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When it comes to the NBA, it’s easy to forget about the defensive side of the game. Point scorers get most of the glory, and although rebounders are recognized the block shot category is one often overlooked. Defense is an important part of winning an NBA Championship and blocks is one of those defensive stats.
Steals, rebounds and fouls drawn can also be part of a defensive championship game plan. However, most of those stats are rarely talked about and don’t get the spotlight it might deserve. Let’s go through the NBA’s block leaders throughout history and other relevant players.
Block Records in the NBA
There are various Hall of Fame players with notable defensive skills and achievements. Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are just a handful of NBA steal leaders throughout history, while Dennis Rodman is considered one of the best rebounders ever.
Gary Payton is nicknamed ‘The Glove’ for his ability to steal passes, while players like Dennis Johnson made countless NBA All-Defensive teams. Defense is highlighted throughout great players in history, and blocks are no different.
All-Time Blocks Record: Hakeem Olajuwon
Perhaps the greatest player to be included as one of the NBA’s greatest shot blockers is the Dream, Hakeem Olajuwon. The Houston Rockets great has 3,830 total blocks which is the most of all-time. Right behind him are other shot blocking greats in Dikembe Mutumbo and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Olajuwon is one the greatest players in NBA history, leading the NBA three times in blocked shots while also leading the league twice in rebounding. He is a multi-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, and a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He won the second of his DPOY awards in 1994, the same year he won league MVP and an NBA Championship.
Single-Game Blocks Record: Elmore Smith
In 1973, Elmore Smith became the leader for most blocks in a single NBA game. He finished his game against the Portland Trail Blazers with 17 total blocks, accumulating an insane 11 in one half. He also finished the game with 12 points and 16 rebounds for a triple-double effort.
Smith would also see 14 blocks in a game on two other separate occasions. He actually broke a bone in his game against the Houston Rockets, but finished one point shy of a triple-double.
Manute Bol is another player who has left his mark in the block category for NBA historians, despite not many knowing the name. Bol actually finished his career with more blocks than points, but also 15 blocks in a game twice.
Single Season Blocks Record: Mark Eaton
Mark Eaton is just one of three players in the history of the NBA to lead the league in blocked shots four different times. In his second stint of leading the NBA in blocked shots, Eaton saw 456 during the 1984-85 season. No other player has crossed 400 blocks in one season.
The other two players to lead the NBA in blocked shots for a season are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Marcus Camby. Of the three players, only Eaton was able to accomplish this with one franchise. Bol finished the 1985-86 season just three blocks shy of 400, while Elmore Smith finished the 1973-74 season seven blocks shy of 400.
Blocks Per Game Record: Mark Eaton
Eaton also leads the NBA in blocks per game, averaging 3.5 a game throughout his career. Only three players, including Eaton, finished their careers with over three blocks per game. The other two players are Manute Bol and Hakeem Olajuwon.
San Antonio Spurs great David Robinson did finish his career with 2.99 blocks per game, while Elmore Smith finished his career with 2.90 blocks per game. Anthony Davis is the current block per game leader in the NBA with 2.33 per game throughout his career.
More Career Blocks Than Points: Manute Bol
Bol has been mentioned countless times already in this article, arguably one of the games best shot blockers ever. What’s funny is that Bol actually finished his career with about 500 more blocks than points scored.
He saw over 2,000 rebounds and blocks in his career, but only 1,500 points. He averaged just two points per game while seeing four rebounds and three blocks per. Despite making only one NBA All-Defensive Team (Second Team), he is one of the best blockers in NBA history.
The Challenge of Surpassing All-Time NBA Block Records
There hasn’t been a 300 total shot block in an NBA season since Theo Ratliff in 2003-04. In fact, the last five NBA seasons have seen the league leader in block totals under 200. The NBA has seen a steady decline in the art of shot blocking, but why is that?
The biggest reason is that the game has been brought out to the three-point line, thanks to Steph Curry. Now more than ever, the three-point shot is crucial in the NBA game which means less opportunities for blocked shots.
Jaren Jackson Jr. led the NBA in blocked shots during the 2021-22 season with 177 in 78 games played. That averages out to 2.27 blocks per game, which although is impressive, is the lowest blocks per game total by an NBA block leader of any season.
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