a big part of two memorable playoff teams. In 1994, he helped lead the eighth-seed Nuggets past the top-seeded Sonics in one of the biggest upsets in playoff history. Mutombo then helped backstop Allen Iverson's Sixers to the '01 Finals, where they lost to the Lakers.
10 of 12Theo Westenberger/SI
Known as the classy quiet member of the great Pistons Bad Boys teams that made three straight Finals and won back-to-back titles in '89 and '90, Dumars was nonetheless a defensive nightmare. Strong and smart, he hounded opposing shooting guards with a tenacity seldom seen. Even Jordan, the target of Detroit's so-called Jordan Rules, called him the toughest defender he ever faced.
11 of 12Manny Millan/SI
Dr. J. and Moses might not have won their '83 NBA title without the services of this 6-9 forward, who used exceptional footwork and hustle to earn eight first-team All-Defense selections. Jones was a key member of three Sixers Finals teams, and his key steal against the Bucks in the closing seconds of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals saved a 111-109 OT victory and helped propel Philly on its way to that '83 crown.
12 of 12John W. McDonough/SI
One of the best -- and most controversial -- perimeter stoppers of his era, the 6-7 Bowen helped lead the Spurs to three NBA titles with his sticky brand of aggressive, hands-on defense. Before that he was a key defender for two Pat Riley-coached Heat playoff squads. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted out of Cal-State Fullerton and spent several years in the CBA and overseas before finally making it to the NBA.
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