5 Greatest Small Forwards of All-Time
Honorable Mention: Elgin Baylor
Career Statistics 27.4 PTS, 13.5 REB, 4.3 AST, 22.7 PER
Honors 10x All-NBA (10x First Team), 11x All-Star, Rookie of the Year The Boston Celtics supremacy during the 1960s didn’t hurt anyone more than it hurt Elgin Baylor. After 14 seasons, this 11-time all-star and 10-time All-NBA’er retired without ever winning an NBA championship. To make matters worse, After retiring just 9 games into the 1972 season, it was that same year that the Lakers finally broke through and won the championship. Regardless, Baylor had an amazing career and is was one of the most talented scorers of his time, averaging 34+ PPG on 3 separate occasions.
5. Scottie Pippen
Career Statistics 16.1 PTS, 6.4 REB, 5.2 AST, 18.6 PER
Honors 6x NBA Champion, 7x All-NBA (3x First Team), 10x All-Defense (8x First Team), 7x All-Star Scottie Pippen had both the blessing and curse of playing with Michael Jordan. On one hand, there is a very good chance that Pippen doesn’t win six NBA championships. At the same time, perhaps Pippen would have accomplished a lot more individually had he been left to run his own team. Pippen is arguably the greatest perimeter defender of all-time, but he was also very talented offensively. He could score, rebound and create for teammates, and there is an argument to be had on whether Michael Jordan would have been six-for-six in the Finals without Scottie Pippen.
4. Julius Erving
Career Statistics 24.2 PTS, 8.5 REB, 4.2 AST, 23.6 PER
Honors 1x NBA Champion, 2x ABA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 3x ABA Champion, 7x All-NBA (5x First Team), 16x All-Star
Very few players in the history of basketball have been as influential as the Doctor. Erving’s high-flying abilities completely changed the sport and revolutionized basketball as a form of entertainment. Erving was able to do things on the basketball court that no one else had done before him. Unfortunately, Erving doesn’t always get full credit for his accomplishments from the ABA, but if you are to combine his ABA and NBA career he is a 3-time champion, 4-time MVP and a top-7 scorer, all-time.
3. Kevin Durant Career Statistics 27.2 PTS, 7.2 REB, 3.8 AST, 25.2 PER
Honors 1x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 1x MVP, 7x All-NBA (5x First Team), 8x All-Star, 4x Scoring Leader, Rookie of the Year
Kevin Durant might very well be the most talented scorer in NBA history. At 6-foot-10, Durant can shoot from the perimeter better than most guards, is long enough to score in the post, and his ball-handling skills make it extremely easy to get to the basket. This past season, Durant took his defense to an elite level and together with the all-star surrounding cast of the Golden State Warriors, was able to capture what looks like the first of many NBA championships.
2. Larry Bird Career Statistics 24.3 PTS, 10.0 REB, 6.3 AST, 23.5 PER
Honors 3x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 3x MVP, 10x All-NBA (9x First Team), 3x All-Defense , 12x All-Star, Rookie of the Year
Larry Bird was a basketball Swiss army knife. At 6-foot-9, Bird could score in the post, score from the perimeter, set up his teammates and rebound like a center. Bird’s abilities helped lead the Boston Celtics to 3 NBA Championships during the 1980s, and he could have won a few more had he not run into Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers. Bird wasn’t just highly skilled, but he was also one of the most intelligent players in league history, and coupled with his diverse skillset, more than made up for his lack of athleticism.
1. LeBron James Career Statistics 27.1 PTS, 7.3 REB, 7.0, 27.6 PER
Honors 3x NBA Champion, 3x Finals MVP, 4x MVP, 13x All-NBA (11x First Team), 6x All-Defense (5x First Team), 13x All-Star, 1x Scoring Leader, Rookie of the Year
James is not only the greatest small forward of all-time, but he is also the most complete player in NBA history. For his entire career, James has run the offense and has consistently been one of the most prolific scorers in the league. James has been the single most dominant force in the NBA since Michael Jordan retired, and at 32, he still hasn’t really started to slow down. If his NBA career ended tomorrow, it’s likely that he has done enough to be considered one of the 2 or 3 greatest players to ever pick up a basketball.
Did I miss any of your favorite small forwards? Let me know if you agree or disagree – @awrashoo