The small forward position has featured some of the highest flying players in NBA history. From sky walkers like the Human Highlight Reel, to machines like Lebron, to something we’ve never seen before in Kevin Durant. Here’s my list of the greatest small forwards to ever touch the hardwood floor.
10. James Worthy
Career Stats: 17.6 PPG 5.1 REB 3.0 AST
Accomplishments: 3x Champ 1x Finals MVP 7x All-Star 2x All-NBA
Big Game James. One of the most clutch players in the history of basketball. A high flying forward whose game shined the brightest on the biggest stages. During the 88′ Finals with the Lakers down 3-2 against the Pistons, James delivered the most impressive performances of his career. Dropping 28 and 9 in game 6 and following that performance up with 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assist in the title clenching game 7 which earned him Finals MVP honors.
9. Dominique Wilkins
Career Stats: 24.8 PPG 6.7 REB 2.5 AST
Accomplishments: 9x All-Star 7x All-NBA 1x Scoring Champ
The Human Highlight Reel is the greatest dunker of all time, apologies to Michael and Vince but Dominique was flashier than MJ and was doing dunks far ahead of his time in regards to Vince. The Hawks never surrounded Dominique with adequate talent sufficient enough to bring a title to the A but regardless the Georgia legend deserves his place among the greatest small forwards ever.
8. Paul Pierce
Career Stats: 19.7 PPG 5.6 REB 3.5 AST
Accomplishments: 1x Champ 1x Finals MVP 4x All-NBA 10x All-Star
Paul Pierce likely would’ve been the eastern conference version of Carmelo if Ray and KG didn’t come to Boston. That’s not exactly an insult either but i say that to make the point that Pierce’s ring and finals MVP is probably the most legacy turning finals mvp/ring combo for any player on this list.
7. Rick Barry
Career Stats: 24.8 PPG 6.7 REB 4.9 AST
Accomplishments: 1x Champ 1x Finals MVP 1x ABA Champion 8x All-Star 6x-All NBA
It’s debatable that Rick Barry is the most underrated superstar in the history of basketball. When you talk about offensive juggernauts you rarely hear his name mentioned even though it should be far more than it is. An excellent perimeter player who could find a shot anywhere he wanted to on the floor. Rick also led the league in scoring in 1967 averaging the most PPG ever by someone not named Wilt or Michael by averaging 35.8 PPG that season.
6. Elgin Baylor
Career Stats: 27.4 PPG 13.5 REB 4.3 AST
Accomplishments: 11x All-Star 10x All-NBA Rookie of the Year
One of the original high flyers Elgin Baylor led the early Lakers teams during a time period where they will still very much so in the shadow of the Russell led Celtics. Sure, you could make an argument that his numbers are inflated due to the era he played in being the beginning of basketball but regardless, he was dominant for the time period he played in and deserves respect for how great he was during his specific era.
5. Scottie Pippen
Career Stats: 16.1 PPG 6.4 REB 5.2 AST
Accomplishments: 6x Champion 7x All-Star 7x All-NBA 10x All-Defense 1x STL Leader
Scottie Pippen in my estimation is the greatest perimeter defender in the history of basketball. He will forever be viewed as Michael’s sidekick but that is perhaps extremely unfair to a man who led the Bulls to a 55 win season the season after Michael Jordan retired (the first time) and was one game away from the conference finals. MJ wouldn’t have enjoyed the success he did if it weren’t for Scottie and the Bulls should forever be grateful they swindled him away from the Seattle Supersonics.
4. Julius Erving
Career Stats: 24.2 PPG 8.5 REB 4.2 AST
Accomplishments: 3x Champ 16x All-Star 7x All-NBA 4x MVP
The man with the coolest nickname in all of sports, Dr. J was simply a magician. Long and Tall, Erving could glide the length of the court with no more than just three steps and dunk on every defender standing in his way in the paint. As the years have passed people view Dr J more in the realm of dunking and not how sensational of an all-around player he was. He was an incredible rebounder for his position and his easily the greatest ABA player there ever was.
3. Kevin Durant
Career Stats: 27.1 PPG 7.1 REB 3.9 AST
Accomplishments: 9x All-Star 4x Scoring Champ 1x MVP
Kevin Durant is the most unique basketball player I have ever laid eyes on. He’s the size of a center yet he can move with the ball like a guard and can shoot from anywhere on the floor like a shooting guard, he’s literally a unicorn. I view him as second greatest scorer ever second to only Michael Jordan, and by the end of his career I will not be surprised one bit to see him sit atop the all time scoring list ahead of everyone.
2. Larry Bird
Career Stats: 24.3 PPG 10.0 REB 6.3 AST
Accomplishments: 12x All-Star 3x NBA Champ 2x Finals MVP 3x MVP
Larry Legend was drafted by the Celtics and made an immediate impact on the team. The year before Larry came into town with his iconic mustache the Celtics were a miserable 29 win team and immediately following the year after they drafted him they would win 61 games. A 32 game turnaround which still stands as the most impactful season a rookie has ever had on a team.
Losing in the conference finals his rookie season Larry would lead the Celtics to a championship in just his 2nd NBA season. One of the toughest competitors there ever was, Bird was revered by teammates and opposing teams from the moment he was drafted to the day he announced his pre-mature retirement. A legend.
1. Lebron James
Career Stats: 27.2 PPG 7.4 REB 7.2 AST
Accomplishments: 3x Champ 3x Finals MVP 4x MVP 1x Scoring Champ 14x All-NBA 6x All-Defense
There’s sure to be much debate over who deserved the #1 slot between Lebron and Larry but I would just say this. They have the same number of championships and Lebron has more Final MVPs, more regualr season MVPs, more All-Defensive teams, more All-NBA teams, more career points, and more career assists.
I can understand the argument going either way but for me I’d have to go with Lebron. Easily the most polarizing athlete in sports over the past 15 years, I’ve never seen an athlete enter their prime and stay in their prime for as long as he has. Lebron has arguably been the best player in the league since he was in his third season and it’s wild that he’s maintained that level of play for so long even into the twilight years of his career.