The center is one of the standard positions in a regulation basketball game. The center is normally the tallest player on the team, and they are generally preferred to have a great deal of muscle and body mass as well. A typical NBA center is 6'10" (2.08 m) or taller.
In many cases, the center's primary role is simply to be very large, and to use his size to score and defend from a position close to the basket. A center who possesses size along with athleticism and skill constitutes an unparalleled asset for a team. Shaquille O'Neal of the Miami Heat is noted both for his enormous proportions, standing 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall and weighing 330 lb (150 kg), as well for his mastery of elegantly simple post maneuvers. Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets stands 7'6" (2.29 m) tall, his persistence, mobility and shooting touch is exemplary. Both have the awareness to make a good pass when double-teamed.
There has been occasional controversy over what constitutes a "true center". Some have argued, for instance, that Ben Wallace, while highly effective at center, is actually a power forward playing out of position, mainly because his 6'9" (2.06 m) height makes him considerably smaller than most centers he faces. Likewise, some would say that Tim Duncan, although listed throughout his career as a power forward, is actually a center, because of his size and style of play. It is believed that when Duncan entered the NBA, he played power forward in order to keep San Antonio Spurs teammate David Robinson playing as center and have two dominant big men on the floor. However, Duncan has continued to play mainly as a power forward even after Robinson's retirement, though he plays center on occasions. Nonetheless, the judgment of whether a given player is a center or power forward is often highly subjective. Because there are currently so few people who meet the ideal size requirements of an NBA center, teams will sometimes find it necessary to play an individual at that position who would be more effective as a power forward.
Notable centers currently playing include Yao Ming, Shaquille O'Neal, Ben Wallace, Chris Mihm, Jamaal Magloire, Brad Miller, and Žydrūnas Ilgauskas. Great centers of the past include George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, David Robinson, Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Vlade Divac and, mainly in Europe, Arvydas Sabonis.
The tallest player to ever play in the NBA, at 7'7" (2.31 m) is center Gheorghe Mureşan. Standing at 7'2" (2.18 m), Margo Dydek is the tallest player in the history of the WNBA. She currently plays for the Connecticut Sun team, and is taller than even Shaquille O'Neal.