Top 7 Best Small Forwards Of All Time In The NBA

Last Updated on: 19th September 2023, 12:07 am

best small forwards of all time

Basketball is a game that has captivated audiences for decades, and the small forward position has been instrumental in shaping the league’s history. The small forward position requires versatility, athleticism, and offensive and defensive skills. Unsurprisingly, some of the greatest basketball players ever have played in this position.

We will explore the top 7 best small forwards of all time in the NBA. These players are not just exceptional athletes but also possess unique qualities such as leadership, determination, and an unwavering commitment to their craft. Their impact on the game has been significant, inspiring future generations to follow in their footsteps.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into this list of legends who have left an indelible mark on basketball history.

Larry Bird

Larry Bird’s legendary career has made him a worldwide household name among basketball fans. As one of the greatest small forwards of all time, Larry Bird’s impact on the game is undeniable.

With his deadly shooting accuracy, remarkable rebounding skills, and incredible court vision, Bird led the Boston Celtics to three NBA Championships. But it wasn’t just his impressive stats that made Larry Bird stand out.

His competitive spirit and work ethic was unmatched, as he constantly pushed himself to improve and dominate the court. Even though injuries and setbacks, Bird persevered and cemented himself as one of the most iconic players in the history of the NBA.

And while other great small forwards have emerged since his retirement, few can match Larry Bird’s impact on the game.

As we move forward in time, another legendary small forward comes to mind: LeBron James.

LeBron James

LeBron James is undoubtedly one of the most talented players on the court. He has solidified his spot as one of the best basketball players in history with an impressive career spanning over 17 years. His success can be attributed to his remarkable athleticism and versatility, making him a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the court.

When it comes to accomplishments, LeBron James has them all. He won four NBA championships, MVP awards, and Olympic gold medals. Additionally, he ranks third in all-time scoring and eighth in assists among NBA players. Despite facing criticism throughout his career, LeBron consistently proves himself a valuable asset to any team he plays for. He showcases his leadership skills both on and off the court.

Moving onto Julius Erving without skipping a beat – another player that ranks high among small forwards in the history of the NBA.

Julius Erving

You may not have heard of him, but this next player is not one to overlook – the legendary Julius Erving. Also known as Dr. J, he revolutionized the game with his awe-inspiring dunks and acrobatic moves on the court.

He played 16 seasons in both the ABA and NBA, making a name for himself as one of the greatest small forwards ever. Erving’s career accolades include two ABA championships, an NBA championship, four MVP awards, and 11 All-NBA selections.

He was also a five-time member of the All-ABA First and All-Star teams. His dominance on the court was undeniable, as he averaged 24.2 points per game throughout his career and led his teams to success year after year.

Erving’s impact on basketball can still be felt today through players who have copied his iconic moves like his baseline reverse layup or behind-the-backboard shot. Speaking of impact, another small forward that made waves in the NBA was Scottie Pippen.

Scottie Pippen

If you’re a true basketball fan, you can’t deny Scottie Pippen’s impact on the game during his time with the Chicago Bulls. Pippen was Michael Jordan‘s right-hand man, and together, they formed one of the most dynamic duos in NBA history.

He was known for his incredible defense, versatility, and ability to play multiple positions on the court. During his 17-year career, Pippen won six championships with the Bulls and was named to seven All-NBA and ten All-Defensive teams.

He also represented Team USA in international competitions, winning two gold medals at the Olympics. While he may not have been as flashy as some other small forwards of his era, there’s no denying that Pippen was a key player in one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.

Moving onto Kevin Durant without skipping a beat – another notable small forward who has left an indelible mark on the game.

Kevin Durant

With his incredible scoring ability and clutch performances, Kevin Durant has solidified himself as one of the most dominant small forwards in the league today. His offensive prowess is unparalleled, with a career average of 27 points per game, making him one of the best scorers in the history of the NBA. He has won two NBA championships and two Finals MVP awards, showcasing his ability to perform under pressure on the biggest stage.

Durant’s length and athleticism make him nearly unstoppable on offense, with a unique blend of shooting skills and ball-handling ability that allows him to create space for himself anywhere on the court. Despite his height advantage over most defenders, he possesses a quickness that makes it difficult for them to keep up with him on drives to the basket.

His consistent performance throughout his career has earned him recognition as one of the top small forwards ever.

As we discuss John Havlicek next, it’s important to note that while Durant may be considered one of the best players in today’s game, plenty of legends came before him that paved the way for future generations.

John Havlicek

John Havlicek’s tenacious style of play and clutch performances during his time with the Boston Celtics cemented him as one of the top 7 best small forwards of all time in the NBA. He was a key player on eight championship teams, known for his relentless hustle, defensive prowess, and scoring ability.

Havlicek could score from anywhere on the court and had an uncanny sense of timing when making big plays. Offensively, he averaged over 20 points per game in five seasons and is still among the top scorers in Celtics history.

Defensively, he was equally impressive, earning five All-Defensive First Team selections throughout his career. His hard work and dedication made him a fan favorite in Boston and earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame.

With such an incredible legacy behind him, it’s no wonder that John Havlicek remains one of the most beloved players in Celtics history.

As we discuss Elgin Baylor next, it’s worth noting that he and Havlicek were dominant forces during their respective eras. While they may have played differently on the court, both players were instrumental to their teams’ success and will always be remembered as some of the greatest small forwards ever to play the game.

Elgin Baylor

While Elgin Baylor may not have won as many championships as some other players, his incredible scoring ability and unique style of play make him a standout figure in basketball history.

As one of the greatest small forwards of all time, Baylor was known for his acrobatic moves and impressive rebounding skills. He played 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 27.4 points per game.

Baylor’s playing style was ahead of its time, incorporating finesse and athleticism that wasn’t commonly seen in the NBA then. His innovative moves on the court paved the way for future players to develop their signature styles.

Despite never winning an NBA championship, Baylor’s impact on the game cannot be denied. He was named an All-Star 11 times and earned a spot in the Hall of Fame in 1977.


In conclusion, the NBA has seen some of the greatest small forwards ever grace its courts. Larry Bird’s unparalleled shooting abilities and LeBron James’ dominance on both ends of the court have left a lasting impact on the league.

Julius Erving’s flashy style and Scottie Pippen’s defensive prowess further cement their place in basketball history. Kevin Durant’s scoring ability, John Havlicek’s versatility, and Elgin Baylor’s athleticism should not be overlooked.

These small forwards have proven themselves as some of the best to play the game. As fans reminisce about their favorite moments from these legendary players, they can appreciate how much they contributed to making basketball what it is today.

Their skills and achievements allude to the greatness that inspires future generations of basketball players.