Who are the most underrated centers in NBA history?

Neil Johnston

nobody except the most diehard basketball historians would know this man.

6x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 1x Champion, 3x Scoring leader, 1x Rebounding leader.

19.4 PPG / 11.3 RPG / 2.4 APG / 44.4% FG% (VERY good FG% for the 1950s)

He has an insane PER of 24.9 and insane WS/48 of 0.241 and his TS% of 53.4% is very impressive for his era. Advanced analytics would call him the best player of his era (until Russell showed up). But.. nobody except really old heads or historians knows of this guy today.

Artis Gilmore

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeTiJKrhuX8

Snubbed from the NBA 50th and 75th anniversary teams, the “A-train” was an 11x All-Star, 5x All-ABA, 5x All-Def, ABA Champion, ABA Playoffs MVP, 4x Rebounding leader, 4x defensive win shares leader, scored 25k points in his career, grabbed 16k rebounds (5th all time) and is the NBA all time leader in FG% at 60%. Career 18/12/2.

But no one ever really talks about him.

Mel Daniels

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlPkdbReX28

7x All-Star, 5x All-ABA, 3x Champion, 2x MVP, 3x Rebounding leader, ABA all time leader in rebounds. Career 18/15/2. Nobody remembers this guy because he played almost his entire career in the ABA. In almost all the ‘greatest Pacers’ ranking people just put Reggie Miller on there but completely ignore the ABA Pacers who had a dynasty in that league. Daniels was their heart and soul for all 3 of their championships – maybe not their best player every time per se (Roger Brown and George McGinnis definitely deserve some credit) but definitely he was their Willis Reed, their captain and deserves more respect for that dynasty. 5 Finals, 3 championships out of a 10 year league. The Pacers went to the Finals during half of the ABA’s existence!

George Mikan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU0z-_jx1jc

Mikan was one of the most dominant players ever. He was like the combined Russell + Wilt of his era.

4x All-Star, 6x All-NBA, 5x Champion, 3x Scoring leader, 2x Rebounding leader

He has a crazy PER of 27.1 and WS/48 of 0.249. For reference.. Michael Jordan has a PER of 27.9 and a WS/48 of 0.250. That means Mikan’s advanced stats are just slightly short of Jordan’s. Which is crazy.

Also tell you something interesting.. he lead the league in defensive win shares 5 times. That’s insane and tells you what a defensive presence he was as well.

Mikan was far and away the best player of the early 1950s and nobody else was even close. Not Cousy, not Arizin, not Schayes. Until Neil Johnston showed up that is. (And Russell after him)

George Mikan and Neil Johnston dominated the pre-Russell era and should be better remembered today. Mikan is pretty much disrespected in most conversations and Johnston is forgotten. Artis Gilmore and Mel Daniels never gets their just due because ABA awards and stats are not respected.


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