Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was named the Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, marking the third time he has captured the award in his career. The Utah Jazz own one of the stingiest defenses in the league thanks to the 7-foot-1 center.
Under his watch, the Jazz had the third-best defensive rating (107.5) and were second in opponents’ field goal percentage (44.7) during the regular season. The 28-year old is Utah’s defensive anchor and a big reason why they owned the league’s best record this season with a 52-20 record.
4 Standout NBA Defensive Player of the Year Awardees
Since the league started handing out the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1982-83, Gobert is just the fourth player in NBA history to win the honor at least three times. He joins defensive stalwarts Dikembe Mutombo, Ben Wallace and Dwight Howard.
Mutombo and Wallace are the only players to win NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times, while Howard and now Gobert have won it thrice.
Let’s get to know these four behemoths who have been the best in the business in protecting the paint and beyond.
1. Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert received 84 first-place votes for Defensive Player of the Year to edge out Draymond Green and Ben Simmons for the award.
Gobert averaged just 14.3 points per game but was second in the league in rebounding with 13.5 a night, including 10.1 on the defensive end. He led the NBA in total blocks with 190 and ranks second in blocks per game with 2.7.
He has been voted to the NBA All-Defensive First Team in each of the last four seasons. The Frenchman is likely to be on the team for the fifth consecutive time once the league makes its announcement in the coming days.
Gobert also won Defensive Player of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons (2017-18 and 2018-19). Interestingly, he didn’t win the award back in 2016-17 during the only season when he led the league in blocks per game (2.6) and total blocks (214).
2. Dikembe Mutombo
Dikembe Mutombo is the first player to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award three times in his career and also the first to claim it four times (1994-95, 1996-97, 1997-98 and 2000-01).
The Hall of Fame center won the Defensive Player of the Year Award while playing for three different teams (Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers).
At 7-foot-2, Mutombo led the league in blocked shots three straight seasons from 1993-94 to 1995-96 with averages of 4.1, 3.9 and 4.5 blocks a game. However, the eight-time NBA All-Star led the league in total blocks for five straight years (1993-94 to 1997-98). Twice, he also led the league in rebounding (1999-00 and 2000-01)
Mutombo was never a scorer with a career scoring average of 9.8 points a game, which is lower than his rebounding stat of 10.3. In the all-time blocks category, the four-time Defensive Player of the Year winner is second only to Hakeem Olajuwon in total blocks with 3,289 and a career average of 2.8.
3. Ben Wallace
An undrafted player in 1996, Ben Wallace made a career of menacing opponents in the paint. He anchored the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons championship team that upset the LA Lakers in the NBA Finals that season with a gentleman’s sweep of 4-1.
Wallace was the second player to win four Defensive Player of the Year awards, doing so during the 2001-02, 2002-03, 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. He was also a five-time NBA All-Defensive First Team member (2002-03 to 2005-06) and a one-time Second Team member (2006-07).
A four-time All-Star to match the four Defensive Player of the Year awards he owned, Wallace was the NBA’s blocks leader during the 2001-02 season with an average of 3.5 a game. Moreover, he was a rebounding leader twice (2001-02 and 2002-03) and five times was named to an All-NBA Second or Third Team.
Overall, he is 14th all-time in total blocks with 2,137 for his career and an average of 2.0 per contest.
4. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard is the second active player on this list. He may not have won Defensive Player of the Year four times, but he’s the only player on this list to claim honor for three straight seasons (2008-09 to 2010-11).
The eight-time All-Star led the NBA in blocks twice (2009-10 to 2010-11) and in rebounding five times (2007-08 to 2009-10, 2011-12 to 2012-13).
Among the players on this prestigious Defensive Player of the Year list, Howard is the most polished scorer with a career average of 16.2 per game. He has averaged 20 points or more in a season four times in his career.
The 35-year-old has played for seven teams so far, but his best years were with the Orlando Magic, where he played during his first eight seasons and won all three of his Defensive Player of the Year awards.
However, it wasn’t until 2020 that Howard won his only NBA Championship when he was a member of the LA Lakers.
Howard is currently 13th all-time in total blocks with 2,192. He needs just 170 blocks in the next few seasons to move past Robert Parish for 10th place.
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