Most people nowadays watch the NBA because of the scoring. I mean, it’s hard to blame them if the rules of the games are oriented towards higher scoring totals and constantly protecting the offensive player.
Even so, diehard hoops fans could argue that a blocked shot is as exciting as a poster dunk or a buzzer-beating three-pointer, as you know what they say: offense wins games and defenses win Championships.
You never know who’s going to take the Defensive Player of the Year award home. You can take your pick at NBA Defensive Player of the Year of your choosing and make a buck out of it, but this one’s always a pretty close competition.
What should people take into account when talking about the DPOY? Blocked shots? Steals? Defensive plus-minus? If you’re wondering this, perhaps this list of the 5 players with the most Defensive Player of the Year award will help you put things into context.
Honorable Mention: Sidney Moncrief (2), Mark Eaton (2), Hakeem Olajuwon (2), Alonzo Mourning (2), Rudy Gobert (2)
Kawhi Leonard – 2
Kawhi Leonard is one of the few players in the world that can be both a candidate for MVP and DPOY every year. He’s already taken the award home in two opportunities (2015, 16 both with the San Antonio Spurs), which is unlikely for a small forward.
In fact, Kawhi Leonard is the only small forward in NBA history to win the DPOY award. That tells you just how good and dominant he is on that end of the floor.
Leonard often makes the most of his great wingspan and enormous hands but he’s also got a great ability for reading opposing scorers and pick their pockets. He can match up vs. bigger opposition with ease.
Dennis Rodman – 2
Dennis Rodman is the greatest rebounder in the history of the game. Obviously, he doesn’t hold the highest rebound-per-game average but still, he was old and undersized when he made it to the league, yet he led the NBA in rebounds seven straight seasons.
But more than just dominating on both ends of the glass, Rodman was the ultimate stopper in his prime. He was fast enough to match up vs. guards and strong enough to contain bigger players.
Rodman never hesitated to put his body on the line any given night. He’s one of the most versatile defenders the league has ever seen, and that’s why he won back-to-back DPOYs (90-91).
Dwight Howard – 3
People tend to forget just how good and dominant Dwight Howard was in his prime. He was the league’s best center – by a long stretch and a force worthy of being reckoned down low, even if his post-game was subpar.
Howard won three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards (2009-11) while also leading the league in rebounds 5 times and 3 times in blocked shots. He also made 5 All-Defense teams over that stretch.
Sadly, his career took a bit of downfall after bouncing around the league but even if he never wins a Championship he’s already put together a Hall-of-Fame worthy resume.
Dikembe Mutombo – 4
You were going to pay the price if you wanted to score and Dikembe Mutombo was looming around the paint. He was the most dominant shot-blocker the league had ever seen and he was going to get you sooner or later.
Mutombo was a physical presence below the rim not many big men could handle. He was the sole owner of the paint in the defensive end and that helped him win 4 DPOY awards over 7 years (95, 97, 98, 2001).
Dikembe also led the league in rebounds 2 times and 3 times in blocked shots. He’s second all-time with 3,289 career blocks, trailing just Hakeem Olajuwon.
Ben Wallace – 4
Ben Wallace’s history should inspire hoopers from all over the world. He went from being undrafted to winning 4 Defensive Player of the Year awards (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006) and 1 NBA Championship.
Nobody, not even Shaquille O’Neal in his prime could body or outhustle Ben Wallace below the rim. His offense was pretty limited and he was undersized but he made up for it with contagious grit and grind.
Wallace also led the league in rebounds in two seasons and once in blocks, and will go down as one of the most dynamic and dominant defenders in the history of the game.