The current era of the NBA is renowned for its 3-point shooting and the athleticism and skill of its great players. Rebounding is one of the skills that often gets pushed to the background unless one discusses players who are getting triple-doubles. However, the importance of getting the ball off the glass is enormous. A rebound ends a successful defensive possession on one end; at the other, it gives your team another chance to score.
So who is the NBA’s current active leader in rebounds?
The top of the all-time rebounding list is carved in stone
While the modern NBA is often described as the pace-and-space era, the truth is that today’s pace is that of a snail compared to the early days of the NBA’s shot-clock period. After it was Introduced in 1954 to prevent teams from slowing play to a near halt, the 24-second clock revolutionized pro basketball.
In 1953–54, the last year without the clock, the Syracuse Nationals and Minneapolis Lakers were the fastest teams in the NBA. Each averaged 93.5 possessions per game. The following season, the Rochester Royals averaged 99.5 possessions a night, and they were the slowest team in the NBA.
By 1956-57, every team in the league averaged at least 100 possessions nightly. Combine that with a league shooting percentage of 38.7%, and there were mountains of rebounds to grab.
So it’s not a surprise the game’s two most prolific rebounders are from the 1950s and 1960s, the fastest-paced era in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain is the all-time leader with 23,924 boards. Bill Russell is close behind with 21,620. No other player tops 20,000, and no active player is in the top 10 all-time.
The leading active rebounder in the NBA is Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers is 36 years old and playing in his 18th NBA season. But don’t let his average of 5.4 rebounds per game this season fool you. Howard was a rebounding machine for much of his career. He led the league in rebounding five times in six seasons between 2007–13 and averaged more than 10 a game from his rookie year in 2004–05 through 2017–18.
Howard is second among active players in rebounds per game with 11.9. He trails only Philadelphia 76ers big man Andre Drummond, who gets 13.6 boards a night.
Howard has yanked down 14,401 rebounds in his career. Currently 11th on the all-time list, Howard needs 64 more boards to pass Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond for 10th place. In range for Howard are ninth-place Kevin Garnett (14,662) and Robert Parish, eighth with 14,715.
The rest of the top 10 active rebounders
The Lakers are well-represented on the active rebounding list, with five of the top 10 players currently on the LA roster.
Only one other active player has more than 10,000. Howard’s teammate with the Lakers, DeAndre Jordan, snared his 10,000th career missed shot on Dec. 10 against the Oklahoma City Thunder and is second among active players with 10,002.
A third LA player holds third place among active players. LeBron James is closing in on the 10,000 mark for his career with 9,838.
The rest of the top 10 includes Drummond (9,091), LaMarcus Aldridge of the Brooklyn Nets (8,615), Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (8,272), Brooklyn’s Paul Millsap (7,636), Carmelo Anthony of the Lakers (7,631), Boston Celtics center Al Horford (7,424). The lone guard in the group sits in 10th.
Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook has 7,170 rebounds in his career. As the all-time leader in triple-doubles, it makes sense he found his way onto this list.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and are current through Dec. 11, 2021.