Rebounding seems the simplest of acts: tracking the basketball in the air after a missed shot, the player corrals and secures it to ensure his or her team’s possession.
However, the art of rebounding can be looked down upon due to its aggressive, physical nature; it is often known as grunt work, and players whose primary strength is offense seldom want to get involved in a brawl down in the key. There are, though, some athletes over the years who made rebounding their specialty, and some of them are good company indeed. Here are some of the past NBA, WNBA, and international stars who were known for pulling down rebounds.
No roundup of rebounders would be complete without a nod to the legendary center Wilt Chamberlain. The early league star, who retired in 1973, still holds many all-time league records. One of his many nicknames was Chairman of the Boards, paying homage to his ability as a rebounder: he holds the three top rebounding records for a single season, and six of the top seven records, with only the Boston Celtics’ Bill Russell interrupting his streak.
Chamberlain captured eleven rebounding titles, and his prowess began with his inaugural game — he grabbed 28 boards against the New York Knicks, then continued to average 27 rebounds per game his rookie season.
Charles Barkley was short for a power forward, at only 6’5½”, but he was known as the Round Mound of Rebound for a reason: by the time his prolific 16-year career was over, he was one of only four players in NBA history to have 20,000 points, 4,000 assists, and 10,000 rebounds.
During his three-year college career, he led the SEC in rebounding every season, frequently pulling down missed shots and running them all the way down the court to finish with a dunk. He led the league in rebounds in his third season with the Philadelphia 76ers, and in 1990, he pulled down the most rebounds in an All-Star Game since Wilt Chamberlain.
Dennis Rodman was known for his wild hair colors and quirky personality, but he was also a stellar rebounder. He led the league from 1992-1998 in rebounds per game; with 1,530 rebounds in the 1990-91 season, Rodman set a mark that has not been surpassed since for a single season.
In a March game the next year, Rodman pulled down 34 rebounds, a career high. The 1994-95 season saw Rodman injure his shoulder in a motorcycle accident, but he still managed to grab 823 boards for the season, surpassing the required 800 mark and pushing his average to 16.8 per game, earning him the title. Rodman leads Dwight Howard, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, and Tim Duncan as the five players holding the best career rebounding average since 1973.
In the women’s game, Cheryl Ford (daughter of Karl Malone, another great rebounder) shines as one of the best in rebounding in the WNBA. She holds the WNBA’s career record of 10.3 rebounds per game, and during the 2005-06 season, she donated $30 to tumor research for every rebound she grabbed.
That year, she was responsible for about one third of her team’s total rebounding per game, shing particularly on the offensive boards.
While it’s difficult to pin down the best college rebounder of all time, as the face of the game is constantly changing, one ESPN expert gives the title of best rebounder in the recent game to Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins.
A 2010 NBA Draft prospective, Cousins averaged 10 rebounds per game with his collegiate team, and at 6’11” is a prime candidate to play the NBA post.